South Africa’s naïvety towards Zimbabwean crisis worrisome

Recent comments by South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, to the effect that her government would not intervene in the Zimbabwean crisis, as the people of that country could sort out their own problems through the 2018 elections, exhibits the most worrisome height of naïvety and disingenuity, not to be expected of a regional power, as it is a very serious abrogation of its responsibility.

Source: South Africa’s naïvety towards Zimbabwean crisis worrisome – The Zimbabwean 24.08.2016

To make matters worse, this is a government led by Jacob Zuma, who, in 2008 – when he was still a rival to then President Thabo Mbeki – was very critical of the SA government’s latency towards the brewing crisis in the country after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (ZEC) delay in releasing Presidential Election results – in which the Movement for Democratic Change’s (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai had beaten ZANU PF’s Robert Mugabe.

At that time, Zuma said, “Zimbabwe is something we need to take very serious note of.

“I think we should urge and plead with our brothers and sisters to resolve the problem so that Zimbabwe will not be plunged into a more serious crisis.”

This was clearly a sage Zuma who wanted to take a proactive approach to the Zimbabwe crisis, as he could clearly see that, if not addressed promptly, could lead to a catastrophe.

And he was right.

This was in stack contrast to Mbeki, who had taken a more lacklustre approach, claiming that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe, and that the prevailing situation was ‘manageable’, despite concerted calls by Zimbabweans for him to intervene.

And he was proven wrong, as only a few months after his April 2008 declaration, the ZANU PF regime unleashed its most violent and brutal campaigns – since Gukurahundi in the 1980s – in the run up to the June Presidential elections run-off.

This brutality led to Tsvangirai’s withdrawal from the race, and subsequently, a one-man run-off election.

This led to a more serious crisis – as Zuma had rightly predicted – in which Mbeki was now very actively involved, leading to the formation of a shaky Government of National Unity.

So the question to both Zuma and Nkoana-Mashabane is: as this crisis has happened before in Zimbabwe, and SA responded in the same passive manner that you are responding today, have you not learnt anything from the previous blunders made by Mbeki?

Furthermore, what happened to the Zuma of 2008, who was proactive, and visionary, or is it the ‘curse of presidency’ that blinds you from taking decisive and firm action against a fellow president?

Nothing has changed from the 2000 to 2008 era in Zimbabwe, so why would SA believe that employing a lethargic tactic that clearly previously failed will yield a different result this time around?

I think there is a philosophy that describes what an approach like that signifies.

Nkoana-Mashabane, in her recent comments on Zimbabwe, said that SA would only intervene when asked.

Asked by who, because the people of Zimbabwe are asking SA to intervene and help them.

So, who else is she expecting to ask for her county’s intervention than Zimbabweans themselves?

Obviously, the one benefitting from the crisis in Zimbabwe – namely, the ZANU PF government – will never ask for any regional intervention, as that will work against them.

It is the oppressed, brutalised and suffering people of Zimbabwe that have every right to call upon regional powers to intervene – and it is the responsibility of such powers to do so.

Nkoana -Mashabane further said that the other reason SA could not intervene was that Mugabe was democratically elected in 2013.

Without wasting time on debating whether he was truly democratically elected or not, what further baffles the mind is, what exactly does she think the people of Zimbabwe are asking SA to do?

Zimbabweans are clearly not asking SA to unconstitutionally remove the ZANU PF government.

The suffering people of Zimbabwe are merely requesting SA to use its leverage on the Zimbabwe government to respect and uphold its own Constitution.

All Zimbabweans expect from SA is what Zuma said in 2008, before he became president: ‘I think we should urge and plead with our brothers and sisters to resolve the problem so that Zimbabwe will not be plunged into a more serious crisis’.

The people of Zimbabwe expect SA to ‘urge and plead’ with their brothers and sisters to resolve this crisis.

How can the SA government remain quiet when the Zimbabwe economy is in a free-fall, as more and more Zimbabweans are trapped in desperation and hopelessness?

How can they wait to be invited by the same Zimbabwean government that is brutalising peaceful protestors, who are merely crying out for help?

The SA government should also be aware that Zimbabwe’s electoral laws and political landscape have not changed much since 2008, and as such, folding their arms, whilst expecting the problem to just vanish when Zimbabweans go to the polls in 2018, is gravely disingenuous.

On Friday, 26th August 2016, a coalition of opposition parties will be holding a mega peaceful protest against the current flawed electoral and political landscape, which should tell the SA government something – that if the current situation prevails till the 2018 General Elections, the results will be disputed, leading to a repeat of 2008.

In fact, unlike in 2008, the people of Zimbabwe have had enough, and can not take the ZANU PF government’s abuses anymore – and if SA does not intervene today, it might be too late.

Unlike in the 2000s, whereby the people of Zimbabwe suffered at the hands of the ZANU PF government in silence, this time they are vocal and active.

As such, it is clear that with each passing day of suffering, they are becoming more and more restless, and if nothing is done to remedy their situation, a more serious crisis could be witnessed.

Quite frankly, no one knows just how patient the people of Zimbabwe will continue to be – as Nelson Mandela once said – ‘against a government whose only reply is savage attacks on an unarmed and defenceless people’.

Therefore, it is incumbent for the SA government, as a regional power, to take up its responsibility with the seriousness it deserves, as its current apathetic approach is dangerously flawed.

