Efforts by South African President Thabo Mbeki to armtwist the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party into a government of national unity with President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party are pure sleaze.
Mugabe heads a murderous regime. Endeavours to coerce the MDC into a political alliance with ZANU PF are morally odious: they are akin to pressuring a victim of abuse to remain in a violent, predatory relationship for the sake of form.
The very idea is sordid, dishonourable: evil. More especially as Mbeki’s motive is to rescue Mugabe rather than the downtrodden people of Zimbabwe.
Mugabe’s legitimacy derives from the barrel of the gun and the jackboot, in the circumstances, the ANC’s mantra: the people of Zimbabwe must sort out their own problems is cynical and cruelly rapacious.
On March 29, the voters of Zimbabwe went to the polls in an effort to do precisely what the ANC was exhorting them to do – sort out their own problems. In no uncertain terms, a sizeable and undisputed majority of Zimbabweans, despite a political playing field heavily tilted in favour of the ruling party, told Mugabe to pack his bags and head off into the sunset.
They did this at considerable risk to life and limb. One would reasonably have expected the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, especially South Africa which purports to be committed to a Zimbabwean solution to the problem, to support them.
To come down on the side of the people Mbeki would have had to jettison Mugabe.
So, instead, the people of Zimbabwe were hung out to dry while they endured Mugabe’s wrath. He made them pay dearly for exercising the most basic of democratic rights – voting for a party and candidates of their choice while Mbeki and most of the other SADC heads of state looked the other way.
By the time Mugabe and his goons paused for breath, more than a hundred MDC supporters had been brutally murdered. Many hundreds had been savagely assaulted; tortured so badly they will carry the physical and psychological scarring for the rest of their lives.
In addition thousands more, mostly peasants, were dispossessed and driven from their land and homes.
One wonders what Mbeki and his peers were thinking while all this was happening. One cannot imagine that they did not know about the violence.
Their cowardly silence amounts to a wink and nod to Mugabe to do as he pleases. Complicity, in short.
What must rate as one of the most bizarre and stupid statements ever made by a South African politician was Mbeki saying there was no crisis in Zimbabwe.
He made the remark some two weeks after the election when no results had been released yet. He made the statement in a country, and about a country, where the rule of law had collapsed; a country where institutional violence had become the norm; a country with an economy in freefall and where misrule and corruption had resulted in a breakdown of family and community life, education and health services and other life-sustaining infrastructure; a country which had lost a quarter of its population as political and economic refugees.
It is a country where most people are unemployed and hungry, where many hundreds of thousands have been condemned to a premature grave by hunger and disease and where many thousands live without proper shelter, potable water and proper sanitation.
In short, a country where the very existence of most of the population is a tale of degrading misery without hope while Mugabe’s tyranny holds sway.
As bizarre as the content of Mbeki’s statement, was the setting in which it was made. At the time, he was walking smiling, hand-in-hand with Mugabe, while they wore garlands around their necks.
His statement and the occasion exhibited a callous disregard for all the people of Zimbabwe who have suffered and died because of the moral cowardice of the SADC leadership that since 2000 has been prepared to look the other way while Mugabe flouted the rules of civilised political behaviour.
Where Zimbabwe is a signatory to the various SADC treaties and protocols that among others prescribe the conduct of free and fair elections, respect for the rule of law and human rights, etc, one has to wonder how the recent summit in South Africa arrived at the conclusion that after the June 27 fiasco Mugabe should be seated as a head of state.
What makes the decision even more puzzling is that none of the observer missions (SADC, Pan-African Parliament and the African Union) allowed into the country for the June 27 run-off, found that the election had been free and fair or that he had produced a credible, legitimate result that reflected the will of the people.
One appreciates that SADC, as a political grouping, may differ in its opinions from those of the Pan-African Parliament and the African Union, dismissing the observations and conclusions of its own observer mission is a vote of no-confidence in its own political integrity and seriously undermines SADC’s international standing as a political entity deserving of dignity and esteem.
A further thought regarding a government of national unity with Mugabe derives from Joshua Nkomo’s experience. We hear a great deal about how the veteran nationalist was betrayed and destroyed by Mugabe.
However, Tsvangirai would probably be wiser to bear in mind the awful fate of Herbert Chitepo, an eminent Zimbabwean lawyer who headed ZANU during the 1960s and 70s while Mugabe was imprisoned by the Ian Smith government.
One could reasonably argue that Mugabe and Nkomo were competitors, and hence, the animosity between them. However, the same cannot be said for the relationship between Mugabe and Chitepo. They were allies, colleagues, and comrades in arms.
Yet, Mugabe had no qualms about blowing up Chitepo when he got out of prison in Zimbabwe and wanted the top spot in ZANU.
Chitepo was an eminent black lawyer who played a major role in the genesis of the nationalist movements opposing the Smith government during the 1960s and 70s. He rose to become the head of ZANU that functioned in exile out of Lusaka.
When Mugabe was released from prison at the behest the then South African Prime Minister, John Voster in 1974, he fled to Lusaka where he became embroiled in a power struggle for the leadership of ZANU.
Then already, he showed that he wasn’t squeamish when it came to bloodletting where someone stood in the way of his ambition and lust for power.
Chitepo was blown up in the driveway of his home in Lusaka in 1975.
Thereafter, Mugabe and his co-conspirators fled to Mozambique to avoid the investigation into his death.
It is worth noting that the power struggle was perpetuated in the camps in Mozambique where many of Mugabe’s competitors were murdered, imprisoned and brutalised.Cozying up to Mugabe – with his degrees in violence – is about as foolish as getting into bed knowing there is a scorpion hiding between the sheets.