Candid Comment: The Zuma Honeymoon Will Be Shortlived

I HAVE been reading some responses mainly in the South African media to President Thabo Mbeki’s “not a crisis” comment.


(Never mind that even those who can’t read now wantonly quote Mbeki’s “not a crisis” completely out of context.)  A newcomer to the region who didn’t know of the hatred for Mbeki because of his failure to “deal firmly” with President Mugabe would think Mbeki was the leader of the opposition in Zimbabwe.

Typically, Zimbabweans are latching on to this rubbish. With Mbeki as their lightning rod, they don’t need to do anything, just wallow in their misery.

What I found sad is the exaggerated difference by the media between what Mbeki on the one hand and the ANC and its leader Jacob Zuma on the other said about the presidential election debacle.

The ANC said the situation in Zimbabwe was “dire” while Zuma said it was “unacceptable”.

This, the journalists concluded with exuberant wishful thinking, represented a break with Mbeki. Mbeki had been left “isolated”.

This would be risible if it were not for its treachery in giving ordinary Zimbabweans false hope of an imminent end to the ongoing violence.

Nothing could be further from the truth than journalists rummaging the Internet for preferred soundbytes which are then presented as a fundamental shift in the ANC’s relations with Zanu PF.

The ANC, in a speech presented by Zuma in Berlin on Monday, on current global challenges, said: “We have voiced our views on the need to uphold the will of the people in Zimbabwe, as the ANC.

We reiterate that election results should be released without delay … The ANC regards Zanu PF as a fraternal liberation movement and an ally in the effort to improve the lives of the people of Southern Africa.

We speak on Zimbabwe not because we favour our comrades in Zanu PF, or because we side with opposition parties.

We speak out to promote democracy, peace and stability, and also because as all democrats know, no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people.”

The truth is that no language, no matter how forcible, will produce the result which Zimbabweans are looking for as against the quotable quotes sought by tendentious Western media.

Zuma was forthright that the ANC was speaking as a neighbour “directly affected” by the deepening social and economic crisis in Zimbabwe.

Never did the ANC pretend that “megaphone diplomacy” or military adventurism was the solution to the Zimbabwean crisis.

African leaders who attended the AU summit in Mauritius at the weekend came to the same conclusion, endorsing Mbeki to continue his mediation efforts.

That is unless they want Mugabe to drive a wedge through Sadc as he did to the European Union ahead of Lisbon last year, much to “militant” Gordon Brown’s embarrassment.

My reading of the ANC’s statement yields two perspectives: the continued violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia does not speak well for the efficacy of the military “solution” so beloved of the US and Britain.

Secondly, that approach has “isolated” the “global north” from influencing events in Zimbabwe where all eyes are focused.

None will admit that militarism as a policy option has been a disaster which cost Tony Blair his job and will cost the Republicans the presidency in the US.

To them it sounds macho. It delivers corpses to their television audiences.

Zuma noted that one of the challenges facing conflict resolution is the “strength, integrity and capacity of multilateral institutions” set up by the AU “to promote multilateral, peaceful and sustainable solutions to crises”.

He observed: “But, as with the United Nations, the effectiveness of these forums depends on the willingness of member-countries to accept the forum as an instrument for addressing international problems.

Specifically, it depends on the capacity of these forums to temper the impulse of powerful countries to impose their will, mainly by use of arms.” (my italics)

That is the position of the ANC. It explains Mbeki’s position vis-à-vis the Zimbabwean crisis at the UN — to avoid giving the US and Britain a pretext for military intervention.

Those who care to interpret events and admit inconvenient truths will soon realise that the West’s patronising attitude towards Africa premised on the provision of “aid packages” and foreign investment will no longer influence African governments’ policies; it will be viewed with scorn.

After Lisbon last year, it is difficult for these blandishments to work again.

What does all this mean?

Simply that white capital’s anxiety in South Africa will not end with a Zuma presidency despite all the cajolery.

It will deepen.

It means as poverty unravels in South Africa and Zuma gets into his element, he will be forced to convert part of his popularity into populist policies to meet the expectations of the poor whom Mbeki is accused of having neglected because he is “aloof”. 

At the end of the day there will be a keener convergence of sentiment between the ANC, Cosatu and the South African Communist Party, forcing Zuma to lean further to the Left than Mbeki, closer to the uncomfortable realisation that, despicable though Mugabe’s methods are, he is far from being a rebel without a cause.

Zuma is Mugabe’s son more than Mbeki can ever be.

If South Africa’s land inequalities are not speedily resolved, Zuma may soon after getting into power find himself portrayed as the next Hitler in the neighbourhood.

Let those in denial pray that he escapes conviction and jail; that he becomes president and faces a sterner reality than song and showmanship.