HomeCommentEditor's Memo: Sadc Toothless Bulldog

Editor’s Memo: Sadc Toothless Bulldog

SOME things will never change. It was more of the same from the Sadc summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the weekend.

There was nothing new under the sun and that was to be expected.
However, there were great expectations –– perhaps misplaced –– in some quarters that Sadc would finally  deal with the Zimbabwe deadlock which continues to inflict serious collateral damage across a swathe of the region. Internally, the crisis is deteriorating into a calamity.
Zimbabweans continue to flee in increasing numbers across borders to escape repression and the economic meltdown to neighbouring states.
This has become a problem for all the host countries, in the region and overseas, which have had to contend with rising waves of political and economic refugees created by Zanu PF’s political tsunami destroying everything in its ugly wake.
The Robert Mugabe regime’s disastrous failures are now the stuff of legend: inflation is currently in millions, if not billions; poverty, unemployment, company closures, food shortages and hunger, chronic scarcity of almost everything basic, diseases, including cholera, collapse of schools, clinics, hospitals, public transport networks, roads, railways, state institutions and all key infrastructure are ubiquitous.   
The Zimbabwe meltdown is engulfing the region. It is also discouraging investment into neighbouring states and donor aid, particularly to Sadc itself which depends on it for its operations.
The destabilising corollary of the crisis, among other reasons, were seen as the raison d’etre for Sadc leaders to come up with a plan to break the current stalemate and help the country’s recovery for the collective good of the region.
However, Sadc leaders again failed to tackle the issue forthrightly due to inherent weaknesses in the organisation and intense divisions among the leaders stemming from regional rivalries and self-interest.
The geo-political dynamics of the region –– coupled with the ever-growing negative competition for influence among leaders –– militated against unity of purpose and led to failure to confront a rogue member state.
This allowed Mugabe by default to appear as a skilful statesman who got his desired outcome by running rings around his timid colleagues and the MDC.
I heard some delegates and observers at the summit suggesting maybe retired statesmen like former South African president Nelson Mandela, former Botswana President Sir Ketumile Masire or ex-Zambian leader Kenneth Kaunda might be able to persuade Mugabe to change his ways and accept a compromise solution.
But Mugabe has already rejected requests by Mandela and others for him to retire.  Masire succeeded in persuading Kaunda to introduce some political reforms in 1991 when Zambia was in crisis and that way helped to resolve the situation.
This means it can be done, but the trouble here is  Mugabe is rigidly determined to be president for life. This is the bottomline.
Despite their public efforts to appear united, Sadc leaders were sharply divided at the weekend’s tense summit at Sandton on how to deal with the Zimbabwe situation. With daggers drawn, but hiding behind their fingers, Sadc leaders were exposed as powerless when Mugabe even refused to leave one of their sessions to allow them to discuss Zimbabwe freely. Mugabe also protested and interrupted MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai during his address. He was reminded by the chairman that nobody had interrupted him.
 It was a rather embarrassing incident, yet emblematic of theoretical and structural weaknesses of Sadc.
The regional grouping is just a toothless bulldog. It’s like a scarecrow.
After wringing their hands for hours, Sadc leaders adopted a phoney united position that Mugabe and the MDC must go home to form an inclusive government.  
Mugabe felt he had won –– although he knew that he was going nowhere alone –– but the MDC, especially  Tsvangirai’s faction, felt let down.
Mugabe is going ahead to form his government. The result will be an unmitigated disaster for this country. His regime will basically lead the country to hell. More misery, agony and anguish will be visited upon a population already traumatised by repeated acts of intimidation, terror, torture, disappearances and killings spanning 28 years.
Add to this, the economic turmoil and starvation and the picture of what is in store fully emerges. It’s chilling.
The MDC says it will appeal to the AU or UN. This is a non-starter. What the party must be doing now is going back to the grassroots to find out the way forward. The people know what should be done. After all they created Mugabe and must know how to deal with him.  
If the deal collapses, the MDC has two clear choices: to surrender or intensify resistance.    
The party has over-concentrated on international lobbying at the expense of internal mobilisation. This is where the MDC’s problem lies. There is no doubt the party has wasted too much energy and resources gallivanting around the world, while internally it remained very weak and exposed. That is why Mugabe is not really worried about what the MDC can do on the ground, but what its international allies are planning.
The MDC has given primacy of external factors over internal dynamics and this has had the effect of “internationalising” the national question, while “denationalising” it. Unwittingly, the party and people now believe  the solution to this crisis can only come from abroad.
This is off beam. The answer lies here at home and the sooner the MDC realises this the better. Democratic resistance and defiance are the only way out if other options fail. History and precedent show this.

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