WE have seen this before. A flurry of activity just before a meeting of regional leaders. So it was expected that Jacob Zuma would ratchet up pressure on Harare to fully implement the Global Political Agreement (GPA) ahead of the Sadc leaders’ summit set for Namibia later this month.
As the Sadc-appointed mediator, Zuma is only too keen to show his peers how well he has done on Zimbabwe. Hence, his point man, Mac Maharaj, was in townthis week for the second time in as many days.
No doubt, Sadc will receive a positive report from Zuma’s team. A communiqué noting progress in implementing the GPA and an encouragement for political leaders to remain engaged is all Zimbabweans can expect from the Namibia Sadc summit.
Probably this is the reason Zimbabweans are not all worked up by Zuma’s intensified visits to bridge differences between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. They have lived with the coalition government for 16 months — long enough to know that Namibia’s roundtable will not suddenly force the limping administration to function.
Stunted industrial growth, which has reduced the majority of unemployed Zimbabweans to vendors, is testimony to the damage caused by Mugabe’s continued refusal to implement provisions of an agreement many view as his saviour after the March 2008 electoral loss to Tsvangirai. His foot-dragging is beginning to sicken most Zimbabweans. Nothing much has changed since February 2009 when this coalition was formed. Little is likely to change as long as Mugabe behaves as he does.
In the rural areas, tensions still run high. Civil society groups such as the Zimbabwe Peace Project continue recording incidents of violence and constitution-making related intimidation. Police, despite repeated claims of impartiality, are yet to prove their credibility by arresting perpetrators of the resurgent violence. Political cases pending before the courts show a clear pattern of continued abuse of the criminal justice system by hard-line members of the old order.
In the farming areas the government is turning a blind eye to farm workers, including a large number of migrants from regional countries, who are suffering at the hands of new farm owners and security agents.
All these examples hardly need Zuma or Sadc. Of course, it is critical for Zuma and Sadc to keep their eye on Zimbabwe. They are the mediators and guarantors of the GPA. But relying on them too much is not useful.
Zimbabwe’s future stability rests with the level of commitment by GPA principals. An array of the issues still regarded as outstanding will reveal that Mugabe and his allies in the security sector are holding this country back. It is his party that is shredding the GPA and it is him and his party that need to start behaving in the national interest.
At 86 Mugabe is showing a state that Zimbabwe can no longer afford. He is not behaving as if he is in a coalition government upon whose success Zimbabwe’s future is pinned. It is time that Mugabe and his party start committing themselves to making the coalition government work.
The MDC has put outstanding issues into three categories – agreed but unimplemented issues, deadlocked issues, and emerging, or what the party likes to call toxic, issues.
These issues are resolvable, the same way other sticking issues that have been affecting this government were resolved. Some issues, like the appointment of provincial governors, are purely administrative. Zuma and Sadc can only do so much. Regional leaders, with their own internal problems to grapple with, cannot force Zimbabwe’s leaders to act differently. After all, African leaders do not have a culture of strong-handedness when it comes to dealing with one of their own. It becomes even more difficult for them when the “problem child” is a man who led resistance to colonialism when some of them were in their diapers or even not yet born. How do they tell a man who is supposed to be a continental hero that his actions are reducing him to zero without inviting fierce wrath or reminders of how their own countries are beneficiaries of his early anti-colonialism campaign?
Ending Zimbabwe’s damaging feuding is a tough call for Sadc. But it is a much easier task for Mugabe if he puts his mind and commitment to it. He is not growing any younger. His reputation is in tatters. But surely he can salvage some of it if he were to move out of his cocoon and allow this country to move forward.
The continued suffering of ordinary people, highlighted by the fact that Zimbabwe tops the list of countries providing asylum seekers worldwide, should drive this country’s leaders into positive action.