THERE was high drama at the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) summit in Sandton on Sunday when President Robert Mugabe refused to leave a session of the meeting after he was requested to do so by the chair, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe.
Sources who attended the meeting said Mugabe refused to recuse himself to allow Sadc to deliberate on the dispute over ministries after the party leaders had made their remarks to the summit divided regional leaders.
Main MDC faction leader Morgan Tsvangirai said it was shocking Motlanthe failed to eject Mugabe from the meeting as required by their agreed mediation procedure.
Tsvangirai said Sadc missed a golden chance to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis.
â€œIn our view a great opportunity has been missed by Sadc to bring an end to the Zimbabwean Crisis.Â This omission has occurred because Sadc approached this summit without any concrete strategy and did not have the courage or the decency of looking Mugabe in the eye and telling him that his position was wrong,â€ he said.
â€œFor the record, in Sundayâ€™s meeting it had been agreed that all the Zimbabwean principals would recuse themselves to allow an open and unfettered dialogue to take place amongst the Sadc leaders. However, Mugabe refused and the chairman of Sadc did not tell him to leave. Thus, Mugabe became a judge in his own case.â€
Tsvangirai said â€œpressure was brought to bear on the MDCâ€ instead of Mugabe.
Sources said the tense meeting had started under a cloud of uncertainty as to whether it was a formal gathering or not.
Motlanthe had set the ball rolling with an opening address in which he attacked Zimbabwean political leaders for â€œlack of political maturityâ€.
Sadc executive secretary Tomaz Salomao then presented his report to the summit.
Sources said after that Motlanthe asked Mugabe, Tsvangirai and smaller MDC faction leader Arthur Mutambara to make some remarks. Mugabe made his first and was given a free rein. Tsvangirai then followed but during his presentation Mugabe protested and interrupted him, prompting Motlanthe to call him to order. Other leaders like the Lesotho premier Phakalitha Mosisili told Mugabe to show respect for Tsvangirai and Sadc leaders just as they had shown respect for him.
In one instance, sources said, Tsvangirai indicated that he had won the elections and Mugabe butted in, protesting â€œNo you didnâ€™t!â€
Sources said Mutambara then spoke, attacking Mugabe for refusing to give Home Affairs to Tsvangirai. Mutambara also slammed Tsvangirai for being inflexible.
During that session, Mugabe also barged in and asked: â€œIs this a formal meeting or not?â€ He asked because Tsvangirai and Mutambara who are not heads of state or government were given the floor.
Sources said Motlanthe said it was informal. Mugabe then requested that in that case flags should be lowered to show that the meeting was informal.
Following the dramatic first session, leaders took a break for 15 minutes and when they came back Mugabe dug in his heels and refused to concede the Home Affairs portfolio. In that session Tsvangirai and Mutambara were no longer present and Mugabe got his way, prompting Sadc leaders to settle for co-sharing of Home Affairs.Â Â Â Â Â
Mugabe and Tsvangirai are locked in a fierce battle of wits over power-sharing, including ministries and other issues.
Problems started when Mugabe reportedly claimed in October Tsvangirai had offered him the ministries of Local Government and Foreign Affairs for â€œfreeâ€.
By Dumisani Muleya/Constantine Chimakure