By Denis Worall
Over the past fortnight Robert Mugabe has arrested and generally harassed Opposition MDC Members of Parliament and senior Party members. In fact, under the heading “Mugabe’s dirty ploy to poach power” The Sunday Independent suggests very plausibly that this is Mugabe’s strategy to regain a parliamentary majority.
This is obviously and blatantly contrary to both the spirit and the letter of the power- sharing agreement of September 2008. In response my good friend Peter Fabricius in his widely-read column “Window on Africa” says: “Tsvangirai seems to be holding back, perhaps feeling this would be an admission that he erred in going into this government. Tsvangirai cannot keep up the pretence for ever. Mugabe is still playing the only game he knows, which is clinging to power by hook or by crook. Tsvangirai must get tougher and smarter.”
While appreciating Peter’s sentiment, the fact is that it is not up to Tsvangirai to stop the farce in Zimbabwe but the SADC and, more specifically, the South African government.
I had the pleasure of meeting Morgan Tsvangirai in London at the end of June, when he keynoted a Zimbabwe Mining Investment Conference. He came across extremely well and the capacity audience was unanimously impressed by the sensible content of what he had to say, his style, and the strength of his personality. There is no question that this man is the best possible leader Zimbabwe could have in present circumstances; and it is a tragedy and almost entirely due to the South African government that he is being frustrated and that the people of Zimbabwe are being denied international funding and the benefits which Tsvangirai’s leadership could bring them.
The agreement which Tsvangirai entered into with Mugabe in September 2008, and which laid the basis for the subsequent power-sharing arrangement, resulted mainly from the pressure of SADC and former president Thabo Mbeki. And crucial to that understanding is that the African Union (AU) and the SADC, both extremely concerned to keep the Zimbabwe issue out of international fora, committed themselves to being the guarantors of the agreement.
At a high-powered breakfast on the morning of the conference in London, Tsvangirai was specifically asked whether he expected the SADC to respond to his appeal to intervene and resolve the outstanding issues between his Party and Mugabe’s. He said that he had written to President Zuma and all the signs were that he would get a positive response shortly. That, I might remind you, was in the third week of June. At the end of July there has still been no reaction from South Africa or from the SADC. In fact, the speculation is that President Zuma will call a SADC meeting only in September.
What surprises me is how the Zimbabwe issue, with the exception of certain newspapers, has drifted off the radar. South African trade unions were very vocal in 2008 in insisting on action against Mugabe. That our trade unions took a lead (as they did in relation to the Government’s HIV AIDS programme or lack of a programme) in insisting on tougher and more creative action on the part of the South African government was viewed by democratic-minded people as a positive development. But even the trade unions appear to have dropped the issue.
This is regrettable as its importance as far as sub-Saharan Africa is concerned, and its importance specifically to South Africa, cannot be over-estimated.
President Barack Obama had very good reasons for choosing Ghana to launch his Africa policy. But certainly one of the reasons why South Africa would never have been considered – aside from its voting record in the Security Council in the last six months of 2008 – is the South African approach to Zimbabwe.
Alistair Sparks, the veteran South African commentator, said shortly after Jacob Zuma took office that if he wished to create a positive international image for the government and for South Africa, he could do no better than take a strong position on Zimbabwe. Regrettably, the Zuma administration hasn’t followed this advice and Zimbabwe faces a new and totally unnecessary setback.
Dr Denis Worrall is a South African lawyer, politician and business personality.
Friday, July 31, 2009
By Denis Worall