If there is one single conspicuous thing that seriously worries me about SADC (Southern Africa Development Community), more than anything else – it is the apparently fake, insincere, and totally stage-managed nature of the relationship between its countries’ leaders.
Never in all my forty-seven years of existence have I encountered such a grouping, of supposedly ‘comrades’ and ‘brothers and sisters’, which is based on pure deception and fallacy.
As much as I am an only child to my mother and father, but I surely know what it means to be in a family – as I have the most wonderful, supportive, and caring group of cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, in-laws, friends, and of course, my dearest mother, wife and son – who have taught me, over the years, what it truly means to be ‘comrades’ and ‘brothers and sisters’.
The most outstanding lesson that I have learnt from all these great men, women, boys, and girls is that, “those who genuinely love you, will never hesitate to warn you, should you be taking a wrong, and even dangerous, path in life” – in fact, the cardinal rule has been, “those who love you the most, are the ones who readily rebuke you, and correct you, the most – since they want you to succeed and do well – but, those who hate you, and relish the chance to see you fall and fail, will condone and applaud your wrong ways, whilst busy laughing at you behind your back”.
Obviously, there will always be those who criticize and demonize you, just so as to destroy your reputation, and possibly destroy you – but, wisdom and discernment is the key in differentiating the two.
Such is the profound lessons of life, that I wish most us would cherish.
Back to our beloved SADC, and the relationship between its countries’ leaders. Does it not seem a little odd – actually, downright problematic – that these people, who claim to be one united family of ‘comrades’ and ‘brothers and sisters’ never rebuke or correct each other, whenever they embark on a wrong, or even clearly dangerous path?
When was the last time – or, most precisely, when did anyone hear this regional grouping ever chastise a fellow member country’s leaders when they had, for instance, violated the organization’s own charters, protocols, and guidelines, especially on democracy, human and people’s rights, and elections – let along those of the continental AU (African Union), or UN (United Nations)?
Most certainly, the answer is, “Never”.
Are we, then, to assume that this is somehow a grouping of the most righteous, perfect, and holy leaders on the face of the planet – because, quite frankly, we have witnessed members of other regional bodies, such as ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), the EU (European Union), openly condemning, and even taking bold decisive action, against a fellow ‘comrade’ and ‘brother and sister’, who would have transgressed against their statutes, principles, and values?
As a matter of fact, when then Gambia president Yahya Jammeh refused to step down after losing a December 2016 election, ECOWAS resolved to deploy its military to intervene on 19 January 2017, should he stubbornly continue to hold on to power. Fortunately, he soon saw the light, and fled the country.
Would anyone imagine something, even remotely, similar ever occuring in our own southern African community?
In this part of the world, a government can freely brutally butcher its own innocent defenceless citizens – whose only ‘crime’ would have been to cry out to their leaders that they were hungry, or calling them out for their shameless corruption, that would have bankrupted the nation – whilst, the regional body merely watches on, pretending to be doing something about it, without actually doing anything about it.
Most recently – definitely, not for the first time – Zimbabweans have been at the receiving end of their own leaders’ barbaric socio-legal atrocious ‘justice’ – that has been characterized by disproportional attacks on civilians accused of violating COVID-19 lockdowns and curfews (which have already witnessed the deaths of several people); reports of abductions, beatings up, torture, sexual abuses, and arrests on spurious charges of journalists at the forefront of exposing corruption at the very highest echelons of power, lawyers, and human rights, labour, and political activists.
Yet, listening to today’s (17 August 2020) speeches by regional leaders, during the virtual SADC 40th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government, one would be excused for assuming that this was a bunch of amorous teenagers courting each other – as, all that I could hear were meaningless statements, filled with distasteful praises for one another, with scant regard for the relentless and uncalled for sadistic savagery being subjected upon the ordinary people of Zimbabwe.
Most certainly, some would argue that these countries respect so-called ‘protocols’ and ”diplomacy’, and would never engage in ‘megaphone diplomacy’ – meaning that they would never reproach one another in the full glare of the world.
I am sorry, but as far as I am concerned, this is a whole lot of bull! When had the so-called ‘quiet diplomacy’ ever work? When Zimbabweans cried out to the regional group in the early 2000s, when then president Robert Gabriel Mugabe was busy hunting down, and persecuting perceived ‘enemies’ – in other words, opposition supporters – how did this ‘quiet diplomacy’, particularly practised by then South Africa president Thabo Mbeki help us?
Did we not disturbingly witness the horror of hundreds of innocent opposition supporters being butchered between April and June 2008, after Mugabe had lost elections to Morgan Richard Tsvangirai – whilst, Mbeki, with his ‘quiet diplomacy’, deceptively and deviously declared that ‘there was no crisis in Zimbabwe’?
As mentioned before, we are all part of a family, and my own experience of a loving family has been that, whenever I did something untoward, or even absolutely appalling, they would never hesitate to earnestly reprimand me – as this would be a sure show of unquestionable love, and a sincere desire to see me move on the right path in life, and be a better person.
Furthermore, a family that would look aside, whilst their own ‘comrade’ and ‘brother or sister’ damnably brutalizes his own wife and children – either, physically, economically, or emotionally – not only hates his wife and children, but also actually hates their own kith and kin.
Why do I say so? Well, the answer is obvious pertaining the wife and children, as not coming to their defence in the face of such heinous injustices, clearly means that the family does not care what happens to them – however, not rebuking their own, shows that they do not care whatever consequences he may face later, as he may end up in jail, or even maimed or killed by his abused and aggrieved wife, who would have had enough, and can not think of any other way out.
As nations, we have similarly witnessed how most tyrants ended. Who can forget the vicious angry beating up and killing of Libya’s once untouchable strongman Muammar Gaddafi, by his own countrymen and women, on 20 October 2011 – with the subsequent long queues of those wishing to view his dead body, just to be sure that the man who had held them captive in their own motherland, was truly finally dead?
Or, the traumatizing live television broadcast of the hanging of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, on 30 December 2006 – who had considered his fellow compatriots as his own slaves and property? Or, the shooting by firing squad in a stadium packed with relieved citizens, of Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu on 25 December 1989?
Closer to home, Zimbabweans still have very fresh memories of Mugabe’s most humiliating resignation on 21 November 2017 – after his own right-hand men, and once trusted military (that had mercilessly helped him stay in power, and even accused of being part of the 2008 massacres of opposition supporters), turned against him and toppled him in a coup d’etat.
The story is always the same, and is crystal clear for all who are willing to see – reign of terror never ends well – in fact, any evil never ends well…even though, at some time, the evildoer would have thought him or herself invincible, and on top of the world.
Would that not be very good and worthy advice for any genuinely loving family members to give to their own ‘comrades’ or ‘brothers and sisters’, should they embark on a clearly wrong and dangerous path – as opposed to simply watching, or even defending, someone clearly headed for disaster?
Or, possibly, the family members do not actually love their own, and would relish witnessing their inevitable downfall…
…food for thought!
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263733399640 / +263715667700, or Calls Only: +263782283975, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.