SADC Communique Language Fails To Hide Pressure On Tsvangirai

Morgan Tsvangirai walks out of the building where the SADC Troika was meeting on Thursday in Mozambique. The leaders had just broken for lunch when this photo was taken. The incredibly vague language of the SADC Communique, which has now been made public, favours Mugabe more than it does Tsvangirai, although it is couched in diplomatic language that appears to call for both to talk and come to an agreement within 30 days. Crucially, Mugabe's "outstanding issues" are endorsed as valid by this communique.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 07 November 2009

The SADC Troika Communique from the meeting in Maputo this past Thursday shows the regional body trying to do a balancing act between being seen to be doing something while at the same time maintaining its hand-off approach to Zimbabwe's problems.

Of particular interest is the SADC "resolution" that Mugabe and Tsvangirai must start talking within 15 days and that the talks must not continue beyond 30 days. At the same time, they call for both parties' grievances to be dealt with "concurrently."

"Summit decided as follows: the political parties signatory to the GPA should engage in dialogue with immediate effect within 15 days not beyond 30 days," reads the Communique.

It is incredibly vague language, which favours Mugabe more than it addresses Tsvangirai's concerns. 

I say this because this resolution effectively tells the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe that he must do what Mugabe wants within 30 days and, more crucially, that he can not hold off on doing this on the basis that his own grievances have not been met.

The communique certainly is unfair to the MDC-T because it effectively recognises Mugabe's own grievances as genuine by making them part of the package of issues to be addressed simultaneously with Tsvangirai's own grievances.

One might ask how the Prime Minister is supposed to show that he has, as Mugabe is demanding, ended sanctions against Zimbabwe, "dismantled the parallel government set up in the prime minister's office" and stopped "pirate radio stations" beaming into Zimbabwe.

Any fair person would  say that these are clearly issues that the Prime Minister has no power over, that, apart from the argument of the parallel government in his office, there is no way he would be able to fulfill the other demands because it is not his party that runs those radio stations. They may be run by people who support him, but they are not dependent on him. So how is he supposed to stop them or get the sanctions lifted?

By doing this, the SADC Troika has effectively hung the Prime Minister out to dry because Mugabe will simply say that the MDC-T refuses to implement any of the things that it agreed to in the GPA.

But sympathy for Morgan Tsvangirai's impossible position must be tempered by the truth that the Prime Minister made a fundamental blunder in agreeing to have these issues put into the GPA in the first place. He allowed the issue of the radio stations to be part of the GPA, he allowed the "sanctions" to be put in the GPA. 

And then he signed it, basically admitting that he had the power to do something about these things. He can not now perform revisionism by disowning these issues. he signed and he must deliver. That is the black and white, legalistic manner in which SADC is dealing with this.

If the MDC-T had refused to have responsibility for sanctions and foreign-based radio station put in their lap, this crisis would not even have happened in the first place.

This is why it is important to realise that there is no realistic prospect of the Prime Minister getting any of the things he wants. Effectively, as I said yesterday, SADC has simply said that Mugabe and Tsvangirai must start talking. The 30 days into which the talks have been restricted applies both to the issues of parallel government, sanctions, radio stations (MDC-T responsibilities according to Mugabe) and Bennett, ambassadors, governors, attorney-general and reserve bank governor (ZANU PF responsibilities according to Morgan Tsvangirai).

If Tsvangirai fails to deliver on his issues, Mugabe will also say he has failed and there is nothing SADC will be able to do to either man unless they decide to openly come out on the side of one of the parties by dismissing the concerns of the other as frivolous or impractical.

It is this that they will not do.

Which is why it is true to say that they have solved nothing. Zimbabwe continues to run in one spot, not going anywhere, not making progress.

We are likely to be in this situation until the day the Inclusive Government collapses and new elections are called.

Did you also notice that the issue of the militarisation of the rural areas has been ignored completely. Intimidation in the same areas is not mentioned at all. The continues arrests of MDC-T MPs and activists is also ignored completely.

This is a much more serious issue that the issue of giving jobs to MDC officials like Bennett and ambassadors and governors etc. Yet these important matters are off the agenda completely because they are not part of the GPA. SADC is simply taking the legalistic route of addressing the thing they guaranteed: the GPA. The harassment and arrests came after and therefore are not their problem.

We are back to Square One, despite what the propaganda of both MDC-T and ZANU PF tries to tell us.


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