What will Mbeki tell Sadc?

SO we are well and truly in election mode as March 29 looms on the horizon. The president and ministers have been making “no going back” noises as if the date is cast in stone.


ut it might be worthwhile to reflect on the context here. The whole point of the Sadc mediation initiative was to spare Zimbabwe another damaging disputed election outcome. President Thabo Mbeki right from the get-go saw the danger after the March crackdown of a nation divided against itself. Already the country’s economy was spiralling out of control and a disputed result would have been disastrous for Zimbabwe and the region.

Everywhere else Sadc states were prospering. Botswana, Mozambiqe and Namibia were flourishing. Zimbabwe under Zanu PF was heading in the opposite direction. And it had nothing to do with sanctions.

Mbeki, who had been struggling with the problem since 2000, was the logical Sadc choice of mediator. And within 24 hours of the Dar es Salaam summit he had outlined his agenda. It was essential that all parties to the election agree on the instruments conducting it, he said. While he made clear this was the position the opposition was likely to adopt, there could be little doubt it was his own view as well. The ruling party and the main opposition groups would have to agree on the constitution and role of the electoral body running the election.

In the event the government and the MDC agreed that the ZEC should manage the election from beginning to end.

That did not happen. The Registrar-General’s office continued to control the voters’ roll, which as a result remained a mess, and the ZEC very quickly proved itself a vehicle of government’s needs. For instance, despite its claims to independence, it allowed the government to invite observers when it should have been responsible for that aspect of the process.

Last week South Africa’s chief elections officer Pansy Tlakula was in the country to attend a conference on electoral preparations. She paid a courtesy call on ZEC chair George Chiweshe and reportedly asked him why he wasn’t attending such an important conference. “I’m too busy,” was the reply.

This tells us all we need to know about the seriousness of this outfit!

Mbeki was here recently to follow up talks in Pretoria between the two parties the previous weekend. But he made little or no impression upon Zimbabwe’s obdurate ruler on the need for flexibility around the election date and transitional modalities.

If Mugabe believes he has caught the opposition on the back foot he will soon find himself at a disadvantage. Mbeki will have to explain to Sadc leaders why Zimbabwe is refusing to comply with the Mauritius protocol that underlines the need for all parties to agree on electoral bodies and procedures.

Kenya has provided a wake-up call to those who believe an incumbent can manipulate an electoral supervisory body and get away with it. But as in all things the MDC has been supine in spelling all this out. Instead we had Nelson Chamisa’s maladroit remarks.

When is the MDC going to wake up and give the country a lead? They could start by exposing the manipulation already taking place.

The Chronicle last week carried a picture of Senator Chief Vezi Maduna addressing delegates to a Zanu PF district workshop in Filabusi. Listening was Andrew Langa.

This illustrates the partisan manipulation of chiefs which we reported two weeks ago with the allocation of vehicles, even to those who can’t drive!

Why don’t chiefs, the president, ministers and officials all set a good example of electoral behaviour by eschewing state resources, telling voters what rights they have, and generally raising the tone of the campaign in line with the reforms recently introduced?

Chief Maduna to his credit spoke out against the imposition of candidates, but Langa made a fool of himself by claiming the West was out to repossess the land.

If brains were taxed he would get a rebate. Only the dumbest of party followers will swallow this nonsense but it is indicative of how the bankrupt party of power intends to conduct the campaign in the absence of any clues as to how it intends to rescue the country from the pothole it has been plunged into.

We were pleased to note that David Moore of the University of KwaZulu-Natal has reminded readers of the South African Sunday Independent (following publication in the Zimbabwe Independent two months ago) that Mugabe’s claims to have been locked in lasting conflict with all things British represents a selective recall of history. Mugabe claimed at the meeting of the UN General Assembly in September that he had fought a protracted war against British imperialism “which denied us human rights and democracy”.

But Moore has published a telegram sent by Mugabe from Salisbury Prison to British prime minister Harold Wilson in 1970 appealing for a residence permit for his wife, Sally.

“Disturbed my wife Sally Mugabe at 20 Madeley Rd London W5 asked (to) leave Britain. (I) contend Sally (is a) Rhodesian citizen by marriage, therefore British subject. (Her) return to Rhodesia impossible (in) present circumstances. (I) appeal (to) you (to) recognise her status and grant residence permit till my release from political detention.”

With a bit of lobbying from liberal supporters and a petition signed by MPs Sally was allowed to stay. Human rights, it would seem, had triumphed over hard-hearted bureaucrats.

But please can we hear a little less of the “sinister forces” Mugabe fought against. He was only too happy to cooperate with them when the occasion required it. He depends upon us all having short memories.

Perhaps this is a good time to remind ourselves of all those degrees Mugabe was able to accumulate while locked up in detention. Would any prisoner now be able to take a correspondence course of this sort? Would the writing facilities be available to them, the postage stamps etc?

Does anybody remember post offices, those places we used to go for stamps? Does anybody remember when Zimbabweans used to write to each other and to relatives in neighbouring states? We have now been reduced to medieval conditions where we write by candlelight and send the letter by messenger. This is the revolution Zanu PF is seeking to defend.

M-Net’s Carte Blanche on Sunday night took us inside the control centre for South Africa’s power stations. It showed that while South Africa was in the midst of its recent blackout power was being exported to the country’s neighbours including Zimbabwe.

At the same time Zesa was saying no South African power had been received in Zimbabwe.

An asylum seeker with no right to work in Britain was employed for a year — handling asylum appeals, the Daily Express reports.

Eugene Tawanda Madzima helped process appeals in Leicester after landing a job with a fake Home Office letter and National Insurance number.

He even helped in staff training and was only found out when he tried to open a bank account with a fake passport which he said he bought from a London solicitor for £1 000.

In an added farce, the Express says, it emerged his asylum claim has not been dealt with in four years because he is one of the 450 000 backlog cases.

A judge said the blunder “beggars belief”.

Sunday Times columnist David Bullard quotes Barry Ronge as saying on Talk Radio 702 that he has noticed a shift in emphasis in the foreign media’s coverage of South Africa.

“We are no longer the miracle nation of 1994,” Ronge had pointed out. “Instead we are rapidly becoming a global freak show.”

Ronge did concede that some of the foreign reporting was intentionally sensationalist, Bullard says. But “how for example do you explain to an interested foreigner that the best the ANC could come up with as its presidential hopeful was a man who everybody knew would eventually be charged with money-laundering, racketeering, fraud and corruption”?

Harare reader phoned in on Tuesday to say deputy-Technology minister Patrick Zhuwawo was screaming on ZTV news on Monday evening that there was no power because Tsvangirai asked for sanctions, hence everyone is suffering from the power cuts. On the same day, Zesa had advertised apologising for loss of power due to a serious technical fault.

Our advice to Zhuwawo: Don’t make a fool of yourself. Get hold of Zesa before claiming to be speaking on its behalf.

Just to add to our miseries phone lines appear to be going down all over the city. Many people have not had a working line since November. The phones come back on sporadically but mostly people have come to depend on their mobiles. As a result readers are suggesting we rename TelOne “Tell No One”.

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