SADC leaders met in Lusaka at the weekend to deliberate on the political situation in Zimbabwe, but still failed to reach convergence on how to deal with the crisis heightened by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)â€™s failure to release results of the March 29 presidential election.Â
The summit, hurriedly convened by the blocâ€™s chairperson and Zambia president, Levy Mwanawasa, also failed to come up with a strategy on how to resolve the crisis.
More interestingly, political analysts noted, the regional bloc denied that there was a crisis in Zimbabwe despite that Sadc last year appointed South African President Thabo Mbeki to facilitate talks between the protagonists, Zanu PF and the opposition MDC, precisely in order to avert a crisis.
The failure by the ZEC to announce the outcome of the poll has compounded the political crisis that has been haunting the country since the disputed 2000 and 2002 general and presidential elections.
The MDCâ€™s Morgan Tsvangirai has since claimed victory in the poll against President Robert Mugabe, whose party last week said there was need for a run-off between the two after neither candidate managed to secure the mandatory 50% plus votes to assume office.
Last week the ZEC claimed that it was meticulously verifying the results of the elections before making them public. It appealed to Zimbabweans to remain calm.
Eldred Masunungure, a University of Zimbabwe political science professor, said the Sadc meeting should have spoken strongly against the withholding of the results and also come up with a workable strategy to end the political impasse in the country.
â€œIt is unbelievable that Sadc came to the conclusion that there is no crisis in this country,â€ Masunungure said.
â€œThe crisis is everywhere. Why was Mbeki appointed a facilitator when there is no crisis?â€
The professor said it was clear that there was no convergence among Sadc leaders on how to deal with Zimbabwe.
â€œThe summit should have come up with a solution to end the crisis. One of the options the Sadc should have considered is the formation of a government of national unity that excludes Mugabe,â€ Masunungure suggested.
â€œThis entails having a transitional government that would give birth to free and fair elections after a specified period.â€
Unconfirmed reports from Zambia were that the Sadc leaders in their 13-hour meeting deliberated on the proposal of a government of national unity, but failed to arrive at a concrete solution on the matter.
The reports said some Sadc leaders were for a coalition set up that would see another presidential aspirant, Simba Makoni, joining the government as prime minister. Makoni reportedly enjoys the support of Sadc leaders who view Tsvangirai suspiciously.Â Â Â
But Tsvangiraiâ€™s spokesperson George Sibotshiwe at the weekend said a government of national unity was not an option.
He was quoted by the international media saying the MDCâ€™s preferred course of action was to â€œconsider an inclusiveâ€ government.
Sibotshiwe said a unity government suggested that there was no clear winner and the rival candidates must join forces, while in an inclusive government, â€œwe are the winners, but we decide to invite various political partiesâ€.
The inclusive government would comprise the MDC, its breakaway faction and Zanu PF, but would exclude Mugabe.Â
Brian Ngwenya, another UZ political scientist, said it was expecting too much for anyone to think that Sadc would be able to deal with Mugabe and his government.
â€œIt was rather naÃ¯ve for anyone to think and assume that Sadc will rein in the Zimbabwe government,â€ Ngwenya said. â€œSadc is club of like-minded people and at the moment I donâ€™t see it transforming into an organisation that will take stiff stances and interventions when member countries deviate from its goals and objectives.â€
Ngwenya said the failure by the regional bloc to recognise that there was a crisis in Zimbabwe reveals the ineffectiveness of the body. â€œTheir definition of a crisis is mind boggling,â€ he said. â€œThey want blood to spill in the country for them to recognise that there is a real a crisis.â€Â Â
Ngwenya said Zimbabweans should engage in civil disobedience to force the ZEC to announce the polls.
â€œThere is no hope that Sadc will come up with any solution.
There is need for civil disobedience, not necessarily violence. I suggest that the people should boycott national events like Independence Day,â€ he said. â€œWe need to de-legitimise Mugabeâ€™s government. We must tell it that it has no will of the people to continue in power.â€
Speaking at the post-summit press conference, Zambia Foreign minister Kabinga Bande said there was no crisis in Zimbabwe despite the absence of results for close to three weeks after the presidential election.
â€œWe listened to the two parties (Zanu PF and MDC). Both said there is no crisis in Zimbabwe,â€ said Bande.
Bandeâ€™s words echoed those of Mbeki who had stopped in Harare on his way to Lusaka, telling journalists after meeting Mugabe there was â€œno crisisâ€.
â€œThe body authorised to release the results is the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, letâ€™s wait for them to announce the results,â€ said Mbeki.
But the MDC secretary for international affairs Eliphas Mukonoweshuro described as unfortunate and an affront to Zimbabweans Mbekiâ€™s statement that there was no crisis in the country.
â€œWe are amazed and flabbergasted by that statement from Mbeki. Mbeki was once mediator chosen by Sadc to broker dialogue between the MDC and Zanu PF, which means clearly that he had been sent by Sadc to try and see if he can put the political parties at the negotiating table to dilute the crisis,â€ he said.
â€œNow, for him to turn around and say that he was not brokering talks on a crisis is absolute nonsense. And I hope that Mbeki, with the greatest respect, made that statement when he was soberâ€¦â€
In a communiquÃ© after its summit, Sadc urged ZEC to â€œexpeditiouslyâ€ verify and release the results of the presidential election in accordance with the due process of law.Â
â€œSummit also urged all the parties in the electoral process in Zimbabwe to accept the results when they are announced,â€ the communiquÃ© read.
In a joint statement released after the Sadc meeting, 41 civil societies in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe said they had expected Sadc to compel the ZEC to immediately announce the presidential results and prevent Mugabe and his security personnel from tampering with the ballots.
The civil societies said the regional bloc must have told Mugabeâ€™s regime to dismantle the de facto coup in the country and apply pressure on the military to hand over power to a civilian government.
â€œAnd in the event that the results show no winner of 50% plus one vote, (Sadc should) set up a heads of state team that will mediate between Zanu PF and MDC in order to set an election run-off time line,â€ read the statement.
By Constantine Chimakure