After the Zimbabwean Defence Force rolled the tanks onto the street of Harare on 16 November, and confined the Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe to his palace, the South African president Jacob Zuma, who is also the chairperson of SADC, sent special envoys to meet with Mugabe and the military commanders.
According to Zimbabwe’s Herald newspaper the military said, “Significant progress has been made to weed out criminals around Mugabe”, and expressed hope of finding a solution soonest.
The statement was issued after a meeting between the military and Mugabe on Thursday.
Those present at the meeting included Zimbabwe Defence Force Commander General Constantino Chiwenga, Zimbabwe Air Force Vice Marshal Elson Moyo, together with Zimbabwe’s Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi and Zimbabwe’s State Security Minister Kembo Mohadi.
South African envoys participating in the meeting comprised Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and State Security Minister Bongani Bongo, and in addition Zimbabwean Roman Catholic cleric Father Fidelis Mukonori also attended.
Desie Heita spoke to Dr Charles Mubita, an International Relations and Strategic Communication Specialist and university lecturer, to gain some insight into what is happening in Zimbabwe.
Question: How are things likely to pan out and is this not a situation that should concern the SADC region, as far as peace and stability is concerned?
Answer: “The situation in Zimbabwe should concern not only Zimbabweans but all citizens of the SADC region because it has the potential to disturb peace and political stability in the region. The second concern is that outside forces, with vested political and economic interests in Zimbabwe, should not be allowed to hijack the situation in their favour. SADC is definitely seized with the situation that is taking place in Zimbabwe. SADC leaders receive briefings 24 hours a day on what is happening through the SADC Early Warning Centre which monitors, observes and strengthen the SADC mechanisms for conflict prevention, management and resolution in line with the provisions of the Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ. SADC is under obligation, under the Protocol on Defence and Security Cooperation and the Treaty to mitigate conflict in the region through peaceful mechanisms. It is unfortunate that events have turned out the way they have, however one should be pleased to note that the players in the situation are aware of the ramifications and implications of a coup in the region.”
Question: So far SADC member states have been firm on that Zimbabwe must be allowed to sort out its own internal issues. Are we likely to have SADC member states stepping in to resolve the problem in Zimbabwe?
Answer: “Whether or not what is happening is a coup, soft coup or slow coup SADC will definitely step in to ensure political stability and sustainable peace. I am sure that as we speak the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation is consulting with all the players in the Zimbabwe crisis. SADC’s role will be to facilitate the process towards minimising conflict. In the final analysis, Zimbabweans will be the ones to decide. However, SADC will not sanction a coup in any member state.”
Question: President Robert Mugabe is an elected president, through a democratic process that was declared free and fair. How is the military involvement not deemed as a coup, and why has SADC not spoken out against the Zimbabwean military becoming involved in political matters?
Answer: “Obviously SADC is engaged in consultations with all parties in the Zimbabwe crisis. The one thing that SADC will not do is to make pronouncements publicly on sensitive matters that are under discussion. The military involvement is surely a coup in any manner of defining a coup. However, we need to note that Section 212 of the Zimbabwe Constitution empowers the Zimbabwe Defence Force to protect Zimbabwe, its people, its national security and interests and its territorial integrity and to uphold the constitution.”
Question: Is this then, finally the end of what can be called ‘Robert Mugabe ruling era?’
Answer: “It could be the end of the Mugabe ruling era, but I doubt that it will be the end of the ZANU-PF ruling era. The veterans of the liberation struggle are merely trying to protect the revolution from an army of political novices who have infiltrated the party for self-gain.”
Question: Namibia and South Africa (as well as Botswana) have had to carry the burden of economic refugees from Zimbabwe. Is the current situation not set to open floodgates of Zimbabweans flocking into the neighbouring countries, where economic conditions have already stoked up anti-foreign and xenophobic feelings?
Answer: “On the contrary, if the conflict is well managed I believe Zimbabweans in the diaspora will be flocking back to Zimbabwe to rebuild their country and not the other way round. However, if the situation becomes violent, which I strongly doubt, then we might have an influx of Zimbabweans flocking into other countries.”