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Sadc must remain firm

SADC leaders will once again be meeting for their annual summit in Maputo, Mozambique, on Friday and Saturday next week to assess the political and security situation in the region and take necessary measures to address issues which need regional attention.
Although Zimbabwe will not officially be on the agenda, there is no doubt it will be discussed since Sadc Troika chair, South African President Jacob Zuma, who is also the regional bloc’s facilitator on the country’s political dialogue, will give an update report on the situation.

The troika report will then be tabled before the summit for debate and adoption. That way Zimbabwe is technically on the agenda.

This is basically what happened when Sadc leaders met for their extraordinary session in Luanda, Angola, on June 1.

Of course, besides Zimbabwe, Sadc leaders will grapple with the situation in Madagascar and the DRC — perennial trouble spots in the region. Lesotho has fallen off the agenda after holding what Sadc described as “peaceful, free and fair” National Assembly elections on May 26.

However, it is the Zimbabwe situation which has been dominating the Sadc agenda for over a decade now. Time has come for regional leaders to make the final push to resolve the issue once and for all.

What is needed in Zimbabwe is to ensure the political parties in government implement the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and the attendant roadmap and reforms to create conditions for free and fair elections next year by or after June.The only way Zimbabwe can break the current stalemate, triggered by disputed election results and associated political violence and intimidation, is through credible and peaceful elections to usher in a democratic, legitimate government.

It is common cause governments need legitimacy in relatively free societies. They need to gain and hold the consent of the governed. Winning free and fair elections is one way to gain legitimacy. And thereafter leaders can consolidate that legitimacy through good governance and delivery.

Clearly, a bad government like the one we have had under President Robert Mugabe since 1980 ends up being unpopular and hanging on to power through brute force. Because of this, Zimbabwe has lost more than 10 years of development and progress due to endless political conflict. Now Zimbabweans, with the help of  Sadc and the international community, need to resolve this impasse and restore a legitimate government which will ensure peace, stability, economic recovery and growth.

The country needs time out to start focusing on rebuilding democratic institutions and restoring the rule of law, business confidence, investment, and development, not going round in circles handcuffed to the past while the world moves on. So much time has been wasted in counterproductive and in many respects pointless political battles, largely fuelled by Zanu PF and Mugabe’s refusal to relinquish power even in the face of popular rejection.

Brutality, coercion, vote-rigging and patronage have been ruthlessly employed by Mugabe to prevent inevitable change. This is what the initially promising  Zimbabwean national  project after 1980 has deteriorated to.

Mugabe’s disastrous legacy — no matter how hard he might try — is now irredeemable, especially given the unceasing trail of tsunami-like destruction he continues to inflict on the nation and is bound to leave behind. The only way Mugabe can redeem himself is if he seizes the current constitution-making opportunity to resolve his succession issue and allow the nation to move on, either by becoming a ceremonial head of state or quitting to avoid a disastrous ending.

If Mugabe does not want to take the initiative to rescue himself and his legacy, Sadc and other stakeholders need to help Zimbabweans create an environment for free and fair elections so that people can elect a government of their choice, whether Zanu PF, MDC-T or whatever.

Sadc leaders were spot-on in June when they brought back on track the internal political processes which were being derailed by Mugabe and his diehards. The leaders demanded in Luanda that political parties to the GPA must finalise the draft constitution (unfortunately flawed and shoddy) and subject it to a referendum thereafter before  elections. Sadc leaders must be firm.

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