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Is Sadc too conflicted to handle the Zimbabwe crisis?

17 Aug 2020 at 07:25hrs | Views
ZIMBABwE is back in the limelight for the same wrong reasons. Corruption, abuse of power and human rights violations form the core of the allegations. The Harare authorities have insisted "there is no crisis".

The same script since 2000 is replaying itself. Denialism, arrogance and utter lack of care are not helping the county. The persistent hard-handedness by the leadership surely has and will not wish away the crisis.

Zimbabweans have exhausted available local options and are reaching out to Sadc, among others, for help. Sadc has remained aloof.

The Southern African Development Co-ordinating Conference (Sadcc), the precursor of the current Sadc was established in April 1980 to promote development, peace and security, and economic growth, to alleviate poverty and enhance the standard and quality of life of the peoples of Southern Africa.

It also seeks to support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration, built on democratic principles and equitable and sustainable development. Based on this mandate, calls for Sadc to intervene in Zimbabwe are therefore not misplaced.

Zimbabweans have marvelled at how Economic Community of west African States (Ecowas) handled political crises in that region. They can only dream of a Sadc that will one day save them from repression. On paper, Sadc has bears the mandate to do so but are they politically conflicted or captured to execute that mandate in Zimbabwe? The way the South African envoy was turned away empty-handed raises more questions than answers and somewhat challenges Sadc's relevance in dealing with political crises, mainly in Zimbabwe.

Historically, most if not all Sadc interventions in Harare have left the ruling party in a stronger position. They stood by the ruling party when the chaotic land reform ripped the economy apart. Even as they host millions of Zimbabwean refugees thereafter, they are still unable to call out Harare. They stood by the ruling party during the government of national unity negotiations from 2008 to 2009.

They gave greenlight to the 2013 elections even when their own reforms, a pre-condition for the polls, were not met. They have endorsed all sham elections since 2000. The list is long and the impression arising from these is that Sadc decisions have always favoured the ruling party over the people of Zimbabwe.

The million dollar questions are why is this happening? why can't Sadc behave the same way as Ecowas? why does it appear to align itself with ruling parties than the people? Perhaps, the answer lies addressing these questions. And of course, in the absence of clarity from the regional block, one can only guess.

Most ruling parties in the region have maintained stronger relations dating back to the liberation wars. They have kept the comradeship intact into the postindependence era which could be the reason Zanu PF is more comfortable when external intervention comes via representatives from ruling parties of its neighbours.

It is also may be that, realizing that its domestic support base was dwindling since 2000, the ruling party might have entangled some of the high profile ruling party politicians in neighbouring countries into economic investments in Harare. This simply means, they cannot longer afford to see the ruling party out of power as they fear to incur real economic losses. One can only guess.

Of all the Sadc member states, only Botswana has publicly called Harare to order with the rest preferring to be evasive or quiet diplomacy. South Africa, a host to millions of Zimbabwe economic and political refugees, continues to prefer quiet diplomacy even as the spillovers of Harare's mischief are denting their national budget. Unconfirmed reports suggest that some senior South African politicians' investment in Zimbabwe are linked to the ruling party's continued stay in power.

In a statement on August 6, 2020, the Namibian government, through its Ministry of International Relations and Co-operation refused to condemn human rights violations in Harare arguing that it is the role of the Sadc organ responsible for human rights.

The ruling South west Africa People's Organisation (Swapo) has strong ties with Zanu PF. Minister Oppah Muchinguri led a Sadc observer mission during the 2019 elections in Namibia won by President Hage Geingob by 56% of the vote.

The ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) is one of Zanu PF's closest political allies. Mozambique hosted Zimbabwe's liberation struggle. Since the 1980s, Mozambique has relied on Zimbabwe for military support against insurgency, mainly the Mozambican National Resistance.

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Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.

Source - newsday
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