President Mugabe heads for Kinshasa, DRC, next week for the Sadc summit hoping to convince his peers in the region that the inclusive government is under threat from the failure by partner Morgan Tsvangirai to call for the lifting of sanctions.
Mugabe will seek to convince the Sadc heads that the only sticking point in the full consummation of the inclusive government is sanctions and all the other sticking points have been dealt with or are not of any consequence.
This includes the appointment of Attorney-General Johannes Tomana and Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, and the refusal by Mugabe to swear in Roy Bennett as deputy Agriculture minister.
This position, taken at Zanu PF politiburo meeting last month to ratchet up pressure on the MDC using the sanctions issue, has sown seeds of fresh conflict and discord in the inclusive government. The parties to the inclusive government have started to pull apart again with Zanu PF appearing profoundly content with ensuring that the year-old marriage collapses.
At the Sadc summit in Kinshasa we do not expect the regional heads to nudge Mugabe into dropping his hardline position. His spokesman George Charamba was yesterday quoted in the media as saying that Mugabe would not budge on the issue Tomana and Gono.
Here is our head of state being contemptuous of Sadc. The Sadc communiquÃ© of January 27 (which we carry in full on Page 7) released at the end of a regional summit in Pretoria clearly stated, among other issues, that â€œthe appointments of the Reserve Bank governor and the Attorney-General will be dealt with by the inclusive government after its formationâ€ and that the negotiators of the parties shall meet immediately to consider the National Security Bill submitted by the MDC-T as well as the formula for the distribution of governorsâ€. Â
The same communiquÃ© does not mention the issue of sanctions as an outstanding issue to be dealt with by the MDC for the simple reason that the party does not have the capacity to do so. That however is not to say that the sanctions issue should not be resolved.
Its resolution is not dependent on the MDC mounting the nearest soap box to denounce the restrictions. The issue, as Mugabe and his party are aware, can only be resolved with a change of policy and a respect for basic tenets of freedom.
Progress in the opening up of democratic space has been glacial because there is a strong grouping in the Zanu PF which feels threatened by freedom. The work of this groups has made the work of the Sadc focus group on Zimbabwe sanctions difficult.
The MDC-T cannot be held responsible for the failure to amend laws, license new media and the slow pace in the drafting of a new constitution.
In Kinshasa Mugabeâ€™s plan is to force the sanctions issue through and have it incorporated as a fresh resolution on Zimbabwe.
This new resolution then revises the January 27 communiquÃ© which should have guided Zanu PF and the MDC formations in the implementation of the GPA. The challenge for the Sadc heads therefore is whether they will allow Mugabe to ride roughshod over them and alter what was agreed upon in January.
Failure by the regional heads to rein-in Mugabe should ultimately sound the death knell for the GPA.
It should be noted that the MDC only agreed to enter into the marriage with Zanu PF after assurances from Sadc that it would underwrite the agreement. President Mugabe has taken every opportunity to thank Sadc and its appointed mediator Thabo Mbeki for helping to unlock the political logjam in Zimbabwe.
His respect for the region should be demonstrated in how far he is willing to implement the GPA as guaranteed by the regional grouping.
Outgoing Sadc chair Jacob Zuma who was in the country last week refused to be sidetracked by Zanu PFâ€™s subterfuge. The party started to vend the sanctions issue a few days before Zumaâ€™s arrival to set an agenda for the visiting SA president.
He saw through this ruse and his speech at a state banquet was subtle yet significant as it sabotaged Mugabeâ€™s project of declaring sanctions the only outstanding issue.
He said all parties forming the inclusive government should be committed to fulfilling the letter and spirit of the Global Political Agreement. He also said African nations should commit themselves to human rights, good governance and democracy if our continent is to extricate itself from the bad-boy image. Â
This is an opportunity for Sadc to step up to the plate and demonstrate its commitment to good governance.
We should not however expect too much to emerge from the Kinshasa summit. Incoming Sadc chair Joseph Kabila knows little about the intricacies of Zimbabwean politics. Where Thabo Mbekiâ€™s diplomacy was quiet, Kabilaâ€™s is likely to be inaudible.
In any case he owes a debt of gratitude to Mugabe for his intervention in 1998. And Zimbabwean troops continue to provide him with personal security.
Not a recipe for robust exchanges. More a regional fudge.