The Failure of African Leadership

by Eddie Cross

Nothing could illustrate the failure of African leadership more clearly than the farce that took place in Harare this weekend.

Following the debacle last week when Morgan Tsvangirai refused to travel on an emergency travel document restricted to Swaziland, the SADC organ on politics and security convened in Harare this Monday. It was attended by the Presidents of South Africa and Mozambique as well as the Prime Minister of Swaziland and an official from Angola.

They know exactly what the problem is – in March the MDC beat Zanu PF in a closely contested election and its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai beat Mugabe by a wide margin. These leaders know that Morgan got more than 50 per cent of the vote – I understand his actual vote was 54 per cent but after five weeks of procrastination and desperate efforts to falsify the poll the Junta was forced to admit that Mugabe had been beaten but that Tsvangirai had received less than 50 per cent and would have to face a run off.

The South Africans know full well that the real result was a clear victory for MDC and a humiliation for Mugabe, but went along with the charade and allowed the run off to take place. What followed was three months of intense political violence unleashed on the population by 100 000 youth militia under military leadership in over 2000 camps spread throughout the country.

When finally it became apparent that any attempt by the MDC to monitor the election would be faced with violence and even the murder of MDC polling agents, the MDC decided to pull out of the contest. Zanu PF went ahead and in complete contrast to the March election, Mugabe was declared the winner in 48 hours and sworn in, in unseemly haste.

The African observer missions then turned Zanu’s world upside down by declaring that the election had “not been a reflection of the people’s will”

and stating that Mugabe had not been elected President. Battered and bruised, the MDC and the hapless electorate picked themselves up and were then faced with a demand by SADC leaders that they “resume” the talks with Zanu PF under the mediation of Thabo Mbeki.

Mbeki picked up from where his previous mediation had left off, as if nothing had happened in the interim. We are now 4 months down the road on that new initiative and having agreed and signed a power sharing agreement on the 15th September; we are still trying to get the deal implemented. In signing the deal, the MDC massively compromised its rights as the Party that had won the elections outright in March.

Mugabe, who by all accounts lost the election in March and certainly has no legal or democratic justification to call himself President, continues to act as if he had won the election and Hansard still lists all Zanu PF ministers and Deputy Ministers as Ministers of Government. No doubt they are still on their full salaries and perks even though a number of them were defeated by MDC in the election in March and all of them were stood down as Ministers when Parliament was sworn in a few weeks ago.

Just to compound this situation Mugabe is treated as a State President by SADC and given full political and diplomatic recognition. The so called “Global Agreement” provides for a clear separation of powers between the Prime Minister and the President and also sets out in precise terms how the different arms of government are expected to work together.

Only an idiot could interpret the agreement as meaning that Zanu PF is still in charge and MDC is the junior partner, It is self evident that the allocation of ministerial portfolios should be divided equitably, So when, after weeks of pointless argument Zanu PF published an allocation of Ministerial portfolios that gave Zanu PF complete control of the security machinery of the state as well as all resource ministries and left the rest to the MDC, it was a step too far.

That brought the region back into the process and gave us the hope that the regional leadership would recognise the illogical and unacceptable nature os such an allocation and impose a solution on the local players that made sense. First it was Mbeki and he made a hash of things – actually endorsing the Zanu PF allocation of posts! Then came the Troika and the aborted meeting in Swaziland.

Morgan had raised the issue of his passport with the negotiators and when he was issued with a Emergency Travel Document with a single destination restriction he refused to travel. In fact the issue goes far beyond just the question of withholding his travel documents (the passport has been ready for weeks and is sitting in the desk of the Registrar General) it was just the latest of a series of incidents that show that the Junta in Harare has no intention of allowing the new government to be formed.

They are continuing to restrict and interfere with food distribution by the international community. They have retained tight control over commercial food distribution. The security forces continue to attack any attempts by civil society to support the negotiation process and the media is as warped and restricted as ever. There has been no attempt to implement the “Global Agreement” in any form up to now.

When Morgan Tsvangirai failed to attend the Troika meeting it was aborted and reorganised for Harare a week later. In Harare the key player was always going to be the new President of South Africa, Mr. Motlanthe. This was his first real test when it comes to foreign affairs and for most of us it seemed completely logical that he would step up to the plate and smash a home run.

But no – after 13 hours of intense “negotiations” they came out of the closet and issued a statement that did not change one single element in the situation. The issue would go a full meeting of SADC Heads of State in two weeks time. What an even larger group of hopeless leaders will do is difficult to imagine. The key player remains Motlanthe, he alone has the power and influence to force a resolution and it just that that is required.

The Junta will never give up power without the use of force in whatever form and if that is not going to come from the streets, it has to come diplomatically behind closed doors.

In 1976 that pressure came from the South Africans in support of an initiative by the American Secretary of State, in 1979 it was pressure from Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania. The only question now is who will do the necessary in 2008?

While this charade is being played out, southern Africa burns. In the midst of the global financial crisis, we look indecisive and ineffective. By failing to take crucial decisions on issues such as inter Party violence in South Africa and the resolution of the crisis in Zimbabwe – all within our own clear competence, we are failing our respective countries, the region and our people’s best interests.

It was up to the Secretary General of the United Nations to spell out what was needed. He called for an equitable allocation of Ministerial portfolios and the formation of a new government in Harare as soon as possible. He said that only such a move would bring the political and economic crisis under control. He is right, are our leaders up to it this time? Failure is just that would be “too ghastly to contemplate”.

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