SOUTH African president and Sadc chair Kgalema Motlanthe this week made a significant turn in his countryâ€™s approach towards President Robert Mugabeâ€™s regime.
His remarks this week contrast with those of his predecessor Thabo Mbeki who appeared to be more indulgent.
On Sunday, Motlanthe called for the speedy implementation of the September 15 global political agreement (GPA) and insisted that Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai and his two deputies be sworn in alongside Mugabe.
Twenty-four hours later, Motlanthe removed the gloves and announced to the world that Mugabe and his regime lacked legitimacy and, as such, it was imperative to constitute a government of national unity as a matter of urgency to deal swiftly and firmly with a worsening humanitarian crisis in the country.
â€œWe agreed that with regards to Zimbabwe the next step really is to ensure that we unblock the impasse for them to take (Constitutional) Amendment 19 through the senate and the assembly, so that Mr Tsvangirai could be sworn in as prime minister and (Arthur) Mutambara as the vice-prime minister and Mugabe as the president, so that once the three of them have been sworn in they can then form an inclusive government,â€ Motlanthe said on Monday.
The following day he said: â€œUnless the root cause of the political absence of a legitimate government is not solved the situation will get worse and may implode or collapse.â€
While the South African stance is likely to hurt Mugabe very deeply because recognition by his peers is something on which he has traditionally placed premium value, it reaffirms the notion that the June presidential election was a sham.
This also means that Africaâ€™s powerhouse, which is also a neighbour, is now challenging Mugabeâ€™s legitimacy.
Motlantheâ€™s pronouncement came in the wake of his countryâ€™s decision last week to withhold the R300 million aid it had promised Zimbabwe after the formation of a government of national unity for agricultural recovery.
Mugabe should understand the meaning of the South African presidentâ€™s pronouncement.
The mere fact that Sadc has endorsed the global political agreement between the countryâ€™s three major parties confirmed that the generally held position in the region is that no single party could form a government without the support of the other parties.
Mugabe has been basking in false glory that Sadc and the African Union (AU) recognised him as the legitimate president of Zimbabwe after his military-like campaign, which resulted in him winning â€œresoundinglyâ€ the June one-man run-off.
It is patently clear that Sadc and the AU have accepted that there is no legitimate government and the outcome of the March 29 elections did not give the mandate to govern to any single party.
In such circumstances, the only resolution Sadc could pass was to encourage the parties to come to some arrangement along the lines contained in the GPA and proceed to form a government that is inclusive.
The role and status of the Zanu PF ministers, some of whom are no longer relevant because they lost the elections, exposes the illegitimacy of the regime.
With Sadc and the AUâ€™s realisation of Mugabeâ€™s lack of legitimacy, Zimbabweans expect the regional and continental bodies to take a bold stance against the 84-year-old leader and goad him to be sincere in the power-sharing deal.
Regional leaders should be united in confronting the Zimbabwe crisis and tell Mugabe to play ball and make sure there is successful implementation of the GPA. Â
Motlanthe, Botswana President Ian Khama and the late Zambian leader Levy Mwanawasa, were the only regional heads of state to speak out against Mugabeâ€™s government, but the most worrying thing is that they never did it in the formal forum of Sadc.
Zimbabweans should never anticipate a major shift in Sadcâ€™s position on our crisis even after the regional blocâ€™s chair has said Mugabe and his current government lack legitimacy.
Some of the Sadc leaders have since 2000 exhibited sound and fury, but with little in the form of substance.
Why donâ€™t they do it in the formal forum of Sadc, where decisions are firm and binding? Everyone should be sceptical when leaders use the media platform and yet avoid the formal forum to tell it like it is.
One hopes those media statements can be transformed into formal language and action. Zimbabwe needs to move forward, not to remain trapped in the current political paralysis.
By Constantine Chimakure