Out of time: SADC Secretary-General Tomaz Salomao is coordinating the belated devlivery of farming and other aid from member countries into Zimbabwe
The Southern African Development Community today announced the launch of an assistance package for Zimbabwe, effectively countering America's announcement today that it would not extend aid to Zimbabwe as long as Mugabe remains president.
SADC Secretary General Tomaz Salomao also revealed that the package includes South Africa's previously suspended aid of seed, fertiliser and fuel for the current agricultural season.
"This is regional solidarity. When you are facing difficulties, you have to count on the solidarity of your brothers. We cannot fail in assisting Zimbabwe, that's the critical and most important thing," said Salamao.
The South African position is a reversal of their previous stance, effectively. The South Africans have got round this by saying that there is a "parallel humanitarian effort" to assists Zimbabwe, but the official $30 million aid is still on hold until a unity government is formed. Yet the nature of the aid, as I shall explain, sends a different message altogether. But amongst the surprises is the announcement that Botswana also contributed a significant amount.
There can be no doubt that the aid is sorely needed, but one has to also take into the account that it delays the day of reckoning for Mugabe. Effectively, SADC is propping up Mugabe.
For this development, we have the West to thank. Morgan Tsvangirai advised British Prime Minister some years back that strident shouts and thrusting diplomacy would be counter-productive to the image the MDC was then building of a purely people-driven party, completely propelled only by the aspirations of Zimbabweans.
At that time, Tsvangirai was graduating from a local hero to a regional politician who realised that the strident and harsh rhetoric of the West only served to cement the bonds between Africans. This latest move by SADC, there is no doubt, is a response to the renewed vigour with which the West is now pursuing Mugabe.
Montlanthe, president of South Africa and Chair of SADC, betrayed the regional body's irritation with Britain on Wednesday when he held a press conference to announce the aid package.
Most of us simply had no idea as to the scale of it. It is a fairly big deal, encompassing within it the 30 million US dollars. Looking at the figures I just wondered they meant SADC approved of what Mugabe has been doing or is SADC simply so irritated by Britain (whom Mothlanthe said wanted to "impose its will on Zimbabwe." ) that this is a way to show that Africa will take care of its own.
The connection between the West's strident diplomacy and this counter-measure by SADC will be dismissed instantly by Zimbabweans, a people who are now in the habit of denying anything that does not confirm our own illusions, but it is as clear as day. And, again, what it effectively does is buy Mugabe even more time. As I said yesterday, with their stomachs full, the natives tend not to be so restless: it is a truth that has been with us since the days of Ian Smith.
In announcing the aid on Wednesday, the SADC Chairman also revealed that the task force that will be handling the distribution of the aid would not deal with the political crisis. It is perhaps naive, but Mothlanthe should know better than that: Mugabe's network and party structure practically runs life in the the rural areas. And his bag of tricks is still full in this regard, so the villagers will walk away believing that this aid is coming from Mugabe, or at least from his friends, while Tsvangirai's friends have given them nothing.
It is for this reason that I believe, if the aid must come, it should be put into the hands of a technical team that puts together a mini Marshal Plan for Zimbabwe. The aid, you see, is not just about distributing food and foodstuffs as is traditional with Western Donor agencies. SADC intends this to be a case of giving the hungry man a fishing rod and not fish.
Leaving it to a loosely controlled process will only result in the plunder of this manna from heaven by Mugabe and his cohorts and minions, who realise that they are on their way out and will steal the place blind before we prise their fingers off the doorknobs of State House.
A mini-Marshal Plan, administered by an independent group of regional administrators and planners will go some way towards rehabilitating the Zimbabwean economy. They would be chosen for their expertise and experience and would be accountable only to SADC and its Secretariat. In some ways, the condition that this aid will be "delivered through government and non-state bodies" reveals the fighting Mugabe did in the background to be allowed to retain some influence on this godsend he is getting from SADC.
The way the aid is being delivered by SADC should also be an embarrassment to Mugabe. The process is similar to what you do in an occupied territory: there is no one in charge and you, the incoming force, set the terms upon which life will be led in your new territory.
By the way, which "government" is SADC talking about? Obvious. It's the bunch of retards who have been stealing us blind all along, lining the walls of their nests with feathers from our bodies. But that is a small consideration in the world of diplomacy: SADC feels insulted and is coalescing around Mugabe in defence and perhaps pique.
The MDC, meantime, will not be able to capitalise at all on this, perhaps the most important development in our economy since the slide seriously began in 2000. Mugabe's government will be the one controlling things since Tsvangirai refuses to join him in the discredited unity deal.
This aid, properly handled, could have been the first step on the straight and now, economically, for Zimbabwe. But it is likely to be squandered by Mugabe's people and we will be back to SADC with a cap in hand before long.
We have been here before: Gaddafi tried to help with fuel until he realised that he could send his country into bankruptcy because of Zimbabwe's nonsensical, socialist policy of buying high and selling low, which meant debts would never be repaid. This one is not a loan, though, but a grant, or aid. Let us see how long it takes Mugabe and his people go through and how soon they will back amongst the regional leaders crying sanctions.
By the way, we are drawing closer to the fulfilment my reading that SADC will, at some point, come out publicly and declare the MDC out of order. I did a full article on this, somewhere in our Archives here and let's not come back with tired cry: "but who is out of order here? surely its Mugabe? home Affairs, passport.....blah blah blah" I promise you it will make perfect sense as a natural progression of events after you read that post, How SADC and Mugabe Have Boxed-In Morgan Tsvangirai, to do so click here