SADC Ministerial Team Meets Zimbabwean Leaders Today - Not Looking Good For Tsvangirai And MDC-T

As the SADC Ministerial team prepared to land in Zimbabwe (they are now here), the MDC was holding a press conference addressed by Nelson Chamisa, at which Edith Mashaire, the party's Security Administrator, recounted how armed men had attempted to kidnap her in the Harare City Centre two days ago. The police are being dismissive, with the Police Spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena saying this was just a stunt and posturing ahead of the visit by the SADC team. The police, clearly, have no intention of investigating the matter, although number plates have now been taken on two occasions.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 29 October 2009

A team of Southern African Development Community (SADC) Foreign Ministers from that body's Organ on Defence and Politics is in Zimbabwe right now meeting with the political leaders of the country.

Right off the bat, things are not looking good for Morgan Tsvangirai and his party. The meeting takes place as the MDC has effectively left government, refusing to attend cabinet meetings until their issues are resolved.

The spin from the MDC-T has been that the team is in Zimbabwe to try and end the current impasse between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, ZANU PF and MDC-T.

But the SADC team, which is accompanied by Secretary-General Tomaz Solamao, is quite eager not be seen to be responding to the "disengagement" by the MDC-T.

The Secretary General himself says that he is in Zimbabwe to tell the political parties that " we are reviewing the GPA".

It is a highly legalistic position and goes back to my articles in January this year, in which I said that SADC, once the Government is in place and Tsvangirai is Prime Minister, will disadvantage the Prime Minister by adopting a purely legalistic approach to things.

So here it is.

According to the regional body, there is one clear obligation of SADC that is outstanding: the reviewing of the Global Political Agreement. All the other issues are not for them to deal with, is their legalistic position.

So, of all the issues Morgan Tsvangirai raised in his "disengagement" statement, SADC has picked this one as the only one on which they can act.

What the review entails is simple: this morning, they told political leaders they met that all the principals in the government agree that the Inclusive Government is working well and is still intact, but that there are a few outstanding issues that can be overcome through all the parties working together.

According to sources from this morning's meetings, the SADC team urged the leaders to ensure that they go through the toothless Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, which was set up by the Inclusive Government to hear disputes arising from the coalition of ZANU PF and the two MDC-T's.

It is crucial to understand that none of the parties to the agreement, including Morgan Tsvangirai, have declared a deadlock. Tsvangirai himself says the issue is "slow progress", playing straight into the hands of SADC and Mugabe himself.

Until and unless all the parties agree that there is a deadlock, SADC says it can not come in because there are internal mechanisms in place to deal with niggling issues.

The presence of the SADC Ministers in Zimbabwe today, which has excited a lot of people, especially in the media, is really a non-event. These ministers can not solve a single thing. They are here to listen, and then they will head back to their countries and tell their presidents what they would have heard.

The media is simply heightening its own expectations, which will be dashed and after they have been dashed, it will be fault of SADC. Yet we all know that the real reason they are here is because the Organ on Defence and Politics is trying by all means to avoid having to convene a Summit for Heads of State to discuss Zimbabwe.

They are all tired of us.

A month from now, there will still be no SADC Summit to discuss Zimbabwe because the parties are not declaring a deadlock and that is all you need to know.

As for excitable chatter about going to the African Union, forget it. Even Morgan Tsvangirai knows this. When he attempted to bypass SADC in November and December last year, flying off to Tanzania to meet the then Chairman of the African Union, Jakaya Kikwete, he was told that the African Union had mandated SADC to deal with Zimbabwe at the previous AU Heads of State Summit in Egypt in June 2008, just after the "run-off".

The African Union's position is that, unless SADC hands the matter over to them, they can not come in. SADC, on the other hand, says there is no matter to hand over to the AU as everything is under control and the Zimbabwe government is only experiencing slow progress, which is not reason enough to escalate the matter to the continental body.

So please, those who are sending through emails to me asking eagerly about what is going on with the ministers who are here right now, calm down - nothing, absolutely nothing, will come of this. Not even a SADC Summit.

You can whip yourselves into a frenzy as much as you like over the propaganda war between ZANU PF and MDC-T at the moment, but that does not change the fact that there is nothing to look forward to in this visit.


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