Editor’s Memo: Sadc’s Great Betrayal

SADC has betrayed the people of Zimbabwe and killed their hopes this year by adopting a kid-glove approach to the political crisis in the country that has imploded into a humanitarian crisis of disastrous proportions.

Over 1 000 people are estimated to have succumbed to the cholera epidemic since it broke out in August and five million more face starvation due to shortage of food, but Sadc has been accommodating to President Robert Mugabe’s regime when the situation clearly required a tougher stance.

Despite the signing of a unity government pact between Mugabe and the leaders of the two MDC formations — Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara — on September 15, Sadc has done little to ensure fairness and equitability in the power-sharing deal.

Since the signing of the deal, it has become evident that the majority of Sadc leaders were less comfortable with Tsvangirai than they are with Mugabe and have been exerting pressure on the prime minister-designate to join an inclusive government he would be a junior partner in.

On the other hand, the regional leaders have repeatedly deferred to the 84-year-old ruler despite his excesses.

Sadc must either shape up or ship out — if they cannot solve the political crisis they should say so and let things be.

To continue to raise hopes and insist on the global political agreement that is yielding nothing except disease and abductions is tantamount to buying time for the Mugabe regime while the humanitarian disaster is unfolding.

The political impasse has left the country without a functional government since March and the paralysis has seen the economy continuing to plunge and the humanitarian situation deteriorate with Sadc watching in awe!

Sadc’s mediation process, which gave Zimbabweans hope, seems to be failing and appears not to be salvageable.

The journey to the mediation began with a Sadc summit in Tanzania in March last year following the assault on opposition leaders, among them Tsvangirai.

This opened the door for Sadc to intervene in what Mugabe may like to call a domestic matter.
Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai accepted then as they still do that Sadc had a role to play in resolving the matter.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki — Sadc’s point man on Zimbabwe — played a critical role in the pre-March elections negotiations that led to the necessary constitutional and legal amendments. Through the facilitation of Sadc, elections were held and the rest is history.

The current Sadc challenge is not the mere formation of an all-inclusive government, but is broader and encompasses more issues, which evidently the regional bloc cannot handle.

Legitimacy is still a problem and Sadc has failed to provide direction. This is a litmus test for the regional grouping which it appears determined to fail.

Sadc should have told Mugabe that without Tsvangirai he has no legitimacy and should, therefore, have ceded real power-sharing to the MDC leader.

To the extent that Mugabe and Tsvangirai do not trust each other, it was important for Sadc to intervene in search of a common ground.

Equally, Sadc should have pronounced its opinion on the adequacy and equitability of the current deal on the table. It appears that the agreement is skewed in favour of Mugabe and Zanu PF.

Sadc leaders can and should stand up for the principles that they purport to share and should subject Zimbabwe’s conduct to such principles and values.

There is a lot that Mugabe would now wish in the passage of time to change.

Surely even Mugabe in the quietness of his time cannot be satisfied that Zimbabwe will turn a new leaf if the kind of change that comes from the deal is not credible. Credibility has to be tested and accompanied by change.

Sadc must recognise that Mugabe represents the past and the future belongs to other leaders.
It is inconceivable that anyone who values the future of Zimbabwe would want to persist with the same disastrous course of events that we have witnessed of late.

Mugabe cannot sustain an argument that he will alone bring change.

Zimbabwe needs to turn a new leaf and this can only be accomplished by Mugabe conceding that there is a problem in the construction of the deal on the table that leaves him in power to frustrate the wheels of progress from moving forward.

The Sadc leaders should have been firm with Mugabe by demanding that a resolution be found so that the work to rebuild the country begins in earnest. And they should speak out about abductions and other human rights abuses.

There is no need on the part of the Sadc leaders to pull punches.

The challenge for them is to tell Mugabe that the September 15 deal demanded power-sharing not grabbing, but they ducked the challenge. They have betrayed the people of Zimbabwe and history will remember them as the cowards they are.

Editor’s Memo with Constantine Chimakure