Africa has had enough of Mugabe

GONE are the days when President Mugabe would speak and the continent would listen. Those days when auditoriums would resonate in response to his bluster. In fact, he is losing the moral high ground to speak on issues of governance

and international relations because of his saber-rattling and poor record at home.

This week at a reception to welcome Namibian leader Hifikepunye Pohamba, Mugabe tried to set an agenda for Africa at the United Nations General Assembly summit in New York next month.

“It is important for us to use that forum to ensure that the voice of Africa is clearly heard,” Mugabe said. “It is also critical that the United Nations carries out its mandated and comprehensive role in the economic and social areas.”

Mugabe sorely misses the big platform and can only muse about the prospects of being the alpha leader on the continent. He did not get that platform in Libya at the African Union Summit in July, he didn’t speak at the AU extraordinary summit on UN reform in August and he was sidelined at the recent Sadc Summit in Botswana.

While his counterparts in the region have refrained from directly attacking him, they are increasingly feeling the effects of his misrule and the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe.

New Sadc chair, Botswana’s President Festus Mogae, last week said the Zimbabwean crisis was not placed on the agenda because it was not a regional issue, even though problems here have weakened the economy of his country.

There are clear indications that the failed Zimbabwean economy is pulling down the scoreline in the region. The Sadc economy grew by 4,1% last year. Angola, Mozambique and the DRC registered returns of 11%, 7,8% and 6,3% respectively. In addition, Botswana and Malawi had average growth rates of 4,8% and 4,9%. On the other hand Zimbabwe’s economy last year declined by 28,4%, thereby pulling down the overall index for regional growth.

With plans on the table to grow the economy by 6% next year, South Africa is edgy about the contagion effect of Mugabe’s polices. It was therefore not surprising last week when President Thabo Mbeki issued a veiled indictment of Mugabe.

Writing in his official “Letter from the president” column on his party’s website, Mbeki said a stable Zimbabwe was critical to regional integration and economic growth.

“Given the potential strength of the Zimbabwe economy … it can and must play a central role in the struggle to achieve the goals spelt out in the Sadc Treaty,” he said. “All of us must understand that what we do in any one of our countries has an impact on the rest. It means that, as countries, we will sink or swim together.”

Zimbabwe has become the millstone around the neck of the regional bloc retarding progress towards the shoreline. Mugabe does not mind sinking with the rest of the region as long as it adds another feather in his martyrdom cap.

Deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad last week spoke of the dangers of South Africa having a bad neighbour. “All our interventions on the Zimbabwean issue have been to prevent a failed state on our doorstep,” he said. He called for “fundamental changes” in Mugabe’s economic policies.

But there are unlikely to be any fundamental changes in Zimbabwe so long as Mugabe believes no one can rule this country better than he is doing. The office of the President and Cabinet is assuming greater responsibilities in the running of the economy and the results are there for all to see in the shortages of virtually everything as a result of poor policies.

Zimbabwe is a failed state and Mugabe’s moral authority to champion various causes for the continent, including UN reform, is slowly losing the endorsement of a continent that once held him in high esteem. He has eroded the reverence he once enjoyed because of his hostility toward anyone who challenges his autocracy.

This has a bearing on Zimbabwe’s foreign policy. He has rejected an AU initiative to broker dialogue with the opposition. Former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano, appointed by AU chair Olusegun Obasanjo to broker a deal, was told his services were not needed.

Mugabe has rejected the report by the UN special envoy on Operation Murambatsvina. He refused to sanction a probe on the operation by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Unfortunately, everyone on the continent appears to have seen through Mugabe’s persecution chicanery and they are not ready to be deceived again. Why should he want to talk to Tony Blair of Britain but will not listen to fellow African leaders who are most hurt by his damaging policies? Is this not a case of a former slave wanting to sit side by side with his master as a mental assurance that we are now equal? Obviously African leaders cannot fit that bill.

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