POLITICAL developments in Zimbabwe over the last few months threaten the continuity of the Government of National Unity (GNU) which, though not a perfect arrangement, has arrested the rapid economic and social decline the country experienced between 2005 and 2008.
The political arrangement, which was wobbly from birth, should be saved if anarchy is not to be loosed upon the country as was the case two years ago.
As such, Sadc, not only as a regional bloc that is seriously affected by Zimbabwe’s political and economic problems, but as the guarantor of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), should play a decisive role that would save the political arrangement.
What is very clear, no matter where one stands, is that the death of the GPA could cause a rapid reversal of the few gains which were registered under this arrangement drowning the country and the entire region in the mire.
It is thus important that Sadc should immediately engage the political leadership in Zimbabwe, especially President Robert Mugabe, and tell him the consequences of not fully implementing the GPA, which is one of the reasons why there has been so much unhelpful contestation in the GNU.
It has to be brought to the attention of Mugabe et al that one by-product of the GPA has been to give them legitimacy especially after the 2008 presidential runoff. However, it is not only the need for legitimacy which requires Sadc to intervene. It has to be reckoned that with deepening integration within the bloc, symbiotic relations have become more pronounced and deterioration in one country upsets the whole region.
It is thus important for Sadc not to sever the umbilical cord that connects Zimbabwe with the region as this would suffocate the country politically and economically. Sadc’s evolution from the Frontline States through the Southern Africa Development Coordinating Conference to the current structure was mainly a response to political and economic developments in the region and what is happening in Zimbabwe now requires its active intervention.
The formation of the Sadc troika was itself another response to the dynamics within the region and its failure to convene last week to resolve the current Zimbabwe crisis, for whatever reason, was an abdication of its duties. The Sadc Protocol on Politics, Security and Defence signed in 2001 gave a legal framework to the organ whose objective is to promote peace and security in the region. What is happening in Zimbabwe at the moment could translate to a threat to peace and security in the short term thus the organ should intervene. What is clear is that the troika still holds leverage in all political processes in the region and particularly Zimbabwe and the lackadaisical approach shown last week smacks of a backwardness that has no place in resolving regional problems.
The Sadc troika was very active during the genesis of the GNU, intervening every time there were problems and one can argue that the organ is now needed more than ever since the institution of the inclusive government in February 2009.
It would, however, be very naïve to expect the troika to hold the magical formula that would ensure the continued existence of the GNU, especially at a time when local political actors have adopted an arrogant and self-serving stance.
Mugabe, for example, has set his eyes on elections at any cost but the question is whether this is out of the need to serve the country or his own narrow political interests. The political crisis which has enveloped the country in the last few weeks has created a Machiavellian moment where political actors maximise power at the expense of national development.
The death knells of the GNU have grown louder with each day and the question is what will occupy the space where this stuttering political arrangement now stands. What guarantees do we have that the next election, presumably the logical successor to the collapse of the GNU, would be free and fair? Are we not laying the foundation for GPA/GNU Part Two? How will the GPA 2 work, especially now that the political players have realised that they cannot trust each other?