The Public Posturing of Robert Mugabe
Yesterday we were privileged to watch Mr. Mugabe speak at the General
Assembly of the United Nations. It is always a performance worth
even if only from curiosity. This time I read the whole statement and I
think there were some key pointers in this year's speech.
I will ignore the usual diatribe about sovereignty and the right of
independent States to do what they want at home providing it does not
undermine regional peace and security - Smith said the same thing, as
successive leaders in the pre 1994 South Africa, so does the Burmese
and the North Korean oligarchy. I will also ignore the usual statements
Britain and the United States.
What were interesting were two references to the ability of regional
institutions to deal with the (imputed) Zimbabwe problem. Also a
to the role Mr. Mbeki is playing in the ongoing talks in South Africa.
addition to these key statements he repeated his commitment to
elections in 2008. These three policy positions revealed in this speech
all very important. They maintain his commitment to hold elections -
a good thing, Burma and Korea have not done that to date; to ensure
democratic and he has admitted the role of both the SADC and South
I have always argued that the one person in the world to whom Mr.
cannot say 'no' is Thabo Mbeki. I think this key speech reveals
clearly. No criticism here of his African colleagues or of South Africa
though he knows they are forcing him to walk a narrow road to the next
electoral polls in Zimbabwe. This is encouraging and I am sure that
Brown nor Bush will lose much sleep over his tired attacks on their
as global leaders.
Perhaps of greater concern is the impending participation of Mr. Mugabe
the next EU/ACP summit in Portugal. This is a much more bread and
issue for the many countries who will attend. While it may not have the
global significance of a UN general Assembly, the EU is the world's
trading block and by far the most important source of financial aid and
other resources for the many small and impoverished countries that will
At stake is the whole relationship between these long associated and
powerful States and their former colonies as they put behind them the
colonial relationships of the Lome era and look forward to a new set of
relationships - both political and economic that meets the needs of
grouping in a rapidly changing world. Just this morning the EU
end of the Sugar Protocol - an agreement that had meant a great deal
ACP States and to Zimbabwe. It has been worth at least US$20 million a
to this country since Independence in 1980 - a total of US$540
For Zimbabwe our membership of the ACP Grouping and our inclusion in
preferential trade arrangements that prevail under the existing
and protocols is very important. As a source of funds, the EU will be
largest potential source of development funding once we have sorted out
politics and the EU will almost certainly be our most important trading
partner, certainly in conjunction with the individual Member States of
So this summit of the EU and the ACP States comes at a very strategic
important time. The issues to be resolved are complex and critical to
who participate, but particularly countries like Zimbabwe - small,
locked and poor. So anything that detracts from its main purpose would
tragedy. Mugabe could be just that disruptive element.
He will, if present conditions prevail, attend. If Britain boycotts the
summit it will take on the form of a strident conflict between the
colonial powers and their colonies. The wounds of that era are still
even after all these decades of postcolonial experience and history.
will use the occasion, just as he has just done at the UN, to exploit
wounds and rub salt in them - for no other purpose than to detract
from the failures of his regime and the total collapse of the Zimbabwe
economy and social infrastructure under his disastrous leadership.
The support he will garner from the ACP countries and the anger that
will invoke from EU Member States will distort the delicate
that exists between these two groups and further complicate -
the environment for the discussions that will take place at all levels.
Mugabe knows this - it is what he is best at, a spoiler, no matter
consequences so long as it feeds his ego.
What I would most like to see happen is the total postponement of the
to next year; same date and place. Then the new government in Zimbabwe
be ready to take its place at the talks and put a positive tone into
whole process. But that will not be possible - there is too much at
No African State is going to back a call to exclude Mugabe from the
even though behind closed doors they groan at the possibility and know
So we may be stuck with this situation. What ACP countries have to
understand are the consequences of having rogue States in their midst
the very real costs to their own societies. It is difficult to compute
costs but in the case of SADC the costs in lost opportunity and
terms are enormous - in fact many times the total value of the
economy itself. South Africa will lose at least US$5 billion in GDP
in 2007 let alone the social costs of crime and the burden of
another 4 million economic refugees as a direct consequence of the
crisis. No developing country that is serious about uplifting the
conditions of the majority in their country can afford this.
It's a very high price to pay to feed the ego of one man - an 83
man of another era that has lost its relevance to the new world we all
and live in.
Bulawayo, 28th September 2007