SOUTHERN African Development Community (Sadc) leaders are on a collision course over Zimbabweâ€™s faltering power-sharing agreement which they are due to discuss at an extraordinary summit, possibly next week.
Divisions among Sadc leaders have been simmering since the March elections that President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF lost to the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) faction and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Sadc in March held an emergency summit in Lusaka to discuss the election crisis. Mugabe boycotted the meeting after his defeat in the first round of the poll, but was criticised in his absence by the late Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa.
Mugabe and Mwanawasa clashed at a Sadc summit in Lusaka last year, provoking Mugabe to storm out.
The Sadc crisis meeting, expected to be held in South Africa, will be the third inside two years to be called to discuss the Zimbabwe situation after initial ones in Tanzania and Zambia. Sadc ministers are expected to meet on November 4 or 5 in Mozambique to prepare for the summit.
Diplomatic sources said this week the summit could be explosive following signs of wrangling during the ill-fated Sadc troika meeting of the organ on politics, defence and security in Harare this week.
Despite a public show of unity, sources said Sadc leaders who met in Harare between Monday and Tuesday were divided over what should be done to break the deadlock between Zanu PF and the MDC on the allocation of government ministries.
The troika leaders from Swaziland, Mozambique and Angola endorsed Mugabeâ€™s proposal â€” which he gazetted on October 10 â€” and this did not go down well with South African president Kgalema Motlanthe and his Foreign Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
The troika claimed in its communiquÃ© only the issue of the Ministry of Home Affairs remains unresolved, but the MDC rejected this on Tuesday. It wrote a letter to Sadc on Wednesday saying in fact there was a range of issues which were unsettled. It said there were 10 ministries, governors and diplomats and permanent secretaries which were still outstanding.
The party also said Constitutional Amendment No 19 and correcting the forged September 15 agreement still remain unresolved.
The MDC also complained the troika issued a â€œmisleading communiquÃ©â€ without seeing it, suggesting â€œshenanigansâ€ by some troika leaders.
Sources said even Dlamini-Zuma was dismayed that the communiquÃ© was a misrepresentation of the troika deliberations. They said she wondered why the communiquÃ© did not put it on record that it was agreed the September 15 agreement was a forgery and should be corrected. Â
Sadc executive secretary Tomaz Salomao, who insists only home affairs is outstanding as an area of dispute, has admitted that the September 15 agreement is flawed.
Diplomats say there were serious battles within Sadc over Zimbabwe.
â€œThere are undercurrents of bickering among Sadc leaders, but they are trying to avoid a public quarrel over Zimbabwe,â€ a senior diplomat said.
â€œThe forthcoming meeting might become a theatre of infighting unless the issues are resolved behind-the-scenes.â€Â Â Â
Talks facilitator former South African president Thabo Mbeki wrote a report to the troika on October 17 which was supposed to be presented in Swaziland on October 20. The meeting failed to take place because Tsvangirai did not attend due to problems with his passport.
Tsvangirai raised this issue with regional leaders on Monday, but Salomao said it was none of their business.
Sources said Motlanthe expressed concern about Mugabeâ€™s unilateral distribution of ministries. Motlanthe met with Tsvangirai at the talks, while Mugabe met Sadc troika chair on the day, Mozambican president Armando Guebuza, for private talks.Â
On 10 key ministries, the MDC suggested Mugabe should take defence, national security (which is not a ministry at the moment), foreign affairs, local government and lands and resettlement, while Tsvangirai would get finance, home affairs, information, justice and agriculture.
However, Mugabe in his proposal took all but finance. He has now given away finance and partially home affairs to the MDC.
Zanu PFâ€™s politburo met on Wednesday and resolved that Mugabe and his negotiators should not give in to any more MDC demands. The United States this week condemned Mugabeâ€™s refusal to relinquish some key ministries to the MDC, while United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon said African leaders must resolve the issue.
On Wednesday he said at a regional summit in the Philippines that Zimbabweâ€™s crisis talks â€œhave been taking too longâ€.
â€œI sincerely hope that President Mugabe will no longer disappoint the international community,â€ Ban said. â€œHe should meet the expectations of the international community.â€
Mugabe is likely to take a hardline stance at the Sadc summit at which he is bound to clash with Motlanthe and key Sadc leaders such as Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete and Botswana leader Ian Khama.
Kikwete, also AU chair, and Khama are known in diplomatic circles to be anti-Mugabe.
Khama, who boycotted the Sadc meeting in South Africa in August over Mugabe, has publicly blasted the veteran ruler for claiming victory in June after a campaign of terror following his first round defeat in March.
Mugabe tried to make peace with Khama when he came to the signing ceremony of the agreement on September 15 by publicly claiming Khama was a friend and even a relative. Mugabe also said Khamaâ€™s father was his friend in an apparent attempt to impress the current Botswana leader.
Mugabe is thus likely to be supported at the Sadc summit by Angola, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, Malawi and Namibia. Tsvangirai could have South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana, Zambia and Mauritius on his side.
Other Sadc states are generally neutral.Â
By Dumisani Muleya