THE arrest of two Zimbabwean MPs – both later released – as they entered parliament to be sworn in is about as blatant a slap in the face for democracy as one could conjure.
But Robert Mugabe has been conjuring slaps in the face for democracy for decades, so it was all in a day’s work for the ageing autocrat.
What is now clear is that Mugabe has decided that he will hold onto power until the grave.
In recent negotiations, he was offered a graceful exit which included the rather generous offer that he continue as a ceremonial head of state.
For an 84-year-old man who polled fewer votes than his opponent in the March elections, this was surely an offer he could not refuse.
But refuse he did, insisting that he retain full executive powers, a negotiation position so patently unreachable that the talks have collapsed.
That was Mugabe’s plan. He has strung South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki along for more than a decade. What’s another year or two of subterfuge?
Mbeki, on the cusp of a diplomatic breakthrough that would have finally offered his rapidly melting legacy some respite, must be furious.
Even he must surely see that he has been manipulated and made to look rather silly by Mugabe?
The fact that Mugabe now intends to ramrod his continued dictatorship through parliament should come as no surprise.
He is counting on the prevarication of Mbeki, who has been exceedingly accommodating in the past.
He is hoping that Mbeki will more or less ignore the latest shenanigans and claim that talks will continue.
Mbeki must not fulfill this expectation.
His reputation is hanging by the thinnest thread. If he indulges the delusions of Mugabe one more time, that thread will break and he will lose what little face he has left.
“Mbeki must not fulfill this expectation.
His reputation is hanging by the thinnest thread.”
Mbeki has failed by any measure, even the usually very flexible ones used by liberals when dealing with African leaders. Sow why this constant labouring of his legacy? What legacy? Corruption, rampant crime, white flight, uncontrolled mass migration, black-on-white racism, diplomatic ineptitude, make-believe shuttle diplomacy, loss of confidence in South Africa which theoretically has everything going for it? White governments in southern Africa had comprehensive sanctions imposed on them for far less incompetence. Surely liberals need to start taking black leaders seriously and measure them with the same yardstick they so willingly used against Ian Smith and the Afrikaners.