As the crisis in Zimbabwe unfolds – in which the military directly intervened in the political governance of the country – the regional body’s response has raised questions on its continued relevance.
In the midst of a clear catastrophe, where the political instability in Zimbabwe has gone out of hand – at the hands of a tyrannical regime, in which President Robert Mugabe seemingly is seeking to establish dynastic rule, by pushing for his wife, Grace, to take over from him, through the concerted purging of rivals within the ruling ZANU PF party – regional leaders appear more interested in preserving the current leadership than helping resolve the matter.
The chaos in Zimbabwe’s ruling party has already being adversely affecting the country’s economy for the past few years, as more energy has been spent on infighting than the nation’s welfare.
This has further exacerbated the already economic and political dire situation in the country, which has been in a free-fall for the past two decades – coupled by gross human rights abuses, and a skewed electoral landscape.
ZANU PF’s infighting led to instability in government, due to the constant sacking of senior officials – as various factions positioning themselves to succeed the nearly 94 year old Mugabe – has meant lack of continuity in the day to day running of the country’s affairs.
This in a country already grappling with the lack of cash, an over 90% unemployment rate, frequent company closures, and lack of salary payments to workers.
Furthermore, the country’s once commendable education sector has been adversely affected, with lack of adequate textbooks in schools – whilst, in health, government hospitals lack almost all essential medication.
The country’s once enviable agricultural industry has all but been destroyed, due to Mugabe’s government’s ill-planned and chaotic land reform programme – turning the once bread-basket of the region onto a basket case – as it now embarrassingly imports most of its grain from the very farmers it expelled, who are now mostly based in Zambia.
Humans rights abuses – resulting in the killing of hundreds of opposition supporters in the past 20 years, forced disappearances, questionable arrests, beating up of opponents and burning of their homes by ruling party thugs, and the suppression of peaceful gatherings and demonstrations by the police – have not made matters any better.
In the midst of this ‘hell on earth’ for the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) merely looked on.
In fact, when the situation was poised to boil over in 2008, the then South African president Thabo Mbeki, claimed that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe.
He stood firmly with his friend Mugabe, even accusing the opposition of being stooges of the West – a claim parroting that long held by the Zimbabwean leader, as a pretext to suppress any dissent, on the grounds that the country’s erstwhile colonizer Britain was seeking to stage an illegal regime change.
South Africa – as the regional powerhouse, and Zimbabwe’s neighbour most affected by any developments in the country – had always been expected to play a constructive role in the country.
Nevertheless, both South Africa and SADC dismissally failed, every time they were called upon by the people of Zimbabwe to help – as they never seems willing to act, as long there were no bodies on the streets yet.
The recent military invention points to this lack of leadership on the part of South Africa and SADC, as this was seen a long way coming, but these regional leaders did not lift a finger – in spite of Zimbabweans’ cries.
Only when the military finally took the action they did, do we witness some movement, which, at best, is gravely ridiculous on many levels.
Firstly, when the Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantino Chiwengwa gave his warning earlier this week – to intervene should the purging in ZANU PF not be resolved urgently – South Africa said that it would not intervene, as this was strictly an internal issue – whilst, SADC, typically, remained silent.
Ironically, both South Africa and SADC are currently led by the same person – Jacob Zuma – who is not known for his decisiveness and foresight.
When a few days later, the army decided to finally intervene, suddenly, South Africa and SADC sprung into action!
How ridiculous is that!
The signs of the situation in Zimbabwe blowing out of hand had been written on the wall for nearly two decades, but no one in the region considered it serious enough to warrant any action – be it, mediatory.
The second ridiculous response to the Zimbabwean situation may reveal the reason why South Africa and SADC were always apathetic to the country’s crisis.
When finally the SADC Troika on Peace and Security decided that the house arrest of Mugabe – and not the misgovernance and tyranny of the past 20 years – were a security risk, and met for an emergency meeting in Gaborone yesterday, the truth finally came out.
Their final communiqué made two stunning revelations: a call for an urgent extraordinary SADC summit – without a date being proffered – and a clear opposition to any unconstitutional change of government.
The call for an ‘urgent’ extraordinary SADC summit, without even setting any urgent date, speaks volumes, as it shows just how ‘serious’ this organ views the situation in Zimbabwe.
As I write this article, nearly 12 hours after the SADC Troika meeting, no affirmative date has been announced yet – although, Sunday 19 November 2017, three days after the ’emergency’ meeting, and five days after the military intervention – clearly showing that there is nothing really ‘urgent’, as far as the regional body is concerned.
Furthermore, the fact that they would rather make more noise against the unconstitutional change or removal of a government, than the plight of the suffering ordinary people says a lot.
That is where South Africa and SADC’s agenda comes out clearly.
They are not at all concerned about the welfare of the people of the region – who have suffered gruesome oppression over decades, in countries such as, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Swaziland, and of course, Zimbabwe – but will only be worried when the countries’ leaders’ grip on power is threatened.
The people of these countries have been crying out to SADC, and South Africa, as the regional powerhouse, to play a more active and visible role in pushing their leaders for a more democratic and progressive dispensation, but to no avail.
All these cries have been callously and recklessly dismissed as ‘internal problems’, which they will not involve themselves in.
Of course, what they do not say was: ‘as long as the tyrannical leadership is still unscathed, we do not care about the rest of you’.
Yet, as soon as there are signs of a direct threat to their fellow ‘brothers’, they spring into action, without hesitation.
The delay in the extraordinary SADC summit on Zimbabwe could very well be that they are hoping that their pal, Mugabe, will typically wriggle his way out of this mess unharmed – as he is famed for his canny and willy attributes.
However, should their ‘Houdini’ fail in probably his last trick, they will be on hand to intervene.
It is all about saving the leader, and not about saving the people.
SADC and South Africa do not give – and never have given – a hoot about the likes of ourselves.
We can be butchered with impunity, and they would not lose any sleep, as it would be regarded as merely an ‘internal issue’.
Thousands may die, but that counts for nought with SADC and South Africa, but should the life of only one leader come under threat, then they will all be up in arms.
Therefore, should SADC be allowed to continue by the people of the region, or should we push for its disbanding?
Similarly – having also seen the true colours of South Africa – should the people of the region allow this country to be involved in their affairs?
Certainly, SADC needs to go, and South Africa told – in no uncertain terms – to stay out of the affairs of neighbouring countries, no matter what happens there.
The suffering people of the region can no longer be played for fools by these entities, and should finally wake up to the truth and take a firm stand.
Enough is enough!
If the region’s tyrants want to have their own club, then they can go ahead, but not under the pretext of an organisation that is meant to stand for the welfare of the people.
The British people successfully pushed for their country’s exit from the European Union (EU), as they views it as nothing more than a parasitic and oppressive organisation – amongst other concerns.
The people of Southern Africa should also firmly stand up and either call for the dissolution of SADC, or their countries’ exit.
The people can no longer continue to be fooled, under the facade that these regional leaders are there to look out for their interests, yet they are just there to look out for themselves.
No one else will love us, except ourselves – as expecting our oppressors to care for us and stand up for us, is the most foolhardy thing we can ever do.
Only ourselves can free our lives!
° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a Zimbabwean social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is available should you invite him to speak at any gathering and event. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: [email protected]. Please also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.Post published in: Featured