Editor’s Memo: Summit a Test of Sadc Leaders’ Sincerity

SADC chair Kgalema Motlanthe has a not-so-easy task on Monday to save the faltering prospects of the formation of an all-inclusive government in Zimbabwe.


Events of this week, when mediation once again broke down, have diminished prospects of Sadc’s success in resolving the crisis here. The regional bloc’s options are ebbing as the problem has kept growing.

Sadc leaders have since March last year held three extraordinary summits and three security summits in hopes of forging a unity government. Monday’s is the seventh.

The meeting in Pretoria requires a different approach to unlock the deadlock.

It is important for the regional heads to confront fundamental issues of governance and the country’s fast-degenerating human rights record and not just pushing for the swearing in of a new government.

The Sadc leaders have to realise that they are now dealing with leaders who not only distrust each other but have also grown to hate each other since September last year when agreement to form a unity government was signed. It should not be business as usual for Sadc.

The South African leader and his delegation came to Zimbabwe this week with a plan they hoped would unlock the political logjam and lead to the formation of a government of national unity.

This to them appeared like a simple task in which they expected MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai to immediately join the government of national unity and then work with Mugabe to sort out a myriad of outstanding issues to do with appointments of security ministers, governors, diplomats and other senior government officials.

The plan was rejected by the MDC. The proposals were always going to be rejected because according to the MDC they failed to address issues which prompted the deadlock at the end of last year.

The Sadc plan, according to the MDC, dovetails with the aspirations of President Mugabe to continue holding onto power. This is the curse of the Sadc intervention in Zimbabwe.

It has become a cumbersome process in which Mugabe has domesticated the bloc to give an impression that his rule has the endorsement of his peers.

Mugabe and his minions today believe they are running a legitimate show in Harare backed by the region.

This is the connection that has encumbered the regional leaders from achieving success in the mediation.

The leaders meeting in Pretoria this week are therefore not expected to achieve much as long as they believe that the Zanu PF regime can be rehabilitated when Tsvangirai’s MDC agrees to join the GNU. 

This is a hopeless position that has blinded the leaders to egregious human rights abuses here. The silence is construed by our rulers as loud messages of solidarity.

The Sadc summit is therefore a serious test of the region’s resolve to deal decisively with abductions and alleged torture of Mugabe’s political opponents by state security officers.

At the meeting this week, Tsvangirai added to a basket of unresolved issues which Sadc has to deal with the abductions and alleged torture of his supporters.

The new demands for the release of the MDC activists have been viewed in certain quarters as vexatious and a ploy by Tsvangirai to stall proceedings. Why is he introducing these deal-breakers now?

The issues he is raising have nothing to do with the formation of an all-inclusive government, the official line goes.

And this is how the Zanu PF regime gets away with acts of impunity which have over the years resulted in the democratic deficit we face today.

There are imprudent Zimbabweans who have come to accept torture and abductions as normal inconveniences in daily people’s existence.

These excesses must be condemned. In Pretoria next week, Sadc heads should address this issue as part of their mediation. How does the region expect Tsvangirai to join a government in which he is branded as the face of terrorism against the state?

They must muster the courage to speak out not because that is what Tsvangirai wants to hear but because they have a moral obligation to straighten the ways of their peer.

They have an obligation to set the standard of human rights in the region. This is what will make the Sadc mediation relevant to the crisis to hand.

There is no denying that issues to do with the democratic deficit have been at the centre of the conflict in Zimbabwe and it cannot be addressed by merely sharing positions in government. It takes more than that. This is the major task to hand for Sadc heads.

To tackle this issue, the heads have limited options: to denounce Mugabe and risk losing his attention altogether or to ignore Tsvangirai’s bidding, which will then be construed as an apt endorsement of Mugabe’s projects.

Not an easy call. But then nobody ever said doing the right thing was a walk in the park.