Instead he tried to persuade British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to scrap what he called the European Union’s “sanctions against Zimbabwe”.
This was dumbfounding. He must have known it was a non-starter. There are no sanctions against Zimbabwe. There are only targeted sanctions against 200 individuals and nine companies known to be the prime villains who have looted the land and its resources, impoverished the people and committed crimes against humanity.
The sanctions have declared those individuals persona non grata and frozen their assets in the countries applying them. There is no way Brown or any other EU leader was going to condone those despicable crimes, in effect revoke Europe’s labelling of them as immoral and unacceptable, when President Robert Mugabe and his cohorts have done nothing to deserve such a reprieve.
Their crimes are ongoing. Zuma’s plea for the lifting of that condemnation was not just futile, it was egregious, for it made him look like an obsequious supporter of the Mugabe regime, just as Thabo Mbeki was, to the detriment of our moral standing in the world. In fact by perpetuating the myth that the EU is applying sanctions against the Zimbabwe nation, and that that, not Mugabe’s misrule, is what is responsible for the misery of its people, makes Zuma — and thus South Africa — a collaborator.
Why Zuma has done this is beyond understanding. There is no pressure on him from within the ANC or its alliance partners to take this collaborationist line. The factions that brought him to power at Polokwane were all critical of Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy”, Cosatu particularly so after having been crudely humiliated by Mugabe’s henchmen when they tried to visit their unionist comrades in Zimbabwe. If Zuma thought he could sweeten Mugabe by going in to bat for him in London, then he is even more naive than Mbeki. Mugabe is an inveterate hawk who eats softies for breakfast. The pity is that Zuma had a great opportunity in London to change South Africa’s image on this issue which has done us so much harm internationally. He should have made it clear that the Mbeki era of effeteness is over and that South Africa — the only country capable of ending the drawn-out mess in Zimbabwe — is now ready to become more assertive in trying to do so.
How? First by recognising that the unity government is not working and that the global political agreement (GPA) which Mbeki negotiated is effectively dead. It started out reasonably well. Schools and hospitals opened, civil servants got paid and returned to work and the scrapping of the Zimbabwe dollar brought goods back to empty shop shelves. There was also a brief moment when there was even a drop in human rights abuses. But it was not long before the hardliners of Mugabe’s Zanu PF, especially the security chiefs, reasserted themselves and refused to implement some of the unity government’s decisions and the changes specified in the GPA.
More than a year after the signing of the unity accord, only 12% of the 34 items in the GPA have been implemented. Meanwhile, with all the instruments of state force still in Mugabe’s hands, the land invasions continue, members of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-M) are continuously harassed and arrested, the youth militia roam the countryside intimidating opposition supporters, and the process of drafting a new democratic constitution is stalled.
One of the factors driving the deterioration is that Zanu PF leaders, who were beginning to feel the pinch of the shrinking economy, have suddenly struck it rich again thanks to a fabulous new alluvial diamond field at Marange, in the eastern highlands near the Mozambique border, yielding an estimated US$2 billion a year. This bonanza should be helping Zimbabwe’s economic recovery and the lives of its struggling people, but it is not, because the operation is outside the control of the unity government and is being run by a cabal that includes senior political and military figures.
With this new wealth pouring into the pockets of Zanu PF’s corps d’elite, their sense of power and impunity has burgeoned anew. This has prompted new outrages. Three weeks ago Zanu PF suddenly revived an “Indigenisation Act” passed by a pre-unity Zanu PF parliament back in 2007 but never activated, which requires all companies with a capital value of more than US$500 000 to cede over 51% of their equity to “the people” — meaning Zanu PF’s elitists “and to do so within 45 days or face five years imprisonment”.
The belated activation was announced by proclamation without reference to the unity cabinet or parliament. It has frozen business and investment in the country. In another act of complete contempt for the GPA, Mugabe on March 5 unilaterally stripped four ministers of the two MDC factions of their powers and handed those powers to his own Zanu PF ministers. That is why it’s time for South Africa, as the leading power in Sadc, to say “Enough”!
If President Zuma has any political balls at all, he should tell Mugabe so during his visit to Harare this week. He should tell him the GPA is obviously not working, that it is clear Mugabe is determined not to allow it to work, and that the South African government is therefore going to call on Sadc, as guarantor of the deal, to declare it to have been irretrievably violated and so nullified — and to demand the holding of an early election so that a new government with a genuine public mandate can take over.
This election should be supervised — not just observed — by a large team of electoral specialists from the Sadc countries, especially South Africa. Moreover it should not be run on the basis of Zimbabwe’s hopelessly defective voters’ roll but by letting all adult citizens vote as has been done with the first elections of all newly independent countries in Africa. Zuma should tell Mugabe, too, that if he and his Zanu PF cohorts refuse to accept such a process, South Africa will press for Zimbabwe’s membership of Sadc to be suspended, and for any regime that might be unilaterally installed not to be recognised by Sadc and the African Union. The country would then be isolated.
Only South Africa has the influence and power to do this. If necessary we could do it unilaterally. It’s time we acted on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe and the whole region, to say nothing of our own image as a nation whose internationally assisted rebirth surely imposes a moral obligation on us. But don’t hold your breath. Decisiveness is not Zuma’s strong suit on any issue. — Business Day.
Allister Sparks is a veteran South African journalist.