THE Zimbabwean opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was right to refuse the compromise plan devised by the leaders of the 15-nation South African Development Community (SADC) at their emergency summit in Johannesburg. In a position remarkably similar to that of the Palestinian leadership vis-à-vis the Israelis, the MDC has made compromise after compromise in pursuit of a solution to the crisis since being robbed of its rightful election victory by Robert Mugabe. There comes a point where a line has to be drawn. In truth, the SADC’s supposed plan to share power at the Interior Ministry, with two ministers, one answerable to Mugabe and the other to the MDC, was no compromise at all. Control over the police would have remained with Mugabe who has thrown spanner after spanner into the works in an effort to ensure that he does not have to surrender one iota of real power.
Ever since Zimbabwe’s presidential elections in March, there has been the nagging suspicion that SADC’s sympathies are with Mugabe. It did not protest when he stole the election. On the contrary, it called on the MDC to accept the unacceptable and share power with him; the MDC, in the interests of a peaceful transition, agreed to do so. Then when Mugabe unilaterally appointed his own ZANU-PF supporters to all the key ministries, SADC again called on the MDC to compromise; again it did so. Now, rather than stand up to Mugabe, it again wants to reward him and humiliate the MDC. Mugabe’s next move is quite obvious if SADC has its way: He would insist that the ZANU-PF part of the ministry include the police, leaving an MDC interior minister to deal with inconsequential issues such as issuing visas or ensuring that prisons are provided with food. Mugabe’s tactic is simple. He hopes to saddle the MDC with responsibility for finding the solution for the country’s horrendous economic crisis which is entirely of his making while ensuring he retains real power. SADC is effectively complicit in this plan.
If its craven support for Mugabe is shocking, even more so are the comments by its executive secretary, Tomaz Salomao. His “take it or leave it” ultimatum — that “SADC was asked to rule and SADC took a decision and that’s the position of SADC” — is a slap in the face for democracy. But then what else is to be expected from the man who had the gall to call the Zimbabwe elections “free and fair” and threatened to pull SADC out of the EU-Africa summit a year ago if Zimbabwe was on the agenda? What confidence can there be in a body that so spurns the democratic victor and sides with tyranny and reaction? SADC says that it also wants to help bring peace to the Democratic Republic of Congo. If it fails to stand up for justice so abysmally in Zimbabwe, what chance is there of it bringing justice to the DRC? But it is not SADC that is primarily in the dock of international public opinion. It is South Africa. The new South African government could have taken a tough line with Mugabe and forced the issue. It has chosen to side with him. Is it because of his past as a freedom fighter against colonial rule or because of his neo-Marxist political views that it supposedly shares? Probably both. But in doing so, it proclaims a deep antipathy to democracy and precious little concern for the desperate plight of Zimbabwe’s people. That does not augur well for the political future of South Africa.