SADC chair Levy Mwanawasa at the Sadc Summit in Lusaka at the weekend said the regional bloc could not put President Mugabe â€œin the dockâ€ because it was unAfrican to do so.
â€œSadc cannot stand by and do nothing when one of its members is experiencing political and economic pain,â€ said Mwanawasa. â€œIt would be wrong to turn a blind eye,â€ he said, but added that the Lusaka summit was â€œnot intended to put President Mugabe in the dockâ€.
As expected the regional leaders tried to stand by one of their own. We did not expect them to put Mugabe on trial because they are not a court.
Also we did not expect the regional heads to spend half theÂ night in Lusaka arguing whether there is a crisis in Zimbabwe or not because there is all the evidence of strife in this country. In the end, what was apparently being tested was the Southern African leadersâ€™ ability to solve problems and their respect for the dignity of the people they lead in the region.
The problem with African leaders is only believing that there is a crisis in a country when they see the evidence in the form of blood flowing into the gutter and corpses on the sidewalk.
During the systemic torture and murder of opposition supporters and farmers byÂ Zanu PF supporters and state-sponsored hoodlums during the land redistribution fiasco between 2000 and 2002, African heads failed to call the situation then a crisis.
Mugabe brazenly tried but failed to export this chaotic brand of land reform because he believed he was a trail blazer.
African leaders have a duty to protect the citizenry from famine, hunger, unemployment, privation, torture, and abuse, and from a deliberate attempt by the governing aristocracy to subvert the will of the people.
More often than not, African leadersâ€™ decisions, especially on Zimbabwe have been instructed by the fraternal bonds with the dictatorial Mugabe and not the people of Zimbabwe.
Mugabe was not put on trial in Lusaka and with it the real story of Zimbabwe escaped discussion at the summit. The legitimacy of our ruling elite is one of the major reasons why the country is where it is today.
The process of establishing a legitimate government that represents the will of the people has always escaped scrutiny as regional leaders pretentiously opined that the situation in Zimbabwe is normal and is being blown out of proportion by the international press. But all leaders in the region have a Zimbabwean problem to contend with at their door steps.
They know about the stratospheric inflation, the collapsed industry, low economic indicators, economic refugees within their borders. They are aware that Zimbabwe is a cancerous growth festering in the heart of the region. They are aware of the real cause of this state of affairs in the region. It is the misrule of the Zanu PF government.
President Mugabe does not believe there is a problem in Zimbabwe. His comrades have publicly endorsed the misrule and joined our octogenarian leaderÂ in celebrating this as a stand against imperialism. This has helped Mugabe to stay in power but has not in any way benefited millions of Zimbabweans the majority of whom now earn less than US$15 a month.
Sadcâ€™s commitment should be to the people of Zimbabwe so that they regain their dignity in the region. During the visit to Zambia last week it was embarrassing to see elderly Zimbabwean women selling sweets and trinkets on the streets to raise resources to support families back home. There are many like these on the streets of Gaborone, Maputo, BlantyreÂ Â and Johannesburg.
Sadc leaders have a role to play here in helping to right this situation. We do not expect them to tell Mugabe to leave office but they must speak openly about the nature of the crisis in Zimbabwe and be seen to be actively making sure that their colleague Mugabe is made aware of this because sometimes he appears oblivious of the fact that hyperinflation is not a virtue.
We have always said that this country requires a mediated internal settlement, notwithstanding results of any electoral process.
This is only possible if Sadc leaders acknowledge that there is a crisis here. In South Africa this week the ruling African National Congress broke ranks with President Thabo Mbeki who at the weekend said there was no crisis in Zimbabwe. The ANC said the situation in Zimbabwe was â€œdire, with negative consequences for the Sadc regionâ€. It said Mbeki must remain neutral as a Sadc mediator.
This level of discourse must resonate throughout the region but Sadc heads have to break the mould to actively show leadership which translates to positive change in Zimbabwe. That includes showing Mugabe
that he is no longer the revered leader he used to be by telling him the truth about the failure of his governance.