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Zuma refuses to be cowed by Mugabe

Zimbabweans who had looked up to the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to stop Mugabe were quick to lose confidence in the regional body, often dismissing it as a “toothless bulldog.”


In 2008, the veteran ruler is suspected to have lost the election against Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai but he refused to go  and the best Sadc could do was to negotiate a power sharing agreement.


Even Zanu PF started to believe that everyone in the region was in Mugabe’s pocket until the rude awakening at the March 31 Sadc troika meeting in Livingstone, Zambia.


Mugabe described the mini-summit, where for the first time he was told to his face that the region could no longer tolerate his antics, as a bombshell.


But Zanu PF still remained optimistic ahead of the full Sadc summit in Sandton, South Africa last weekend with its spin doctors predicting that the mediator in the Zimbabwe talks President Jacob Zuma would be forced to tone down his hardline stance.


The Zanu PF elements claimed Zuma had been misled by the MDC-T to toughen his stance against Mugabe. However, the outcome of the Sandton summit indicated that the rules of the game have changed.


The regional leaders stuck to what was agreed on in Livingstone and leaned on Mugabe to fulfill commitments he made in the Global Political Agreement.


Parties were also urged to fully participate in the crafting of a roadmap to free and fair elections.


Analysts believe the appointment of Zuma as the mediator in 2009 has made the difference.


Zuma took over from his predecessor Thabo Mbeki, who was seen as too soft on Mugabe.


“Mugabe has surely met his match, particularly in the Zuma-Zulu (SA president and international affairs advisor Lindiwe) combination,” said UK-based

Zimbabwean analyst Beki-themba Mpofu.


“The outburst from Zanu PF after the Livingstone summit made it clear that their interests are not to build but to hold on to power by all means including running down the country.”


Zuma picked two former ministers Mac Maharaj and Charles Nqakula alongside Zulu to facilitate the Zimbabwean talks and his choice has so far proven to be spot on.

No more ‘quiet diplomacy’

Unlike Mbeki’s mediation in Zimbabwe characterised by the so-called quiet diplomacy, Zuma’s team has been accessible to the media and in the process exposed Mugabe and Zanu PF.

Stung by the team’s attitude, Mugabe’s apologists, who include former Information and Publicity minister Jonathan Moyo, even went to the extent of calling for the removal of Zuma as a mediator.

In typical Zanu PF style, they have argued that the South African president was being used by Western countries to pursue their regime change agenda in Zimbabwe.

Zanu PF also formally complained to the ANC about Zulu’s approach with the state media predicting that her wings would  be clipped.

But Zuma has stuck to his guns and Zulu remains the spokesperson of the facilitation team.

Zimbabwe’s economy is heavily dependent on South Africa and the pressure being applied by Zuma maybe what the doctor ordered to force Mugabe to play by the rules.

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