HomeOpinionMalign Joke Of Mbeki's Mediation In Zimbabwe

Malign Joke Of Mbeki’s Mediation In Zimbabwe

TWO weeks ago, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the Africa Policy Institute released a report titled Saving Zimbabwe: An Agenda for Democratic Peace.


Of all the claims made, the claim that earned the most extensive media coverage was also the least well substantiated: evidence for the contention that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was resorting to violence appears to have been sourced from Zimbabwean state-owned media, Robert Mugabe himself, Joint Operations Command members, police commissioner Augustine Chihuri, and an unnamed Zimbabwean cabinet minister.

That a well-respected institution such as the HSRC thought to make so serious an allegation based on input from such implausible sources was bad enough, but it then issued a recommendation on the basis of such flimsily supported claims: that members of the global community push for sanctions targeting both Zanu PF and the MDC so that they desist from violence.

Surprisingly, the report’s most important and best-sourced information has thus far been overlooked. Given what seems almost unprecedented access to sources in South Africa’s presidency, foreign affairs department and embassy in Zimbabwe, the report’s authors are able to provide a detailed exposition of the South African leadership’s motivations in respect of their mediation role and as influential neighbours.

According to the authors, “South Africa’s transitional formula in Zimbabwe has been to induce a re-engineering and transformation of Zanu PF to put it in the hands of a moderate and avoid the “Chiluba factor” — the decimation of a liberation party by a trade-union party like the MDC.” It is this motivation that led to support for Simba Makoni’s candidacy in the belief that he could spearhead a reformed Zanu PF party incorporating certain elements of the political opposition, notably the Arthur Mutambara-led faction of the MDC.

South Africa bet on a run-off scenario. But one that involved Makoni and Mugabe and not, as it happened, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Mugabe. All this manoeuvring took place supposedly to leave Tsvangirai out in the cold but Pretoria, say the authors, was taken aback by Makoni’s dismal results. Still it was not deterred, continuing to push for Makoni as a central figure in a government of national unity well past the date on which election results were known.

It would almost be funny –– bungled strategy predicated on bumbling intelligence –– were it not so malign. How, if these are Mbeki’s motivations, confirmed by senior officials in relevant government departments, can it then be fairly or sensibly insisted that the Tsvangirai-led MDC be party to any continued mediation effort brokered by Mbeki? The Tsvangirai-led MDC, recognising that Mbeki’s efforts are often driven less by support for Mugabe than revilement for itself, has called at every turn for supplementation of the mediation effort.

Had a United Nations (UN) Security Council draft resolution not been defeated two weeks ago, it would have allowed for the appointment of a UN special representative to “support the negotiation process between the political parties in Zimbabwe”.

But South Africa was having none of it, leading off the debate in the security council that preceded the vote. South Africa’s UN ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo, suggested that South Africa’s hands were tied. It had no choice but to vote against the draft, duty-bound as it was to uphold the Southern African Development Community and African Union positions safeguarding the mediation process –– as if South Africa had not exerted every pressure in those self-same institutions to ensure that its mediation remained the only game in town.

And so the MDC has found itself not only corralled into the very process to which it has time and again raised objection, but is also refused alternatives on the basis that such alternatives would compromise the flawed process to which it objects. It is hard to imagine how Tsvangirai conducts himself with any civility in Mbeki’s company. But by all accounts he does: when relations were at one of their lowest ebbs, Tsvangirai still met with Mbeki in Harare, reportedly telling him that he was meeting with him not as the mediator but as the democratically-elected head of the people of South Africa.

If true, it is a courtesy Mbeki has been resolutely unwilling to return to Tsvangirai or to the people of Zimbabwe. Now, however, with last Friday’s appointment of a reference group, there appears finally to be recognition that a mediation effort brokered solely by Mbeki cannot yield the unprejudiced process that is so desperately required.— Business Day.

*Fritz is the director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.


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