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: tendaiandtinta.mbofana@gmail.