Zimbabwe: SADC Extraordinary Summit's Analysis

Zimbabwe is at yet another SADC Extraordinary Summit on Monday, 26 January 2009. That's tommorrow, as I write this. By the way, have you seen that the Sunday Mail, the government newspaper, today confirms the story that I broke here some time back about the payment of salaries for civil servants in foreign currency?

But back to the SADC Summit on Zimbabwe.

Privately, ZANU PF is saying that Mugabe has already been given the go-ahead to form a unilateral government because the SADC Chair, South Africa's president, is going to report to the Extraordinary Summit that Tsvangirai and his MDC-T are proving stumbling blocks.

The MDC-T, on the the other hand, is saying the Summit will see SADC admit defeat and escalate the matter to the African Union, as is the opposition's strategy.

The truth is somewhere in between. Morgan Tsvangirai, during his two-month absence from Zimbabwe and on his way from accepting a peace prize in Morocco, passed through Tanzania, whose president, the dapper Jakaya Kikwete, is Chairman of the African Union.

Tsvangirai told Kikwete that Mbeki had failed to meidate and was not impartial, so that the resolution of outstanding matters like "equitale distribution" of ministries were not being treated seriously by him. He asked that Kikwete convene an AU summit so that the AU, and not SADC, appoints a new mediator to deal with Zimbabwe.

Kikwete refused outright. He said SADC had been given the mandate by the AU to resolve the Zimbabwe issue and the continental body would wait to get a report from SADC on whether there really was an impasse and a breakdown of the process before looking for other ways to resolve the matter.

SADC is very unlikely to throw its hands in the air and admit defeat, because, as I have said before, this would effectively kill the regional body. It will have no credibility for solving regional problems after that and no Southern African leader is willing to sign that death warrant.

Instead, there are a couple of options open to SADC to resolve this problem:

  1. The first option would be for the regional body to look at the agreement legally and examine its implementation in that respect. If the regional body did this, they would conclude, as the presidents of South Africa and Mozambique and the mediator did last week and as another SADC Summit did last year on November 9, that the agreement is complete and all that remains is for a government to be sworn in. SADC has been saying from the outset that the grievances that the MDC has can be addressed through the mechanisms provided for in the agreement, especially the Joint Monitoring Committee. They also say that there is the provision that the new government has to be examined in six months' time by SADC to see if it was effective and if all the parties were sticking to their end of the bargain. But, as the SADC Chair has said on four seperate ocassions now, the inclusive government has to be formed first. 
  2. The second option is that the regional body decides that the problem is too big for them and therefore has to be escalated to the African Union. This is the outcome that Morgan Tsvangirai is hoping for. But it is also the option that is without precedent in post-colonial African diplomatic history. West Africa solves the problems of its region through ECOWAS. The North Africans tend to fall into the Arab League, which sorts out problems of that region. East Africa also tends to sort out its own problems. Even the involvement of Kofi Annan in the Kenya electoral impasse was facilitated by the East African regional community. The AU is completely ineffective on this score. If the issue were to go to the AU, then the scales are not in Tsvangirai and the MDC-T's favour. A careful examination of the alliances on the continent show that Mugabe has a majority support amongst the African leaders and, if the matter were to be put to a vote, he would win a comfortable victory for his position.
But the point of all this is not really that Tsvangirai expects this thing to be solved by these two bodies. Instead, as I exaplined in an article in December last year, Tsvangirai is seeking a way to bring Zimbabwe to the United Nations. That is the MDC strategy. The way would be open for him, he believes, if the two regional and continental bodies fail to agree.

But, again, Mugabe clearly has a majority in the United Nations General Assembly, which, though powerless, could pass a resolution condemning the Mugabe regime or calling for him to go. That is just theory. Such a resolution would be defeated in the General Assembly. There ins't even an "if" about that.

The discussion of Zimbabwe at the Security Council, the only body with real teeth at the World Body, would be stymied by China and Russia (and this is why Mugabe gathered all foreign diplomats in Harare at his offices on Wednesday last week, during which the ambassadors of China and Russia offered "unwavering support" for his regime). Mugabe is now reassured of their support. The two big powers have been consistent in blocking all discussion of Zimbabwe at the Security Council and there is nothing America can offer them that would change this in the future.

More likely, though, even if Tsvangirai gets his way and takes the issue to the United Nations, the moment Zimbabwe is taken out of African hands, Mugabe will immediately dig in his heels and, if he has not formed a government by then, will then go ahead and form it quickly. He will harden his stance against Tsvangirai and his party and will drop all pretence and kick into action his state of emergency solution for finally destroying the MDC by holding elections in which the opposition will not be allowed to take part because it would have been labelled a "terrorist" organisation.

In the final analysis, there is very little that SADC is able to do except perhaps declare the Zimbabwe issue closed (because an agreemenet signed by ALL the parties is now on the table) and walk away. The South African Foreign Affairs minister hinted as much this week, when she said, after meeting the Dutch Foreign Minister, that the Zimbabwean problem can only be resolved by the three parties to the agreement.

The fact that Morgan Tsvangirai signed is going to be his undoing. SADC leaders have repeatedly said in private that there is now an agreement on the table which must be implemented and they see no reason why the regional body should be involved any longer until six months after the agreement is implemented, as was decided on November 9 in South Africa.

This is the reason you now see that most Heads of State are not bothering to turn up at these summits to discuss Zimbabwe. It is almost certain that tomorrow, at the SADC Extraordinary Summit, you will also find less than a third of Heads of State present. They will send representatives instead.

Mugabe, who had initially angirly told the South Africans that he would not be in attendance tomorrow, has finally relented and left today for South Africa. His advisers pointed out that his absence would be detrimental to their position.

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