The optimism would have been premised on a seeming shift in Sadc’s approach to issues that the three political parties have defined as “outstanding” with regards to the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
The involvement of South African President Jacob Zuma, against the backdrop of Thabo Mbeki’s assumed departure, can also be considered reason enough to think that Sadc has a much more urgent approach to the Zimbabwean political crisis.
The consideration of the January 26-27 Communiqué of the Extraordinary January summit as the basis upon which the remaining outstanding issues should be addressed within 15 to 30 days also gives impetus to the notion that perhaps Sadc is responding differently to events in Zimbabwe.
This is because the January 27 Communiqué gave specific timetables to the swearing in of the prime minister and his deputies as well as cabinet ministers. It also indicated the specific periods in which the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic) shall meet, stated that the GPA shall be reviewed after six months and stipulated that the negotiators shall meet “immediately” to consider a National Security Bill submitted by the MDC-T.
The same communiqué also mentioned the appointments of the Reserve Bank Governor and the Attorney-General by stating that the two posts should be “dealt with” by the inclusive government after its formation. On the latter point it did not, however, specify a timeline.
And all of this must be considered with the fact that the communiqué of the Sadc Troika on October 30 adds a new dimension to outstanding issues that differs from that of January.
The inclusion of a clause in the latest Sadc communiqué that requests that the international community lift all forms of sanctions on Zimbabwe makes one wonder who exactly will undertake the follow up action on sanctions.
Zanu PF, given its proclamations on sanctions, has already identified this as an outstanding issue that the MDC must deal with.
How the MDC can possibly address the issue when they do not have any control or direct influence on foreign governments that have placed what they have called targeted sanctions is a matter for Zanu PF to explain, but the fundamental problem here is that the recognition of “sanctions” by Sadc creates a dilemma for the MDC. This is because Zanu PF will raise it as an outstanding issue, among others, simply in order to attempt to strengthen its weakened hand with the Sadc Troika.
Having taken all of this into account, there is limited reason to doubt that a greater number of Zimbabweans are anxious to have some sort of explanation as to what exactly all of this means both in relation to their lives as well as their partisan interests.
To simplify all of these Sadc-led processes one can explain them in relation to the vested political interests that are inherent in the Zimbabwean political crisis.
First, Sadc, in the tone of its latest communiqué on Zimbabwe intends to make this GPA function against all odds.
The fact that it has followed up on both its promises within the context of the six-month review as well as on the basis of the prime minister’s one week lobbying trip around the region indicates that it is fairly serious about averting a collapse of the agreement.
A question that would however arise is in relation to what exactly would be the vested interests of Sadc in trying to make the parties stay together in the inclusive government?
One reason would be that Sadc intends to continue the revamped Pan-Africanist mantra of “Africans solving their own problems” and another that because the regional economic hub, South Africa, has a football World Cup to host next winter, it can ill afford having to grapple with a troublesome neighbour next door.
This would mean that Sadc is acting in its own best political interests as well as to stave off a regional embarrassment before the World Cup.
This should also be taken to mean that Sadc is not necessarily acting in the democratic interests of the people of Zimbabwe, let alone those of Madagascar or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but more for its political and economic standing as a regional block but, in particular, for the protection of South Africa’s continued economic and political hegemony in the region.
Second, we must analyse the interests of the three political parties that are signatory to the agreement. Zanu PF’s primary interests in this particular Sadc process was to ensure that somehow it got the issue of sanctions mentioned again in the communiqué after the DRC summit held on September 5. MDC-T’s vested interest, on the other hand, was to get the issue of the provincial governors, the Reserve Bank Governor, the Attorney-General and the intimidation, arrests, and abductions of its members recognised as outstanding issues.
The MDC-M had the particular interest of making sure the inclusive government continues to function. All of these parties got the majority of what they desired on paper.
As a matter of consequence, the reference to the January 27 communiqué of the Sadc Extraordinary Summit held in South Africa is more a return to the euphoria that preceded the swearing in of the inclusive government. And in part it is to ignore the last seven or so months that have had serious political ramifications for the country.
It is almost as though the political parties are back to square one. And this might be considered progressive given the fact that there has been a lot of unfinished business in the inclusive government and Zanu PF was/has been acting with impunity against what the GPA had been assumed by many to mean.
There are however downsides to the potential return to the drawing board as of January 27. These include the possibility that the MDC-T pulls out altogether after the passage of the stipulated maximum of 30 days if it does not get what it wants. Or that Zanu PF insists on “going it alone’ regardless of the pressure from Sadc.
Both of the aforementioned would affect the national economy negatively because of the loss of investors who at the moment almost literally control supply and demand in the country.
There would also be the return to evident political turf wars and potential political violence in preparation for an election that will not necessarily occur. And it is this particular fear of an “Armageddon” that will drive the political parties to return with regularity to Sadc.
The latter will then begin to increase its control over Zimbabwe, to the extent that the country may not be viewed by even its own citizens as sovereign or independent until such a time as one of the two main parties relent. And in all of this, it will be the democratic intentions of the people of Zimbabwe that will suffer. As a result of the vested interests of Sadc as well as a result of the inability of the three political parties to remember that theirs is a transitional, temporary government, and is therefore not nearly legitimate.
In conclusion, it is therefore imperative that those that laud Sadc for its intervention in Zimbabwe be aware of the fact that it too has its own aggregated interests that may not be in the best interests of Zimbabweans. It is also important that the three political parties realise that making each other scapegoats in their continued quest for total power thus far into the formation of an inclusive government leads to the erosion of confidence of the people in the ability of the Zimbabwean state to provide for their livelihood and thus its national legitimacy.
This is especially so given the continual unaffordable social services, unavailability of social welfare and the lack of any progress in the establishment of a democratic constitutional reform process.
Takura Zhangazha is the National Director of Misa Zimbabwe.
By Takura Zhangazha