PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s appeal to Britain to lift the sanctions against President Robert Mugabe’s elite may fall on deaf ears.
Zuma’s argument is that the dropping of sanctions is supported by the entire Zimbabwe unity government.
He believes the gesture would send a signal to the world that Zimbabwe was on the road to political recovery and once again an acceptable investment destination.
He is right and South Africans ought to move beyond the knee-jerk rejection of any recognition of Mugabe’s legitimacy.
Observers of Zimbabwe, rightly outraged by Mugabe’s shocking anti-democratic record, want the unity government to be a step on the road to removing Mugabe from the state altogether.
But the truth is that Mugabe and Tsvangirai are sharing the spoils and there has been no decisive victory of one over the other.
A conditional lifting of sanctions which insists on proper open democratic processes including free-and-fair elections could be just the thing that Zimbabwe needs to move forward right now.
It would be a mistake to allow Mugabe and his cronies free access to global banking facilities as this would free the way for more looting of the state coffers.
But such considerations should not stand in the way of efforts to shift Zimbabwe closer to democracy.
Instead the lifting of sanctions should not include the freedom of the Zimbabwean elite to move money around the world.
Zimbabwe has shown slow but steady progress and this ought to be recognised by the world.
To insist that sanctions remain as long as Mugabe is part of the unity government is to prevent Zimbabwe from moving forward.
SOUTH Africa has a very strong vested interest in a stable Zimbabwe. The pressure on our state resources is massive as a result of instability to the north.
How will that pressure be relieved? Jacob Zuma seems to think that the “political solution” offered by a unity government led by Robert Mugabe with Morgan Tsvangirai will bring stability to Zimbabwe.
But this is a short-term answer that does not deal with the twin mainsprings of the Zimbabwean problem – the absence of a serious strategy to return the economy to health and the people’s continuing lack of confidence in their government.
As I write this, there are farmers being driven off their farms by mobs. If you don’t believe me, read this account published in The Times this morning. It was written by this paper’s former deputy editor, Moses Mudzwiti, a man who is not easily driven to exaggeration.
It is clear that there is no progress being made towards sorting out Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector, without which there can be no progress on rebuilding the economy.
And without political participation – a free and fair election and a government which represesents the majority, there can be no political progress.
At the moment there is but farcical progress on these two fronts.
Yet, like his predecessor Thabo Mbeki, Zuma appears mesmerised by Robert Mugabe, now in his third decade of power. He wants Zimbabwe readmitted to the Commonwealth.
The effect of this would be to bestow legitimacy on what Mugabe is continuing to do to Zimbabwe.
For those of you who didn’t read the fine print this morning, President Thabo Mbeki has been quietly shafted once more by President Jacob Zuma, this time as mediator in the Zimabwean peace process.
Mbeki was mediator while president and this continued afterwards. But yesterday it came to a dramatic end with an announcement by Zuma that stated: “President Jacob Zuma has constituted a three-person Facilitation support team to work on the Zimbabwean process. The President’s political adviser Charles Nqakula leads the team, working with Special Envoy Mac Maharaj and international relations adviser Lindiwe Zulu.”
Mbeki was not among the three persons. AFP pressed Zuma’s spokesman, Vincent Magwenya for an explanation. He offered this: “Former president Thabo Mbeki’s role was in the context of him being the head of state.”
Well, not quite. Zuma very warmly announced that Mbeki would continue with mediation despite the fact that he was no longer president.
So it was a shafting. A long-overdue shafting, actually. Read More…
It is 100 days since Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister with Robert Mugabe remaining president. The idea was the power would be shared so that Zimbabwe’s serious economic and social problems could be solved.
There has been some progress. Some public servants are now being paid, albeit very poorly and teaching has resumed at schools.
But this progress takes place against the backdrop of an economy that continues its downward spiral as the world has failed to back up the power-sharing deal with serious capital. There have been reservations about where the funding would to, with the lingering suspicion that Mugabe and his cronies would use it as another source of patronage to prop up their political empire.
The consequences have been that Zimbabwe has now become the country that is most dependent on food aid in the world.
A report from the Red Cross quotes numbers from the World Food Programme to back this up.
Here is a quote from the Sapa story on this:
Zimbabwe is the most food aid dependent country in the world,
aid agencies said on Tuesday.
Also, nearly 55 percent of children who died of cholera in the
southern African country were malnourished.
This is according to a report released by the International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, quoting numbers
from the World Food Programme.
“Per capita, Zimbabwe is now the most food aid dependent country
in the world. The World Food Programme believes that seven million
people are in need of food assistance — somewhere between 65 and
80 percent of the population,” the report states.
“The UN believes that 54 percent of all children who have died
from cholera were malnourished, with 47 percent of the country’s
The food crisis was caused by several factors including
hyperinflation which disenfranchised many agriculture farmers, the
“Zimbabwe’s fields are sown with substandard seed, scavenged
often from granaries or from the side of the road. It is
extraordinarily unlikely that the 2009 harvest will significantly
surpass 2008 — the worst in the country’s history,” says the
But the world seems to be saying “who cares?”. Apparently it is now ethically cool to wash one’s hands of Zimbabwe because Tsvangirai’s snout is in the trough next to Mugabe’s.
PRESIDENT Thabo Mbeki was set to head out to Harare, Zimbabwe, today to try and salvage the talks between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai over the future of that country.
He does so following a dramatic turn of events in that country as the MDC won a vote for the position of Speaker and as opposition MPs jeered Mugabe as he delivered his opening of parliament speech.
Mbeki, already regarded with some suspicion by the MDC, goes to Zimbabwe with his legitimacy as a mediator at an all-time low.
