THE Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s emergency summit has come and gone without much resolve, and predictably so.
Last week I wrote about the pusillanimous record hitherto of our regional body in as far as the Zimbabwean situation is concerned. Last weekend’s summit more than confirmed this and the fact that our regional body is as yet to take a firm, courageous, constructive and clear stand compelling the Zimbabwean authority to extricate itself and the country from the current stagnant socio-political and economic quagmire.
SADC is as yet to extend friendly businesslike advice to Zanu-PF and His Excellency President Robert Mugabe that it is time he seriously started thinking about putting Zimbabwe back on the road to democracy and economic recovery. Yes, in the opinion of some Zimbabwean brothers and sisters SADC’s approach showed some “improvement, ” if only by the mere call for the immediate release of the poll results. It may be a cause for hope to see those at the receiving end of Zimbabwean authority’s intransigence to discern a change of attitude among our SADC principals.
One cannot but side with them in hoping, because hope is all there is to this situation. More so given the fact that it seems that somehow our regional leaders, with the exception of one or two, are as yet to fully appreciate the magnitude of the Zimbabwean situation, and the consequence of the elections impasse telling by daylight denial by South African President, His Excellency Thabo Mbeki, of the existence of a crisis despite overwhelming evidence to that effect. The “crisis is manageable” he is quoted as having said at one point.
One only wonders what boiling point our leaders and the sub-region’s people want to see Zimbabwe reach before we apprehend the gravity of the situation. This is as if the Zimbabwean people have not already brought to us the stark reality of their endurance.
Looks like we want to see the situation in Zimbabwe reach a point of no return before any serious intervention by us as neighbours, of course, through our leaders in the region. Should the region really wait and allow the situation to worsen and become unmanageable? It is mind boggling that SADC waits for the situation to worsen before resolutely intervening rather than arresting the situation in its current state.
How worse can the situation really be allowed to get? In South Africa alone, we are talking about four million Zimbabwean refugees. Despite the vibrancy of the South African economy, there is no way that this economy can be expected to take care of them. Yes, it may absorb a couple of Zimbabwean refugee professionals leaving the rest in a hopeless situation. This is besides those ordinary Zimbabweans in an equally despairing and pitiful state bearing the brunt of the situation that has been unfolding in the land of their birth, where survival is a daily uphill struggle.
We are made to believe the situation in Zimbabwe has been worsened by sanctions against Zimbabwe imposed by Britain and her allies, which is nothing more than just an apology for the failure of Zimbabwe’s own policies.
Nevertheless, granted that Britain may have a hand in the woes the country is currently experiencing there is still something that Zimbabwe, of course, with the help of her neighbours, can do with or without Britain or any other of her nemeses. That is why somehow the softie-softie approach by SADC is understandable, lest Zimbabweans are left at the mercy of the excesses of the Zimbabwean authority on the one hand, and her presumed enemies.
However, there must be a limit to the reluctant approach by SADC. The latter must in all earnest start to prevail upon the Zimbabwean authorities to urgently bring the verification and announcement of the poll results to their logical conclusion.
Secondly, SADC needs to be cautious in advising a recount and a possible reversal of the parliamentary results, which are already officially known as they have been publicly posted at wards. This is in conscious of a possible backlash reminiscent of the Kenyan situation should MDC supporters wake up tomorrow and hear that the elections they thought and knew to have won, they haven’t.
Therein lies the crisis as much as the SADC leaders would not want to see this factor. Yes, there may not be a governance crisis in Zimbabwe as yet, but if she is allowed to tread on the path she has been treading since the polls, with the seeming silent acquiescence of its SADC neighbours of keeping the powers that be in power at all cost, it is not long before we have an calamitous and irreversible crisis on our hands. By that time it may be too late to intervene successfully and the consequences dire not only for Zimbabwe but the whole SADC region. There is no denying that until the results are announced, ushering in a new government in Zimbabwe, there is currently a legitimate government in Zimbabwe. But let us not forget that the mandate of this government effectively expired with the commissioning and the holding of elections.
So to speak it has been a caretaker government between the elections and the announcement of the results and handover to any successor government, be it the Zanu-PF, MDC or Simba Makoni’s. Thus, the results must be announced forthwith so that Zimbabwe gets out of the current stalemate and limbo.
The SADC leaders may differ in their appreciation of a crisis or its absence but for once they must take cue from the citizens of Zimbabwe, and indeed of the whole region, desirous of a return to the rule of law, normality and civility in Zimbabwe sooner than later. Because later may just be too late!
There is no way that the SADC leaders could be forgiven by Africa, the Zimbabwean people and the people of the sub-region and the African people at large if things worsen in Zimbabwe, nor will the SADC people and their leaders dare forgive themselves.