Monday, 17 August 2009

Zuma's intervention in Zimbabwe will be futile

South African President and current chair of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Jacob Zuma heads to Zimbabwe at the end of this month to resolve outstanding issues in the Global Political Agreement that underpins the Inclusive Government between Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF and the two MDC factions.
The outcome of this diplomatic effort is so painfully obvious as to make its undertaking an empty ritual meant only to furnish perceptions that 'something' is being done by the regional group. Mugabe has already dug in, accusing the MDC in the past week of failing to live up to part of their bargain - meaning the removal of western sanctions on Mugabe and his top lieutenants.
It is ludicrous to suggest that the MDC, or any foreign entity for that matter, has the responsibility, let alone the power, to make American or European foreign policy.
Because Zanu PF has sought to monopolise Zimbabwean nationalism and projected itself as its sole and perpetual vanguard, it has come to believe its own propaganda that the MDC is not of itself but a mere spawn of the 'white', 'imperialist' West. Thus, by demanding that the MDC gets European and American sanctions lifted, Mugabe and Zanu PF are effectively pushing the MDC to accept the derogatory, alienating identity that they have sought to pin on it from the day of its inception.
Zuma will hardly throw himself into this task to the point of dismissing Zanu PF's ludicrous demands. Indeed, that the original mediator, Thabo Mbeki, even allowed them to be included in the signed agreement in the first place speaks volumes about the thinking that informs many of our regional leaders and their approach to the crisis in Zimbabwe. So while Zuma might lean a bit less softly on Mugabe on account of Hilary Clinton's recent visit to Pretoria and, perhaps, in deference to the position of his tripartite allies in the ANC - Cosatu and the SA Communist Party, who were both appalled by Mbeki's 'quiet diplomacy' policy - the likeliest outcome is that Zuma's visit will not leave Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF on the ropes.

In fact, in order to milk Zuma's visit to their advantage, Zanu PF and Mugabe have contrived to project the South African leader's trip as a state visit by making him the guest of honour at the country's once-popular Harare Agricultural show. In this way, Mugabe will be seen palling around with Zuma infront of thousands of his compatriots and international media cameras. Any notion in the public mind of him being ostracised by the region's most powerful country for his intransigence with respect to fulfilling his obligations in the GPA will thus wither away.

It does not inspire much confidence, too, that Zuma's successor as chair of SADC in the coming weeks is none other than DRC President Joseph Kabila, who has much to be grateful to Mugabe for and, as he openly admits, regards the Zimbabwean octogenarian strongman as 'my father'.