THE Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Africa recently sent two separate envoys to Harare within a week of each other, in what commentators said signalled growing irritation with Zimbabwe’s power-sharing disputes.
Seven days after Zuma’s envoys came to Harare for another unsuccessful round of talks, the DRC last week sent in Leon Jean Ilunga Ngandu, a special envoy of President Joseph Kabila, to step up pressure for the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement. Kabila is in a sense Zuma’s boss by virtue of being the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) chair.
Political commentators say while Kabila’s direct intervention indicated impatience, it also showed the failure of successive regional leaders to end Zimbabwe’s political stalemate.
“The problem largely remains that African leaders have over the years been reluctant to criticise each other out of some warped sense of loyalty to one another despite circumstances dictating otherwise,” said Psychology Maziwisa, the interim leader of the Union for Sustainable Democracy, a local organisation that advocates democracy.
Zuma, despite showing more vigour in dealing with Zimbabwe than his predecessor Thabo Mbeki, has like Mbeki failed to secure agreement on issues ranging from security issues and democratic reforms to the appointment of key government officials.
Phillip Pasirayi, a campaigner for political reform, said Zuma, like most African leaders, had the delicate and difficult task of nudging President Robert Mugabe, a liberation war ally, into surrendering power.
“These parties, former liberation movements like Zuma’s ANC, do not know how to deal with Zanu PF,” Pasirayi, the director of the Centre for Community Development, said. “They do not have a political formula and they also take Zanu PF to be one of their own as they share a common history.”
Commentators such as Trevor Maisiri said Kabila had taken an active role in Harare’s political standoff because he wanted the differences resolved before the expiry of his term this September.
“The direct intervention by Kabila could really be both a flexing of muscle in order to apply pressure on Zimbabwean principals from various angles but at the same time it really reveals some inefficiencies on Zuma’s pendulum-like dealings with the Zimbabwean situation,” said Maisiri, an executive director at African Reform Institute, a local think tank.
However, others think Kabila’s sudden dive into the Zimbabwean dispute could complicate negotiations.
Political science professor and University of Zimbabwe lecturer Eldred Masunungure said a “deep sense of fatigue” on the part of the region could affect efforts to narrow Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s differences.
“I hope it (Kabila and Zuma’s parallel processes) is not a fragmentation of efforts. Zuma is the point man and he has all the facilitators. I hope the left hand knows what the right hand is doing,” said Masunungure.
“What has happened may be a case of the Sadc chair asserting his authority. However, Zuma should be the primary person while the Sadc chair should be the secondary person and they should work together and coherently,” said Masunungure, who also chairs the Mass Public Opinion Institute, a local research organisation.
Yet, these increased efforts by regional leaders have failed to ignite hope in many Zimbabweans who are now used to watching their shaky government limp on.
While political leaders dither on implementing an agreement they signed up to, ordinary people and businesses are grinding to a standstill.
“I don’t think Mugabe and Tsvangirai will ever agree. We should just go for elections because this experiment is not working,” Ednah Chihambira, an accounts clerk with a local hotel chain told the Zimbabwe Independent.
Industry, which had shown signs of recovery during the early days of the coalition government, is beginning to take a knock because policy disagreements between Mugabe and Tsvangirai have scared off investors.
The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE), which recorded phenomenal success when it was re-opened in February 2009, has best mirrored how unresolved political issues have killed off prospects of a quick economic recovery. Last month, the ZSE trade dropped 21% from March on the back of official discord on how the controversial indigenisation law would be implemented.
This week, ZSE and Johannesburg-listed Pretoria Portland Cement, said government policy inconsistencies, as shown by the indigenisation debate, had slowed investment.
“The (indigenisation) law certainly has affected business confidence. There exists huge uncertainty at the moment. We hope to see some sense prevail,” Paul Stuiver, chief executive officer, PPC, Africa’s biggest cement producer said in a statement on Tuesday.