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Superpower politics costly for Zim

By Fidas Muchemwa

THAT Zimbabweans are stuck in the jaws of a dictatorship is something that needs no elaboration. But President Mugabe seems to continue enjoying some degree of immunity from his fellow

African leaders.

Why African heads of state have not intervened in the Zimbabwean crisis is not because they don’t understand the gravity of the situation but because they have ulterior motives. They have decided to sacrifice the people of Zimbabwe for their own power and the betterment of their nations.

Many theories have been proffered since the crisis in Zimbabwe started. The crisis continues to deepen and people all over the globe continue to ask the roles that presidents Thabo Mbeki, Olusegun Obasanjo and Bakili Muluzi can play.

Of all the three “concerned” African statesmen, President Mbeki continues to take centre stage. Defying the outcry from the international community, President Mbeki again increasingly aligns himself with President Mugabe.

After the Commonwealth debacle of December 5-8 where Zimbabwe’s suspension from the group was upheld, President Mbeki went on to attack some Western countries particularly Australia and Canada accusing them of “using economic power to force their way through”. Whether these two countries indeed used their economic power or not is a question with a thousand different answers. But Mbeki is failing to see that he is also using his economic power and influence in Africa to prolong the suffering of Zimbabweans.

Why Mbeki chooses to go against the voice of reason remains a mystery. But one avenue that has not been explored in an effort to establish Mbeki’s motive and where exactly he stands is that of regional superpower.

In policy studies, foreign policy is regarded as an extension of domestic policies because it must feed on the national interest and ultimately provide for all that is necessary for the domestic to succeed.

There is therefore no doubt that each and every country wants to extend its power and influence over other nations. Africa as a developing continent is undergoing that transformation where we are going to have superpowers and pawns. Just like the US is on the American continent, Britain in Europe and probably China in Asia, we are moving towards that phase.

There is again no doubt that the only countries in Africa that have the capacity to emerge as superpowers are Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe – if the country was in good shape. It is therefore necessary to interrogate the chances of each country’s becoming a superpower and the motive behind their actions and deduce if they can genuinely intervene in solving the Zimbabwean crisis.

President Mbeki contradicts himself most of the times. His hypocrisy is further exposed by the fact that he said he believes in quiet diplomacy but loudly supports Zanu PF.

He says Zimbabwe must solve her problems, must have internal solutions but continues to give Zanu PF support and accuses the West of interfering in Zimbabwe’s domestic affairs.

President Mbeki wants to conquer Africa. His African Renaissance is one of the many tricks he employs to try and portray himself as the Godfather of Africa. He wants the African parliament in South Africa; he hosts Nepad and many other regional organs.

South Africa did not until recently intervene in the DRC crisis. This is again another display of hypocrisy. South Africa did not go to the DRC to assist either of the warring parties during the conflict. But now that signs of peace are visible Mbeki is the first to enter business contracts with the country.

Certainly South Africa would not need a strong neighbour if its hegemony were to spread. It has adopted a dual policy: destabilising Zimbabwe politically whilst maintaining economic ties. Many Zimbabweans who are fleeing the country for South Africa are providing cheap labour in South Africa.

Shortages of commodities in Zimbabwe mean that South African businesses get a boost since people will cross over to do shopping.

His primary interest is to keep the discredited Zanu PF in power so that Zimbabwe remains weak.

Another point to note is that Zimbabwe under the leadership of MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai would easily dominate the Sadc region. It is almost certain that Tsvangirai, who once led the Sadc region as Southern African Trade Unions Coordinating Committee secretary-general, will have support and respect from many countries especially Zambia which shares an almost similar experience with Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai’s close ties with the Congress of South African Trade Unions is also another shot that makes President Mbeki uncomfortable.

President Obasanjo, a former general in the army, is a man who believes in frank talk. As a former military man President Obasanjo has frankness and precision as his virtues.

His short-term alliance with South Africa came to an end at Chogm. He broke ranks on a question of principle. It was clear from the onset that the relationship between South Africa and Nigeria on Zimbabwe would not last.

Firstly because the two countries have different stakes in the whole saga. South Africa is making an economic fortune from the Zimbabwean crisis while Nigeria seems not to be benefiting anything.

Secondly, Nigeria also harbours interests of becoming an African superpower and it was obvious that at some point the two would clash since they are vying for the same food.

Thirdly, the motives for intervening seem to be different. Obasanjo seems genuine in his desire to solve the crisis. This is evidenced by his meeting with both Tsvangirai and Mugabe while Mbeki’s motive is that of keeping his political power. Nigeria is gaining ground. The defeat of little-known Commonwealth secretary-general aspirant Kadigamar from Sri Lanka is a sign that Nigeria is heading for victory.

President Bakili Muluzi seems the only honest broker. That is the reason why after his visit with Mbeki and Obasanjo he alone went a step further to invite the MDC leader Tsvangirai to Malawi to get a true picture.

* Fidas Muchemwa is a member of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

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