This follows the decision by the recent SADC summit that the Zimbabwean parliament should be allowed to convene despite a memorandum of understanding between Mugabe and Tsvangirai in which it was agreed that such institutional action be suspended until a settlement was reached.
It seemed the decision was designed to pressure Tsvangirai into caving in because Mugabe had, at the time, cobbled together an alliance with an MDC splinter group that would give him a majority in the house.
This is largely academic now as it appears that the MDC splinter group has thrown its lot in with Tsvangirai.
But Mbeki will not easily be trusted again by the MDC.
Fortunately he has a ready opportunity to demonstrate his neutrality. Mugabe is now planning to tear up what remains of his agreement with the MDC by unilaterally forming a government.
This, coupled with the repeated detention of opposition MPs, suggests that he has decided to go it alone.
Mbeki must refrain from holding hands with Mugabe. He must refrain from grinning through garlands of flowers at Mugabe’s side. He must refrain from continuing the charade that Mugabe is a legitimate head of state.
He must stand up to Mugabe and deliver one simple message: Step aside, the game is over.
THE arrest of three opposition MDC MPs at Harare’s Parliament this afternoon represents yet another slap in the face for democracy by the ageing self-appointed president, Robert Mugabe.
Perhaps he was smarting from the roasting he took from opposition benches as he tried to make his way through his opening of parliament speech.
Unused to criticism, never mind open heckling and accusations that his party was “rotten”, Mugabe may be responded as he knows best – with repression.
Southern Africa must stand united against this petty tyrant. He must go now.
Zimbabwe’s self-appointed president, Robert Mugabe, is out in the cold. His final bid at for legitimacy – by getting parliament to endorse his presidency – has failed and the MDC of Morgan Tsvangirai has taken control of the legislature. If Mugabe’s isolation and steeply declining fortunes needed a symbolic moment, it occured this morning when, for the first time in 28 years, he endured heckling, booing and open aggression from the MDC’s benches as he tried to open Zimbabwe’s Parliament. This from Sapa:
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was heckled by the opposition on
Tuesday as he opened parliament and declared that “landmark agreements”
were expected to be signed by the country’s political rivals.
“Landmark agreements have been concluded with every expectation that
everybody will sign up,” Mugabe said to boos and jeers from the house.
While recognising ” regrettable and isolated” incidents of political
violence, Mugabe went on to say that “happily all political parties in
the country have acknowledged culpability in this violence” to further
“I acknowledge the inordinate delay in opening this session of
parliament, hoping you will appreciate the delay owed to a praiseworthy
search for peace and greater amity for our nation.”
Opposition MPs chanted “ZANU (PF) is rotten” with a number of senior
Movement for Democratic Change leaders present despite the party
earlier indicating it would boycott the opening over the lack of
progress in power-sharing negotiations.
The parliament was adjourned to October 14.
It will take a great and costly effort by President Thabo Mbeki to keep Mugabe in power, but even he won’t be able to pull it off.
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.
THE word “nutter” shouldn’t be used lightly. It suggests that a person has departed from reality and is now displaying delusional behaviour perhaps with comical consequences.
It can now be said with certainty that: “Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe is a nutter.”
The fact that he entered power-sharing talks without the intention of sharing power provides some evidence of nuttiness.
But the clincher is today’s action by his security forces. Apparently acting on a “list” of undesirables, they arrested Morgan Tsvangirai, the man Mugabe has been negotiating with all week at Harare airport.
Mugabe is a nutter if he believes that this will advance his argument that Zimbabwe should remain his personal fiefdom, regardless of what voters say.
He is a nutter if he thinks that his country will benefit from this sort of arbitrary act of might.
He is a nutter if he thinks he can come to South Africa this weekend for the SADC meetings acting like the head of state of a sovereign nation.
The people of this country know nutters when they see them. We have quite a few choice examples of our own.
We recently described Cosatu’s Zwelinzima Vavi as a Mampara in a front page article because of his bizarre call on government to VAT zero-rate foods that were already zero-rated. That was nuts.
But Vavi is absolutely right to call for action against Mugabe’s presence in this country.
It is an insult to the people of South Africa that a man who has brazenly stolen an election and left a country’s economy in ruins, should be treated as a legitimate head of state.
Mugabe is not welcome in this country now and he will not be welcome here even when he relinquishes power.
He cannot be rehabilitated. Period.
THIS is truly unbelievable: Morgan Tsvangirai has been arrested at Harare International airport. This after several days of negotiation with Robert Mugabe about a compromise dispensation for Zimbabwe. What this proves is that Mugabe is a seriously delinquent nutter who cannot be trusted to tie his own shoelaces without stabbing himself in the back. If you know what I mean. An extract from our story:
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been prevented from travelling to Johannesburg to attend a Southern African Development Community summit.
Tsvangirai’s spokesman George Sibotshiwe said the MDC president, party secretary-general Tendai Biti and international relations head Eliphas Mukonoweshuro were briefly detained at Harare International Airport and their travel documents were confiscated.
“The three were part of the MDC delegation that was going to South Africa for the SADC summit to be held this weekend,” Sibotshiwe said.
An MDC statement said the three were stopped by operatives of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) who said their names were “on the list.”
“They did not reveal what so-called list was about,” said the MDC.
Sibotshiwe said the Zimbabwean state’s action showed “that the regime is not sincere on the dialogue process.”
He said the action was an “affront to SADC, to the AU and to the broader international community who are working hard to peacefully resolve Zimbabwe’s crisis.”
Sibotshiwe said they had asked president Thabo Mbeki and SADC to intervene.
The MDC leaders are still at the airport waiting to hear if they will be allowed to leave for South Africa.