Monday, January 26, 2009



It’s time to call in the reinforcements and broker a real deal in Zimbabwe
Mondli Makhanya Published:Jan 25, 2009

There is a story I have told in this space before, so I will beg indulgence.
I repeat it because it is pertinent at the moment as the leaders of the Southern African Development Community gather in Johannesburg for a summit on Zimbabwe.

The events took place in 2000, in the early days of the Zimbabwean meltdown. Zimbabwe’s war veterans and associated Zanu-PF ruffians had launched their violent invasion of commercial farms. There had been rape and pillaging in the countryside. The newly formed Movement for Democratic Change had shocked Zanu-PF by scoring a referendum victory that threw out constitutional reforms proposed by President Robert Mugabe. That development, just months ahead of the June parliamentary elections, sent shock vibrations through Zanu-PF, which now feared an electoral loss.

Mugabe’s security forces and Zanu-PF militias had responded to this shock by unleashing more violence on the MDC, trade unionists and civil society organisations.

The economy was going into free fall. Infrastructure was falling apart.

Worried, regional leaders organised a summit at Victoria Falls. Present were Namibia’s Sam Nujoma, Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano and South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki.

For long hours they sat in a room, trying to get Mugabe to change direction. When they emerged from their marathon meeting, they told the journalists gathered that Mugabe had agreed to several measures that would restore order to the country. He would ensure, among other things, that within 30 days the war veterans would be off the farms, violence would cease and a climate conducive to free political activity would be created.

Mugabe was not permitted to speak at the press conference and the difficult questions were fielded by the three presidents.

When asked why they believed Mugabe would stick to his part of the deal, they reacted angrily. How dare you question the validity of an undertaking that a head of state makes to other heads of state, they shot back. They got more irritated as the question was posed in different ways.

We all left Victoria Falls wondering whether maybe, just maybe, they were onto something.

The following week, Mugabe was on the hustings, spewing his rhetoric.

At every rally, he repudiated the Easter weekend agreement. He vowed that he would never set comrade against comrade by getting the security forces to remove the war veterans from the farms they occupied. He told his followers that he would never allow the country to return to British rule, meaning that he would under no circumstances give the MDC the ability to win a democratic election.

He pledged that the land seizures would continue until all the land belonged to real Zimbabweans.

It was as if he was intent on rubbing his brother leaders’ noses really roughly in sea sand.

And the state of the country today shows how serious he was about wrecking Zimbabwe.

Since then, there have been many more summits where the leaders of the region have extracted promises from Mugabe. He has nodded vigorously, only to show them the middle finger once he got back to Munhumutapa House.

I have always cast my mind back to that Easter weekend each time the SADC leaders have proclaimed an imminent deal and an end in sight to the Zimbabwean crisis.

Have they not been played enough by this man to realise he is a conceited liar, who is only interested in retaining power and feeding the greed of those who keep him in power?

If they do not care about the plight of Zimbabweans, then what about the damage that is being done to their own countries by the meltdown?

Tomorrow, the leaders of the region will gather in Johannesburg to try once more to resolve the crisis. Mugabe will arrive at the summit with only one thing on his mind: how to trick them into helping him to control real power. He will hoodwink them again and manoeuvre his way around the deal signed last year.

I do believe that there will be some movement tomorrow, but only because the MDC has been beaten into such a pulp that it will be prepared to make some really stupid compromises.

The MDC is in a truly lonely place in this process because the major power brokers in the region, led by South Africa, are openly on the side of Zanu-PF.

If there is to be a genuine lasting solution to the Zimbabwean crisis, the search for solutions must be broadened beyond the SADC region. The involvement of the African Union, which has leaders who are less beholden to Mugabe, is necessary. And so is the involvement of the United Nations, whose humanitarian organs have a much a greater understanding of the situation on the ground than our regional leaders.

For, even if a government of national unity is formed, it will be one in which Mugabe and Zanu-PF will wield disproportionate power. We all know they will abuse that power. And I have my doubts whether SADC will have the courage to prevent this abuse. They cannot be trusted to do it alone. They have failed dismally — and they must have the humility to admit as much.