Diplomats and representatives of political parties at the summit say that the issue of Zimbabwe was abandoned midstream after it was initially discussed comprehensively by the Sadc troika of the organ on politics, defence and security at the opening of deliberations on Sunday. This raised eyebrows, with claims that President Robert Mugabe had used his influence, as he did at the Democratic Republic of Congo last year, to block the issue from a full discussion by the summit.
Those who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent said the proceedings started well with the organ on politics, defence and security meeting focusing in detail on Zimbabwe before the issue was “blocked” from a full discussion by the regional leaders at the summit.
The Zimbabwe issue was mainly discussed after a briefing to the Sadc organ on politics, defence and security by South African President Jacob Zuma, the regional body’s facilitator on the matter. Zuma’s report was fully adopted by the organ on politics, defence and security which was chaired by Mozambican President Armando Guebuza and the summit which met on Monday and Tuesday.
“President Zuma briefed the organ on politics, defence and security on the Zimbabwe issue and his report was unanimously adopted. What was supposed to happen was that Guebuza should have then briefed the summit and the leaders would have discussed the issue. But the Sadc secretariat blocked the issue on behalf of Mugabe and as a result it was not fully discussed as it should have,” one diplomat said.
“There was chicanery and as usual the Sadc secretariat was used to ensure that the Zimbabwe issue was not wholly discussed and proceedings on it not fully reflected in the communiqué.”
A senior politician from the MDC-T said there was “mafia” in the Sadc secretariat which did a “hatchet job” on behalf of Zanu PF to protect Mugabe from rigorous engagement by his counterparts at the summit. “The mafia in the Sadc secretariat intervened and blocked a full and proper debate on Zimbabwe at the summit level. The same mafia manipulated the communiqué to downplay the Zimbabwe issue,” the MDC-T official said. “But all the same the issue received full attention at the organ on politics, defence and security and that is what is important.”
MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti said his party was “reasonably happy” with discussion on Zimbabwe in Windhoek, although all the proceedings were not fully captured in the communiqué.
“There has never been a Sadc so focused on Zimbabwe,” he said on Wednesday. “Most of the issues on Zimbabwe were raised by the facilitator (Zuma) at the meeting of the organ on politics, defence and security although the communiqué does not capture everything. The communiqué is just a summary.”
Biti emphasised at a media briefing on Wednesday issues raised in Zuma’s report and its recommendations which he said were “endorsed and accepted by the full summit” rather than the communiqué.
He said it was now “critical for flesh to be put into the summit decisions” and highlighted the need to fully implement agreed issues in the Global Political Agreement, strengthen the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, various reforms including on the economy, electoral framework and media, and the National Security Council.
However, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara had a different view from Biti on the outcome of the Sadc meeting. He said the most important resolutions of the Sadc summit were only those “captured in the communiqué”, not “opinions” of political parties after the meeting.
“If you want to know Sadc’s position on Zimbabwe and the most important issues it discussed at the summit just read the communiqué,” he said. “Everything else is just people’s views and opinions.”
Prior to the meeting there was a battle between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to influence events at the Sadc summit. Mugabe wanted the issue to down-played and it appears in a way he succeeded. Tsvangirai managed to force a full discussion at the organ on politics, defence and security, although the communiqué did not capture that.
Mugabe appears to have done his work before the summit, judging by his spokesman George Charamba’s remarks. Charamba was categoric that Zimbabwe would not be a big issue at the summit.
“It (Zimbabwe) will not be an issue at the summit,” he said days before the summit. “What will happen is that the facilitator (Zuma) will give an update to the troika (peace and security) which will brief the summit as a point of information and not of discussion.”
Charamba seemed convinced Zimbabwe would be raised “as a point of information and not discussion” and that seems to have been the case although there was vigorous debate at the organ on politics, defence and security. Mugabe is happy with the outcome of the summit as a result.
The meeting of the organ on politics, defence and security started with Zuma presenting his report in which he chronicled events from up to the time when the principals agreed on 24 of the 27 outstanding issues. He gave the matrix of implementation agreed upon by the principals.
Mugabe then thanked former South African president Thabo Mbeki, Zuma and the organ on politics, defence and security. He said three quarters of what Zuma said confirmed the narration of events. Mugabe did not initially agree with Zuma on parts of his report on the “road ahead” although he later concurred.
Tsvangirai raised issues about the need for permanent representatives in Zimbabwe of Sadc and the African Union as guarantors of the GPA. He recommended that Sadc second a person to Jomic which he said should now be a statutory body. The premier said he agreed with the recommendations made by Zuma.
Mutambara told the organ on politics, defence and security that the meeting should not be bogged down on a debate about elections but should instead focus on GPA implementation. Mutambara, with the concurrence of Mugabe, said there should not be external interference in Jomic. He recommended that Jomic reports to the principals on the work they are doing. The meeting lasted less than an hour.
The row over the Sadc summit proceedings and communiqué is likely to raise a storm at the secretariat in the next few weeks as parties and their leaders begin to stock and act on what they consider to be “damaging political shenanigans” that characterised the summit.
Efforts to get comment from Sadc executive secretary Tomaz Salomao on the issue failed this week.
Dumisani Muleya/Faith Zaba