General Mostafa Kharubi (L), a senior member of Libya's Revolutionary Command Council, shakes hands with South Africa's President Kgalema Motlanthe at Tripoli airport December 18, 2008. Motlanthe is on a two-day visit to Libya aimed at strengthening political and trade ties between the two nations.
There are ululations and celebrations across the region today because President Motlanthe said "We never believed that " in reference to Mugabe's charges of insurgency and banditry training against Botswana and the MDC.
This optimism can be forgiven because not everyone knows the internal workings of SADC diplomacy, but it will prove to be premature. You see, president Motlanthe is the Chairman of SADC, yes, but he is not the one in whose hands this case rests. The case is being investigated by the SADC Organ on Defence and Politics, which is chaired by the Swazi despot, King Mswa. That's why a Swazi defence official is leading the team that is currently in Botswana (they leave on Saturday).
Once this process is done, the organ will present its findings to a full SADC summit. This presentation will include all the "evidence" from Mugabe as well as the conclusions of the investigating team. Naturally, Botswana and the MDC's own defence will also be presented.
Crucially, though, it is the conclusions of the investigating team, which will essentially be the conclusions of the SADC Organ on Defence and Politics that will become the position of SADC. The opinions of an individual leader will not matter, even if that leader happens to be chairman. You remember that Mugabe used the Organ to go into the DRC despite the fact that a majority of SADC leaders were against the move and did not contribute forces. Those against the military involvement of SADC included Thabo Mbeki, but they were all overruled by Mugabe, who was Chair of the Organ at the time.
The SADC heads of state will vote on this matter in a full summit and it is here that Mugabe is deriving most of his confidence. Over the last two and half weeks, Mugabe has been lobbying his friends and allies in SADC to support his position when the matter comes to be deliberated.
Mugabe has a majority in SADC, if we want to look at it that way. Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Swaziland (yes, Swaziland) and the DRC are allies of the Zimbabwean dictator. Tanzania is sympathetic (which is why their president refused to entertain Tsvangirai's call for Mbeki to be replaced when the MDC leader called on him a couple of weeks ago on his way from Morocco). South Africa, despite all the talk, is also sympathetic. To actually see the context in which their president made that "we never believed that" comment and also scolded Britain, click here.
The only openly anti-Mugabe country in the region is Botswana. All others want to either appear neutral or simply support Mugabe unashamedly. Tsvangirai has not helped his cause by moving his family out of the country. In his lobbying, Mugabe is using this to say that he has a case against the MDC. The MDC leader, says the Zimbabwean dictator, knows what he has done and his move betrays his guilt.
Tsvangirai himself has also compounded his bad judgement by pursuing a strategy that preaches to the converted. On this specific insurgency charge being put at his feet by Mugabe, he has not lobbied Namibia, Angola, Malawi or even the new Zambian president, who has now been put under Mugabe's shadow and has moved away from the Levy Mwanawasa position. This also applies to the matter of the abductees. Their fate is inextricably linked to the "findings" of the SADC Organ on Poltics and Defence. Should the organ "find" that the Tswanas and the MDC have indeed been training insurgents in Botswana, then we can rest assured that the abductees fate will be forgotten because the events that will ensue will be so catastrophic that no one will think about 20-odd people who have disappeared.
Having said that, even if the Organ were to find against Mugabe's case, the fate of these disappeared will still hang in the balance. So, civil society should really be lobbying hard, talking to Mugabe's allies in the region, asking them to tie their vote in this case to a promise by Mugabe that as soon as a decision from SADC is known, they will be brought to court to answer charges (if SADC says there is a case) or quietly released (if there is no case).
This is not a laughing matter. There are people who have disappeared in Zimbabwe and who have never been heard of since. We all remember names like Rashiwe Guzha, whose body is still to be found, more than ten years down the road.
We know that Jestina Mukoko and her colleagues are being held in connection with this insurgency case, yet it appears that civil society thinks that anyone who points this out is "smearing" Jestina. It is ridiculous, because unless we acknowledge that fact, we are paralysed with regards to strategies and solutions. The moment her supporters acknowledge that this is the case, they will find that there will be direction in their strategies.
That direction has nothing to do with court orders (which are being ignored, with the police saying this week that, although they would obey the order, they have no jurisdiction to search for her on premises belonging to the CIO or the army. That was a telling admission, which has been ignored.)
I definitely can not say what SADC will rule when the matter comes before all the members after the Organ on Defence and Politics has concluded its "investigations". What I do know is that at the moment, Mugabe is sounding supremely confident to his inner circle. I said this before on this blog, and Steven left a comment suggesting I did not know what I was talking about. (But, Steve, you were big enough to come back after Chinamasa's comment this week in the Herald that the evidence "is compelling". Glad you did that!)
So, yes, Mugabe is supremely confident of his "evidence" and the beauty of the strategy he has chosen is that it portrays him as the wounded: the mutiny (believable to this day), the attempted assassination on Perence Shiri (dramatically coming a few days before the SADC investigating team was due in Botswana, just to add urgency to the whole matter). All of you, as well as the media, believe that he was indeed targeted for assassination, no one is questioning it or giving the truth (except the plagiarising website that lifted the story from here within a couple of hours of me being told the truth by someone who had just been to see Shiri at Manyame Air Force Base.) That is another arrow in Bob's "insurgency" quiver.
S o basically, the decision to endorse the "insurgency" case brought before SADC by Mugabe does not rest with Motlanthe. The centre of power here is with Mswati, the despot of Swaziland, as well as the allies Mugabe has in the region, whom he has already been lobbying. Theirs will be the official SADC position.
To end, I ask again: why is it that NOT ONE SADC country has said a word about the abductions of Jestina Mukoko and the other 25 people abducted in Zimbabwe, despite Morgan Tsvangirai raising the issue with them? Despite petitions? Why? No one has answered this because they are too afraid of the implications of that answer. But that is cowardice. This fact must be faced head-on. Only then can people even begin to strategise on the case of the ZPP abductees especially. Insulting me because I bring it up will not help them at all.