Zimbabwe SADC Summit Outcome and Implications

The latest Zimbabwe Summit held by SADC yesterday, Monday January 26 has a sense of deja vu about it and it virtually leaves Morgan Tsvangirai stranded. The MDC leader has once again refused to accept what the SADC Summit has recommended. He left the summit venue, a presidential guesthouse in Pretoria, without addressing the media and his party is still to issue a formal statement on its position after this summit.

But the SADC Secretary General announced the outcome after 12 hours of talks earlier this morning. It was left to President Motlanthe of South Africa to tell the media that the MDC leader had disagreed again with SADC's position. In essence, the SADC position was nothing new and a simple reiteration of the stance they took last year on November 9.

Here is what was agreed, if agreed is the right word. The SADC heads of state have laid out a timetable for the formation of a Government of National Untiy in Zimbabwe. Morgan Tsvangirai must be sworn in on February 11 and the whole cabinet must be in place by February 15.

As I told you all in my post: Zimbabwe: SADC Extraordinary Summit Analysis published on Sunday on this blog, SADC had only two options and they have gone with Option 1 contained in my article cited above.

In other words, the regional body is still insisting that the agreement that was signed by all the parties marks the end of the negotiating process and now a government must be formed.

They also cited the same reasons I cited in my article, saying that any grievances that the parties may have should be brought before the Joint Monitoring Committee, which can only be formed after the government is formed.

SADC has now also set February 5 as the deadline for passing Ammendment Number 19, which is the piece of legislation that the MDC have been saying should be passed in parliament first before they join the government.

The MDC hope that SADC would admit that the problem was bigger than them and escalate it to the Africa Union have been dashed. The regional body is almost certainly going to report at the African Union General Assembly that they have solved the Zimbabwe problem and all that remains is implementation. The African Union, on the other hand, can not do anything about Zimbabwe without being handed the case by SADC, something that is clearly not going to happen now.

Privately, the SADC Chair, South Africa, briefed the parties that they (SADC) will produce the signed documents of the September 15 agreement to prove that all parties have agreed fundamentally to form a GNU and only minor problems with implementation remain.

It appears that SADC, by urging the swift passing of Ammendment No 19, has decided to call the MDC's bluff, daring the opposition to vote the legislation down, in which case I think you would see the gloves come off SADC's hands in its approach to the MDC.

It serves no useful purpose now to shout at SADC when there is clearly no alternative being put forward by the MDC. The only route left is for Mugabe to set up a government by himself, which he will do next week.

After that, Mugabe intends to wait for at least 2 years to hold a new election, during which time he privately says his dollarisation drive would have blunted the economic problems facing Zimbabwe.

It is also clear that, as he promised Mutambara during last week's SADC Summit in Harare, he will use every trick in the book, unleashing violence and cheating pon a massive scale to win back a majority in parliament.

We are deluding ourselves with all our talk of it being different next time around. We have heard it all before: Tsvangirai telling us in 2002 that Mugabe "will not last six months" and so on.

The new elections will be held without International supervision as has happened with three previous elections. No one can do anything about that except perhaps put more sanctions on Mugabe and we know how helpful that is, don't we?

Still, what is now the next step? SADC says it is the passing of Ammendment No 19 by parliament.

Should MDC assent to the passing of the Bill, then they will be in an even tighter spot, since ALL SADC Heads of State, except Ian Khama of Botswana, are saying that the opposition party agreed to go into government once the Ammendment is passed into law.

Although this issue has not been resolved, it remains true that, as things stand right now, the MDC has virtually no options left. They could decide to sit out government, incurring the wrath of SADC and the African Union, who would then unite to ensure that the Zimbabwe problem does not get out of the hands of the continent at all.

The MDC appears not have a credible Plan B at the moment, except calling for new elections, which Mugabe has said he is willing to call but which he told Arthur Mutambara last week he will never lose again.

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