SADC leaders who met in Maputo last Saturday after President Robert Mugabe’s unilateral proclamation of the election date as July 31 followed a principle known in legal circles as stare decisis et non quieta movere.
Report by Herbert Moyo
In simple English, it means they chose to stand by their previous decisions and not disturb the undisturbed — they did not move an inch.
The resolutions which they have consistently maintained at every summit since the inauguration of Zimbabwe’s coalition government in 2009 include an insistence on the implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), elections roadmap and a raft of reforms on electoral, media and security sector issues.
According to the Sadc communiqué released after the Maputo meeting, the leaders “endorsed the report of the facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma, and its recommendations which include, among others, media reform, upholding the rule of law, the role of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (Jomic), election date, validity of electoral regulations and deployment of Sadc observers”.
While Sadc acknowledged the ruling of the Constitutional Court (Concourt) on elections dates, it directed government to engage the court to seek an extension to accommodate remaining processes.
The regional bloc concluded by “urging the three parties to the GPA to undertake immediate measures to create a conducive environment to the holding of peaceful, credible, free and fair elections”.
These resolutions and demands by Sadc are all in keeping with decisions that have been adopted by the regional body since 2009 when Zuma took over as South African president and the mediation process from his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki.
Sadc has held various meetings on Zimbabwe since its summit in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, in September 2009. There were subsequent summits in Livingstone (Zambia on March 31 2011), Windhoek (Namibia on May 20 2011), Sandton (South Africa on June 11 and 12 2011), Luanda (Angola from August 17 to 18 2011), in Maputo, (Mozambique from August 17 to 18 2012), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania from December 7 to 8 2012) and Cape Town (May 2013), among others.
The Sadc troika also held a number of summits across the region upholding the same resolutions which were endorsed and maintained last weekend in Maputo.
In all these summits, the Sadc message has remained consistent, demanding that the political parties in Zimbabwe fulfil the GPA in order to create an environment conducive to free and fair elections.
Not even the Concourt order or Mugabe’s proclamation have restrained Sadc, which, according to Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director, Pedzisai Ruhanya, has come up with a “historic and clearest indication” that it will assert itself on the Zimbabwean issue to ensure the implementation of the GPA before peaceful and credible elections.
“Where is the sovereignty Mugabe is always talking about?” asked Ruhanya, adding that due to Zuma’s efforts, “Sadc is effectively sending a clear message to him and his Zanu PF hardliners that any democratic transgressions will not be accepted. Sadc will not tolerate another sham election in Zimbabwe again.”
Ruhanya added: “They (Sadc) are effectively saying to Mugabe that they know the courts are not independent of the executive and that is why they are directing him to go back to the same courts to get a ruling which will enable him to fulfil GPA and roadmap benchmarks and minimum conditions for elections.”
Zuma and Sadc’s resolute stance, which has up to now prevented Mugabe and Zanu PF hardliners from forcing elections without democratic reforms, has been noted as a huge improvement compared to Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy” approach which led to the GPA and coalition government at a huge cost to Zimbabwe and the region.
Bulawayo-based analyst Godwin Phiri said Sadc has since become more effective largely because Zuma and his facilitation team, which includes liberation struggle veterans, Mac Maharaj, Charles Nqakula and Lindiwe Zulu, has been “hands-on”, visiting Zimbabwe time and again to gather correct information about events on the ground and push for the implementation of reforms.
“Mugabe will not this time around be allowed to get away with sham elections as he did during Mbeki’s era,” said Phiri. “You will recall that in 2002, Mbeki remained silent when Mugabe used the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act to effect self-serving amendments to the electoral laws despite protests from the MDC.
“Mbeki refused to make public a report by South African retired generals on political violence and take a tough stance against Mugabe, but this time Sadc, under Zuma’s mediation, will not tolerate any attempts to stampede the country into chaotic elections.”
Despite widespread local and international criticism, Mbeki’s mediation has its own defenders, including his former director-general Frank Chikane, who went as far as crediting him for preventing a descent into civil war as the United States and United Kingdom pressed for tougher European Union and United Nations sanctions against Mugabe’s regime.
“The negotiating parties also came to the table in a fighting mood,” wrote Chikane in his book titled Things that Could not be said from A(ids) to Z(imbabwe).
“At times it felt like, as the facilitation team, we were the only ones who wanted peace for Zimbabwe. Representatives of the people of Zimbabwe seemed ready to continue to fight and halt the talks,” said Chikane.
Chikane said Mbeki’s “principled approach” incensed those who wanted to pursue the “regime change” strategy, which he refused to be pressured into.
“As stated, a multiplicity of strategies was unleashed, including various communication strategies and intelligence projects, to get the public to buy into the ‘regime change’ approach against the wishes of the Sadc and the AU member countries,” wrote Chikane.
Not surprisingly, Mugabe described Mbeki as a man “with the patience of Job”.
However, with Zuma now driving the mediation efforts, Sadc is fast losing patience and asserting itself on the Zimbabwean issue despite Mugabe’s protestations.
But as Ruhanya pointed out, progressive forces in Zimbabwe, including MDC parties, need to build on Sadc’s solid position and play their part in uniting and pushing for democratic change.
Analysts say Sadc — which showed that it was determined to uphold its resolutions and remain consistent until a solution is found in the country — has played its part and it is now up to Zimbabweans to finish the job through pressuring Mugabe and Zanu PF to embrace reforms and accept free and fair elections, whatever the outcome.