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Comment: An Exercise In Futility

THIS newspaper has consistently maintained a sceptical stance as to whether Sadc was the correct forum to resolve the vexed issue of ministries between Zanu PF and the MDC.

However, listening to “experts” reacting to the recent summit in South Africa which decided that the two parties should co-manage the Ministry of Home Affairs portfolio, we were left wondering who was being led down the garden path.
The wringing of hands about Sadc’s impotence sounds no more than a masochistic act; an over-expectation of the impossible. It not only does not have leverage to enforce its decisions but there is also no precedent anywhere else in the world where an external agency has decided the allocation of ministry portfolios for another country. Bearing this in mind, it is therefore an exercise in futility to take the same issue to the African Union or the United Nations.
Some commentators claimed Sadc was afraid to confront President Mugabe. In fact those who are most vocal when he is away like Ian Khama of Botswana did not attend the summit. In the event, the Sadc decision was that the two parties should co-manage the ministry.
To us that was a clumsy decision, but one that tells a different story from the preferred “megaphone diplomacy”. It is a story of a region which is fed up with the leadership circus in Zimbabwe. That is why less than five heads of state bothered to attend.
It is true, most of them are fed up with Mugabe. They are concerned about the effects of the economic collapse on their own economies. Indeed, most believe he is the chief culprit in this messy affair. If they had their way, they would be happy to see the back of him yesterday. But almost all of them seem to believe it is not good diplomacy to be shouting at the leader of a neighbouring country just because you don’t agree with him. More than that, beyond conjecture about the efficacy of such an approach, there is no evidence that such shouting has worked before.
On the other hand, the same leaders nurse their own grievances against the MDC and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Many of them have not forgotten how he refused to travel to Swaziland three weeks ago for the Sadc troika meeting where they were gathered to hear Tsvangirai’s side of the story. Most of the elder statesmen from the liberation movements are not amused by his cosiness with former colonial masters. As if to rub it in, we understand US ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee made a point of travelling to South Africa where he conferred with the MDC delegation.
We fully appreciate the MDC’s right to choose who it wants to befriend in the international community. What is however evident is that it is not making an effort to cultivate friends among its African neighbours except those who openly attack its political rival. Its regional diplomacy has been condescending to say the least. It has given itself the moral high ground to which it expects Sadc and the African Union to come and pay homage.
It has not hidden its contempt for Sadc decisions, from its choice of mediator in the talks to last week’s decision for the two parties to co-manage the Home Affairs ministry. Thus after accusing former South African president Thabo Mbeki of favouring Mugabe in the talks, it could not find a suitable replacement. It ignored the Sadc troika meeting and rejected the ruling of the full Sadc summit. It is highly unlikely that there will a different outcome from the African Union which would be honoured by Mugabe and Zanu PF. Equally, there won’t be anything useful from the UN because it has no mandate.
True to form, after his disappointment with the Sadc ruling, Tsvangirai lost no time in finding his way to France for “consultations” with the European Union. This is a direct affront to the same Africans nations the MDC expects to take its cause to the AU and the United Nations.
Don’t they say charity begins at home? We would have expected Tsvangirai to lobby regional countries before going overseas! Meanwhile, the party’s list of grievances keeps growing without any indication of what issues are of substance and which ones are bargaining chips. In fact, far from the MDC pressing its election promise of a lean cabinet of 15 ministries, it is competing with Zanu PF in finding jobs for the boys in every sphere of government, from permanent secretaries and parastatal heads to ambassadors.
We however note that the party is coming closer to home by pushing for Constitutional Amendment No 19 to give legal effect to the posts of prime minister and his deputies. It is here that we hope the debate will focus on substantive issues rather than politicking about cabinet portfolios while the nation burns. Both Zanu PF and the MDC are expected to show maturity and respect the House. More than that, they must show they respect those who elected them. The time to score points in the media as we have observed in the past few weeks is over.
What the same few weeks have demonstrated beyond doubt is lack of mutual respect and trust between the two parties. They are therefore unable to work effectively together. That is an issue which can be resolved through an election. It is therefore our hope that Amendment 19 will be seen in this light: as a temporary measure to allow the parties to deal with a new constitution and other issues listed as priorities for the new government in the Memorandum of Understanding signed in July.


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