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Mnangagwa could potentially thwart Sadc emergency summit on Zimbabwe lobby efforts

by Staff reporter
11 Sep 2023 at 21:34hrs | Views
Despite Zimbabwean authorities' strong criticism of Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema and the SADC Election Observer Mission, led by Nevers Mumba, for their rejection of Zimbabwe's recent election results, a secret regional lobby is actively working to convene an extraordinary summit to address the Zimbabwe situation.

Reports suggest that Lusaka has been reaching out to certain SADC countries to urge them to call for this emergency meeting. Zimbabwe's recent elections have drawn widespread criticism, dividing not only the country but also the broader international community.

Zimbabwe, situated at the heart of the region, has become a destabilizing factor. President Hichilema, currently on a state visit to China, chairs the SADC Troika on Politics, Defence, and Security Cooperation. He entrusted Nevers Mumba with leading the SADC election observer mission to Zimbabwe.

Mumba's team unequivocally stated that Zimbabwe's elections did not meet the standards set by the country's constitution, Electoral Act, and SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. This bold stance led to an intense backlash from Harare officials, backed by their Zambian allies, supporters, and apologists, who resorted to name-calling rather than addressing the substance of the report.

Mumba has staunchly defended his team, emphasizing that the report belongs to SADC and not to any individual, as the Harare authorities claim. If Zimbabwe wishes to respond to the report, it must follow the protocol through SADC's headquarters in Gaborone, Botswana.

The lobby's argument is that Zimbabwe has once again failed to hold free, fair, and credible elections. This ongoing pattern of disputed polls could exacerbate economic recovery challenges and destabilize the region. The elections exposed widespread irregularities, illegalities, and a disregard for the law and international best practices, as measured against Zimbabwe's own constitution, electoral law, and SADC principles for democratic elections.

SADC member states are under pressure to take effective action to address one of the region's most protracted crises, Zimbabwe. The organization's credibility as a driver of democratic change and progress is at stake, compelling its leaders to demand proper elections and a resolution to the Zimbabwe question, especially with upcoming SADC elections in Eswatini, Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Botswana.

To convene the emergency meeting, President Hichilema must secure the support of the SADC summit troika, which includes chairperson Angolan President João Lourenço, incoming chair Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and outgoing chair DRC President Felix Tshisekedi. President Lourenço was elected as the chair during the recent SADC summit in Luanda on August 17, with President Mnangagwa set to take over the chairmanship.

However, the success of this endeavor hinges on Hichilema gaining the support of his own troika on Politics, Defence, and Security Cooperation, which includes Tanzania and Namibia. Once this core group is aligned, the next challenge is to convince South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has previously supported Mnangagwa but has his own initiatives behind the scenes.

Mnangagwa, as the incoming SADC chair, holds significant influence and could potentially thwart the lobby's efforts. This possibility was hinted at by George Charamba, Mnangagwa's spokesperson.

Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi, whose country hosts SADC's headquarters, is also perceived as pro-Mnangagwa. Notably, only three SADC leaders attended Mnangagwa's inauguration despite several congratulating him on his disputed victory.

This suggests that Mnangagwa, who faces a legitimacy challenge, lacks strong support across the region. Unlike the late former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, who commanded respect and unity within SADC, Mnangagwa faces a more complex regional landscape.

The Information, Publicity, and Broadcasting Services ministry's permanent secretary, Nick Mangwana, confirmed the lobby for an extraordinary summit but blamed a "treacherous" SADC member state for pushing this agenda on behalf of powerful nations.

While the recent SADC mission's acknowledgment of structural and systemic challenges in Zimbabwe represents a departure from the past, it remains uncertain whether SADC leaders have the political will, courage, and capacity to take further action.

The South Africa Institute of Security Studies suggests that SADC leaders may not have the resolve to address the Zimbabwe situation effectively. They argue that SADC's collective management style, grounded in stability rather than confrontation, may prevent it from taking strong action. Additionally, not all member states may be comfortable with the SADC election observer mission's findings, potentially hindering a united response.

Zimbabwe has long been a troubling issue within the region, with previous efforts to mediate and establish a Government of National Unity in 2009. The question remains whether SADC will muster the political consensus and determination to address the ongoing challenges in Zimbabwe.

Source - online
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