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Opinion / Columnist

SADC must do to Mugabe what ECOWAS did to Yahya Jammeh

16 Jul 2017 at 14:47hrs | Views
In a haze of nostalgia, social media was awash with people saying that it was a grave mistake that the electorate let go of a thorough politician like Thabo Mbeki only to be governed by the incumbent President Jacob Zuma. One could not ignore the cordiality between former president Mbeki and Julius Malema as he referred to him as "Juju", a development that local political analysts will dwell on with suspicion.

As an alarmist analyst, the appearance of former president Mbeki roiled  in me feelings of forlorn about the 2008 Zimbabwean political debacle when an election was stolen from Morgan Tsavingirai and Zimbabweans were robbed of a much needed regime change. Former president Mbeki was at the helm of the negotiations that saw Mugabe being legitimized as a winner contrary to election results.  Zimbabwe is going to the polls again in 2018 in what promises to be a theatrical and determinative election.

The SADC regional intervention will be needed but will we see the Mbeki type of quiet diplomacy or the robust ECOWAS intervention that saw Yahya Jammeh defeated? It is time for SADC to do for Zimbabwe what ECOWAS did for the Gambia!

The Zimbabwean polity has come unhinged. The absence of war in Zimbabwe is by no means an indicator that there is peace in the teapot nation of Zimbabwe. The economy is comatose, the incumbent ZANU-PF policies have monumentally failed and in seeking regime change, elections have proved to be an unavailable option to vanquish ZANU-PF.  Politics of repression have dominated the modus operandi in Zimbabwean plebiscites. The security forces in Zimbabwe have become heavily politicized as they are unleashed at the slightest appearance of opposition activity. With the monopoly in violence, ZANU-PF has managed to poison the confidence of the Zimbabwean masses.

The same violence that was allowed to rein in the years 1999, 2000 and 2008 promises to hold sway in 2018 as ZANU-PF tries to survive another possible defeat.  The possibility of repression presents the need for SADC to intervene in Zimbabwe where a resolution has been long overdue.

Leaders like Mbeki are of the conviction that the Zimbabwean problems need a coherent Zimbabwean solution by Zimbabweans themselves. While there is an element of reason in that assertion, Zimbabweans alone cannot unseat a dictatorial political unit that has spread its influence in every organ of the state in Zimbabwe. In addition to the aforementioned repression, ZANU-PF is notorious for its electoral gerrymandering.

In past elections, controversy has surrounded the voter's roll with ghost voters appearing on the roll assisted by the Registrar General. Repression coupled with gerrymandering will rob the Zimbabwean elections of the free and fair flare if controls are not put in place.

The African Union (AU) has been termed toothless and futile as conflicts continue to gnaw at the heart of Africa. In similar vogue, the SADC has been ineffective in its interventions.  SADC seems to lack resolution when it comes to confronting dictators and protecting human rights in the region.

Botswana president Ian Khama and the late Zambian statesman Dr Levy Mwanawasa were very vocal about how the SADC was handling the Zimbabwean situation with kiddy gloves. Khama and Mwanawasa did not hide their indignation with the SADC envoy Thabo Mbeki being partisan and supporting ZANU-PF. The current SADC needs the candour of Khama and Mwanawasa if it is to do away with its reputation of being unworkable and biased.

In 2016, the whole continent looked at the Gambia with marvel as ECOWAS intervened fearlessly and allowed a democratic dispensation. Jammeh used every trick in the despotic book to steal the election from Adama Barrow but ECOWAS steely stood with the Gambian masses and their presidential choice. Senegal supported with garrisons at the Senegal-Gambia border ready to advance and fight the Gambian army which was being used by Jammeh as a shield. ECOWAS did not pursue quiet diplomacy against a dictator; they were direct and upright in their approach- a principle that the SADC must emulate in the Zimbabwean quagmire.

Libya is quintessential of an intervention gone wrong when Colonel Muamar Gadaffi was deposed. A civil war broke out in the oil rich state and the intervention was regretted from many diplomatic angles. The Libyan example is used by SADC to justify the quiet diplomacy that has been pursued in Zimbabwe. That stance is predictively wrong because civil war is the thin veneer that has covered the SADC cowardice and prejudice.

The intervention in Gambia was not a bloody one and yet the SADC refuses that same approach to intervene in Zimbabwe. It is irrefutable that resolution is needed in Zimbabwe. SADC must be the refuge that oppressed masses find protection, not an accomplice to human rights violations.

Instability in Zimbabwe is instability to the whole SADC region. Zimbabwean immigrants fleeing poverty have become unwanted by regional neighbors. If a stop is to be put to the glut of Zimbabwean immigrants, decisive confrontation must be made in Zimbabwe. It cannot be that a country pregnant with potential like Zimbabwe be a perpetual failed state while its neighbors watch obliviously. The Frontline states were pivotal in defeating apartheid in South Africa.

The same collaboration and unity is needed to bring peace in Zimbabwe. Kwame Nkrumah in 1957 announced that the independence of Ghana was meaningless without the total independence of Africa -SADC as a bloc will never enjoy prosperity if Zimbabwean politics are not rearranged.

So it goes.

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