The region is headed for another – if not worse – scenario should the Zimbabwean crisis not be addressed as a matter of urgency.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist and commentator, writer, and journalist. He writes in his personal capacity, and welcomes any feedback. Please feel free to WhatsApp/call: +263782283975, or email: Follow on Twitter: @Tendai_Mbofana


  • comment-avatar

    SA has paid in local govt elections. Problems north of the Limpopo exacerbate those in the south of the Limpopo. ANC can do better when Zimbabweans stop depending on SA. Among issues ANC needs to tackle is the rule of law in Zimbabwe. Things like transparent elections will go a long way in addressing ANC decline. Dump the rogue regime and survive. Do that now or DA will fly over your heads and liberate Zimbabwe for all. The SA jobs and infrastructure is clogged by Zimbabwean refugees posing as expatriates. Wake up ANC.

  • comment-avatar
    Joe Cool 6 years ago

    The usual Zimbabwean cry – somebody else feed us, somebody else heal us, somebody else liberate us.

    South Africa has absolutely no “responsibility” whatever towards Zimbabwe. Anything it chooses to do will be in its own interests, just as it has been in its interests to watch Zimbabwe decline. What sensible developing country wants a dangerous competitor for a neighbour? We were a serious economic threat to RSA until Bob got into top gear and screwed the country into the ground. RSA has played its cards very well.

  • comment-avatar
    Munya 6 years ago

    Looking at the Zimbabwean problem through socio-economic eyes one can see (not understand) why South Africa and let alone UK cannot interfere fully in helping us deal with “our” problem. The above mentioned countries benefit economically in our misdemeanours. The moment the Zimbabwean situation improves UK and SA lose the cheap labour and the professional expertise they are benefiting from Zimbabwean political refugees in those respective countries. Zimbabweans shouldn’t be fooled that we have anyone on our side. This problem is ours to deal with and we should smell the coffee and get on with it ourselves. To prove this one can look at the role that was taken by Mbeki when MDC had won the 2008 electins. On another note if people in UK and in SA want to remember very well that is the time most Zimbabweans in SA and UK were granted long term asylum status. This was in fear by the respective governments that if Tsvangirai had won again, the influx of Zimbabweans going back home was a mere catastrophe to their economeis. My message to my fellow Zimbabweans is that there are people benefiting from our misdemeanours and the only saviour we have is in ourselves. For the fete of SA let’s wait and see as history teaches us that we will see them coming very soon for help from us.

    • comment-avatar
      Joe Cool 6 years ago

      Unbelievable – the world economy will collapse if Zimbabweans return home? I think we have seen what Zimbabwean “professional expertise” is worth over the past 36 years – absolutely nothing. This post by Munya reflects the kind of thinking that keeps Mugabe and his buddies grinning at the world instead of cringing in shame.

      • comment-avatar
        Munya 6 years ago

        Maybe you failed to get me “Cool Joe”, I have been observing how SA and UK get involved indirectly in our business especially in the times when we are nearly getting somewhere. As of current Peter Mendelson is working with the regime to bail them out of the IMF debt whilst SA is actually blaming our protest as involvement of third forces instead of understanding our disgruntlement. I don’t deny that there is a part of UK who want to see the back of Robert Mugabe and his regime but Mr Mendelson and his cohort are not doing us a favour by medling in our business. I found it sarcastic to doubt the professional richness of Zimbabweans in diaspora and how our country is missing out. I am a professional Zimbabwean in diaspora and my expertise can benefit my country only if the political and economical environment changes for the better. I want to believe that there is a million of us out there who are highly qualified to build our country back. For 36 years professional Zimbabweans did not fail to develop Zimbabwe but the regime failed to promote programmes that utilise the talent Zimbabwe had. Before I become a Construction professional I was a health care professional and in both roles I hold a degree. Above all in all my professional involvement I met fellow Zimbabweans who are highly qualified in the same professions. My conclusion of the matter as I am not here to be sarcastic or insulting I think there shouldn’t be an organisation or country that bails out the Zanu PF so that they taste the fruits of their corruption.

        • comment-avatar
          Joe Cool 6 years ago

          Munya, the state of the country speaks eloquently for itself, and it has arrived here entirely through the efforts of Zimbabweans themselves, never mind trying to differentiate between one Zimbabwean and another and ‘regimes’.

          The only thing wrong with Mendelson working with the ‘regime’ is that he is a hypocrite and attempts to disguise his motive – profit.

          You, on the other hand, want someone else to ‘liberate’the country from the ‘regime’ after which you will return to reap the rewards of someone else’s efforts. Sounds a bit ‘Zimbabwean’, doesn’t it?

  • comment-avatar

    @joe cool …….He means all the coffee shops will close … ALL of them employ only ZIM graduates…..LOL….as a boer without his coffee is a dangerous beast after all…

    • comment-avatar
      Munya 6 years ago

      J, it is your thinking that every Zimbabwean works in a coffee shop. If that is the job that you are doing we glorify God. Whatever the job you are doing do it with all your mighty and one day it will be needed in the new Zimbabwe. Those coffee shops are sustaining the SA as well as the UK economy hence we need those expertise in the new Zimbabwe.

  • comment-avatar

    @Munya……Tomorrow the 26th 1000’S OF ZIMBABWEANS will be again on the streets getting their heads bashed in by the cops…….WHERE ARE YOU IN THE STRUGGLE????????……one day in the future you will be able to write a book on how tough it was for YOU IN THE STRUGGLE…..ENJOY YOUR COFFEE……

  • comment-avatar
    Tsotsi 6 years ago

    Zimbabwean Shona men are cowards.

  • comment-avatar
    #drive zim 6 years ago

    #drive zim guys wherever u ar just do something to be part of the struggle