Tsvangirai Is Righting the SADC's Wrongs?


"We resolved that these issues [of restoring the MDC Party's powers within Zimbabwe's unity government] must be dealt with now, in their totality before this Government becomes completely discredited in the eyes of the people and the continent" (Zimbabwe's prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai of his efforts to re-establish a rule of law in Zimbabwe).

Zimbabwean Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, spent the last week visiting neighboring South African Development Council (SADC) nations to secure their support for ending Zimbabwe's constitutional crisis.  It appears that he was able to advocate fairly powerfully for the need to bring the belligerent ZANU-PF to its senses: the SADC regional ministers have agreed to back Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC Party and gathered in Zimbabwean capital, Harare, on October 28 to hold talks with Mr. Tsvangirai and his nemesis and ZANU-PF leader, President Robert Mugabe. 

The two politicians' first post-break-up meeting on October 26 did not help bridge a gap between them--if anything, it made it obvious that Mugabe and Tsvangirai were "poles apart on fundamental issues," according to the prime minister's spokesperson, Nelson Chamisa.  The prime minister's party felt incapacitated by ZANU-PF's capture and unilateral re-appointment of its loyalists to several provincial governorships and ministerial posts.  Most recently, ZANU-PF also continued its harassment of MDC members and abduction of the civil society activists.

Sadly, Zimbabwe is an eyesore in the South Africa region--a country of hard-working people, impoverished by a 30-year rule by an abusive and corrupt regime and surrounded by nations such as Mozambique, South African Republic, and Botswana, where the latest political elections have been recognized as credible and peaceful. 

"If [the unity government] was to collapse for genuine reasons, we would certainly not recognize a ZANU (PF)-only government or certainly not one headed by President Mugabe because he certainly did not win the presidential election last year," said Botswana's President Ian Khama.  Likewise, other regional leaders visited by Mr. Tsvangirai assured him of their support.

Understandably, the SADC leaders are anxious to revive the unity government in Zimbabwe as they recognize the overwhelming popular support for MDC in the last presidential elections held in March 2008.  They also may hope that a functioning coalition between Mugabe and Tsvangirai will help restore peace and stability next to their borders. 

However, this may turn out to be a false and self-deceiving hope because a union between the two diametrically opposed parties cannot be a lasting one.  The MDC/ZANU-PF coalition was intended as an interim government until the next presidential elections are held.  Yet, unsurprisingly, the coalition collapsed eight months after its inception, weakened -- again, unsurprisingly -- by Mugabe and Tsvangirai's irreconcilable views on the future of their country.  Shouldn't SADC have anticipated this kind of outcome, and should it not have insisted from the onset that Mugabe step down and free the way for progressive forces?  After all, as President Khama noted, Mugabe lost the election, so why was he even allowed to retain the presidential post?

If the mediation by SADC fails and the stand-off continues, new elections, monitored by SADC and the African Union, may be proposed, although it is likely that Mugabe will try to rig the votes again.  Perhaps, harsher measures will have to be considered this time around in order to force the aging dictator to loosen his grip on power.  I wonder if threatening to persecute him for human rights violations in an international court would do the trick?  

Ian Khama, Morgan Tsvangirai, Robert Mugabe, South African Development Council, Zimbabwe