President Mandela fought bitterly with Mugabe over the latter’s determination to maintain his pre-1994 supremacy in the region, by clinging on to control of SADC’s crucial security apparatus. Mugabe was evidently trying to maintain his old Front Line States, (FLS) dominance in SADC, which he was then losing to SA. And Angola was with him while SA became the informal leader of a progressive, democratic camp. Meanwhile, SA and Angola fell out separately over several other issues, including the ruling MPLA’s feeling that the ANC had never thanked it enough for its support during the liberation struggle, SA’s anger at Angolan military support to Laurent Kabila to help him conquer President Mobutu Sese Seko (when SA was trying to get the two to make peace), and Luanda’s suspicions of SA’s efforts to persuade it to make peace with its own rebel enemy, Jonas Savimbi.
Although President Mbeki warmed towards Mugabe, SA’s quarrel with Luanda
remained unhealed; the two biggest powers in the region were estranged. This
week Zuma will remedy that with his first state visit. It is possible to speculate freely, along the lines of the infamous Browse Mole Report by SA intelligence analysts, that Zuma will be repaying Dos Santos for the help he received in defeating Mbeki for the ANC leadership at Polokwane. But whether true or not, no such dramatic motive is really necessary to explain the visit. It can be seen as merely rectifying a diplomatic anomaly. And the visit is surely not mainly about Zimbabwe. As Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, has explained, it is largely about building economic ties, and Zuma will be taking the largest business delegation that SA has ever sent abroad. SA hopes to get some of the major post-war economic reconstruction business under way in Angola. SA also hopes to persuade Angola to harness its military prowess to Pretoria’s own peacekeeping efforts on the continent (rather, it remains unsaid, than Luanda using its military muscle on
freelance adventures). But if Zimbabwe is not high on the agenda or even
officially there at all, it is hard to imagine that it will not be discussed during the visit. Early next month SADC will hold its annual summit, and reviewing the progress of Zimbabwe’s unity government will be a major item on the agenda.
On the face of it, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for
Democratic Change might be alarmed by the rapprochement between SA and
Mugabe’s erstwhile close ally Angola. But that assumes Zuma will fall under
Dos Santos’s spell. What if the opposite occurs? Zuma has made it clear in
private in the past that he disapproves of much of Mugabe’s undemocratic
behaviour, though he has so far done nothing in office to confirm that. Yet
two weeks ago he told Tsvangirai that he would take up with Mugabe
Tsvangirai’s complaints about Mugabe thwarting the full implementation of
the unity government agreement. Then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
indicated, after meeting Zuma, her satisfaction with the way the Zuma administration was handling Zimbabwe, having said before that she would urge
Zuma to curb Mugabe’s “negative influence” on the unity government. This
suggests that Zuma told her he intended taking a tough line with Mugabe. One
presumes he would not want to mess with Clinton by offering her vague promises he did not intend to keep. Meanwhile, the Angolan government itself broke ranks with Zimbabwe somewhat last year by criticising the way Mugabe was re-elected. Perhaps Mugabe is also a little anxious about this week’s visit.
Cape Times (SA)Post published in: Opinions