SOUTHERN African Development Community (Sadc) heads of state and government will meet in Lilongwe, Malawi, this weekend, with Zimbabwe not on the agenda for the first time in as many years.
However, the country is still expected to come up for discussion when the chairperson of the Sadc Troika on Politics, Defence and Security, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, presents his report.
A draft programme on a website created by the Malawi government for the summit, reveals the troika, comprising Tanzania, South Africa and Namibia could meet this evening, ahead of the summit, to finalise the agenda.
Zimbabwe’s election results could be discussed albeit casually as it has become increasingly clear there is now regional fatigue and countries want to move on.
The MDC-T, which is challenging the results of the July 31 general elections, has since sent a delegation led by outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe to Malawi, to lobby regional leaders not to accept the results.
Khupe has been lobbying in Malawi since Tuesday.
However, the exercise could be futile as most Sadc countries, except Botswana, have endorsed albeit with reservations the outcome of President-elect Robert Mugabe’s emphatic victory.
But MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai insists the polls were rigged and launched a court application with the Constitutional Court to nullify the results and order a re-run of the elections within 60 days upon the delivery of a favourable judgment.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said his party would give every country in Sadc a copy of their dossier, outlining how Mugabe and Zanu PF stole the elections, in hard copy and electronic forms.
Sadc has been seized with Zimbabwe’s problems since 2000, when the country embarked on a violent land reform programme.
The interest in Zimbabwe’s affairs grew as the country’s economic fortunes tumbled under the weight of a political and economic meltdown culminating in Sadc taking a hands-on approach especially after the March 2008 violent polls which left many maimed, injured or dead.
Sadc dragged Zimbabwe’s feuding political parties to the negotiating table, and armtwisted them into signing the Global Political Agreement, while then South African president Thabo Mbeki was mandated to facilitate dialogue on behalf of regional leaders, a position which was later taken by his successor Jacob Zuma.
Throughout the tenure of the inclusive government, Mugabe found himself under pressure from Sadc leaders who humiliated him at several summits, insisting he should implement all agreed reforms before holding elections.
“It’s not our expectation that Zimbabwe will be on the agenda except just routine mentioning because the Zimbabwean issue has been closed,” said Presidential spokesperson George Charamba.
“(Mozambican President and Sadc chair, Armando) Guebuza has already made it clear, that the elections put closure to the Zimbabwean issue. The only country in discord with other Sadc countries is Botswana, but it doesn’t hold any powerful portfolio. There is nothing much that Botswana can do.”
Mugabe will also have it easy given that his ally Malawi President Joyce Banda will take over from Guebuza as Sadc chair at the summit. Banda has a soft spot for Mugabe, especially after being given royal treatment when she officially opened the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in April this year.
Zimbabwe has traditionally had good relations with Malawi and Mugabe, who was linked to the late dictator Kamuzu Banda even has one of the country’s major highways named after him.