Editor’s Memo: Dumisani Muleya
THIS sounds like an old story and an old narrative, yet it is not. Coming from a long leave and this being my second week at work this year, it feels like a fresh subject after all.
A reset is needed.
Well, it is the primary responsibility of Zimbabweans to fix their own country before anyone else. Indeed, one of the major weaknesses of the opposition forces in the country has been outsourcing the democratisation struggle.
Homegrown solutions are usually better and enduring, but no country exists in isolation. Even during liberation struggles in the region, other countries and organisations helped and made a huge difference.
So the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) needs to act and do so urgently on the current Zimbabwe situation to rescue suffering local people and indeed in its own interest.
A failed Zimbabwe is a burden to the region. For South Africa, Zimbabwe is now almost like a domestic policy issue due to millions of immigrants and deep economic interests involved. A stable and thriving Zimbabwe is good for Zimbabweans, the region and Africa. It is also good for international investors. Ultimately, it is certainly good for everyone, except for those who thrive on chaos.
That is why remarks by Germany’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Thorsten Hutter, in an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent this week, saying Sadc must intervene to restore democratic order and stability are timely and critical.
Hutter said the regional bloc should take an active role in salvaging the imploding economy and faltering national dialogue widely seen as the single most effective tool to breaking the current political impasse and rescuing the situation.
Dialogue has all but failed to take shape, mainly due to rigid postures by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and main opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, who have taken hardline stances over matters of principle and perhaps egos.
Chamisa says he won’t recognise Mnangagwa as a legitimate president after his disputed victory in the presidential election last year. On his part, Mnangagwa says he won and his legitimacy is thus non-negotiable. This has created a deadlock.
However, Hutter, like many out there, said there is currently no viable alternative to dialogue given the current environment and balance of forces.
Hutter’s call for Sadc intervention comes as Chamisa this week set out on a diplomatic offensive to drum up regional support for his cause. The bloc has, however, thrown its weight behind Mnangagwa’s administration.
The ambassador’s remarks also come at a time Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi has been in the country for economic and trade talks. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is also coming to Harare soon.
These leaders must be providing regional direction on Zimbabwe. However, they are not.
Instead, Sadc chairman, President Hage Geingob of Namibia recently issued a statement supporting Mnangagwa’s government in the aftermath of violent protests and a bloody military crackdown which resulted in killings, injuries and rape rampages.
Geingob blamed “some internal groups, in particular NGOs, supported by external forces” for allegedly destabilising the country.
While Sadc expressed its support for the Mnangagwa regime and blamed saboteurs for the chaos, it said nothing about the brutality and killings of defenceless people by state security forces.
This was as insensitive as it was shocking. That showed Sadc is either unable or unwilling, or both, to uphold its own treaty and principles. This makes a bad story for an organisation which would like to claim democratic enlightenment and civilised leadership.
Further, Sadc claims that government is fixing the economy are entirely ridiculous.
Regional leaders must understand they are damaging their own reputations and economic prospects of the region — if they care at all — by aligning themselves to a rogue and incompetent regime, while condoning impunity.
The international community won’t support Harare unless there are new ideas, policies and reforms. Sanctions, as bad as they are, won’t go away and that means renewed isolation and failure.