Zuma Speaks Loudly And Carries A Small Stick, Delights Mugabe With Call For Lifting Of Sanctions

Robert "The Solution" Mugabe rides again: Seen here with Zuma as they toured exhibition stands at the Harare Agricultural Show earlier today, Mugabe sat quietly and nodded effusively when Zuma called for sanctions against Zimbabwe to be lifted and not so effusively when he called on all parties to the Inclusive Government to remove impediments to the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement that gave birth to this limping Mugabe-Tsvangirai regime. Nothing was solved by Zuma today in Harare. Absolutely nothing. He leaves behind the same mess he found when he landed yesterday.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 28 August 2009

An American president once said in politics, one should speak softly and carry a large stick.

Today, Jacob Zuma did the opposite.

While addressing thousands of people at the official opening of the Harare Agricultural Show as it approaches its traditionally busy last weekend, Zuma praised the Inclusive Government and said he is happy about the progress made so far, citing "consensus on national healing and reconciliation" as one area that pleased him. This is despite the fact the process is so deeply flawed that it will deepen the wounds of Zimbabweans instead of healing them.

Zuma also praised the economic situation in Zimbabwe, saying Tendai Biti's STERP bore "the hallmarks" for success.

In addition, despite widespread reports in the independent media in Zimbabwe this week that the constitution-making process has bogged down in petty fighting, Zuma also praised this process.

Zuma did not bring out the big stick against Mugabe, preferring the quiet way of alluding to the need for the principals in the Inclusive Government to "remove all obstacles to the implementation of agreements made under the Global Political Agreement."

It is a sign of the tight rope Zuma has had to walk in his quest to try and solve the Zimbabwe problem.

Tsvangirai wanted an unequivocal condemnation of Mugabe and his smoke and mirrors game. He has been asking Zuma to try and force Mugabe's hand on issues the MDC considers to be outstanding, notably the issues of Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana.

Mugabe, on the other hand, told the visiting South African leader that his party was also unhappy about its own outstanding issues, mainly sanctions, which he still blames the MDC-T for, insisting that they called for them.

He repeated his charge that certain named (white) MDC-T officials helped in the crafting of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) in the United States. Tendai Biti has also recently called for the act to be repealed by the Americans, but to no avail.

So, instead of dismissing the concerns of Mugabe as superficial and playing up the MDC-T concerns, Zuma has decided to play the "quiet diplomacy game" by calling for all leaders to ensure that outstanding issues are resolved.

This means he has left room for both Mugabe and Tsvangirai to claim that he was talking about the other party when he made the call.

To Mugabe's delight, Zuma also called for the lifting of "sanctions against Zimbabwe" by the international community, asking them as he did with Mugabe and Tsvangirai, to "remove all other obstacles holding back economic development in Zimbabwe."

So, it was diplomacy yet again that triumphed. Both parties can claim to have got what they wanted out of the visit by Zuma, but the one who really wins is Mugabe, because Zuma failed to convince him to give in to any MDC-T demands.

As Zuma flies out of Harare tonight, he leaves behind him the same situation he found here.

He has made the right noises, but he leaves both parties still holding on to their positions.

Tsvangirai, despite now being a national (government) leader, still appears not to understand that you can never expect a Head of State or even a government to take sides in an internal dispute, which is what the "outstanding issues" are. That can only happen when a state of war exists between two countries or states.

But, with Mugabe still feted at SADC Heads of State meetings, still heading both government and state in Zimbabwe, it boggles the mind how anyone with a modicum of common sense would think that Zuma would read the riot act to Mugabe.

Prudently, and as was to be expected, the SA leader chose not to take sides and his calls today can be seen by ZANU PF as directed at the MDC-T to quickly address the issue of sanctions as demanded by Mugabe, while the MDC-T can point to it as a call for Mugabe to resolve the appointments of governors, Roy Bennett, Gideon Gono and Attorney General Tomana.

Seriously now, do you think anyone has won after this?


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