Mugabe's Multiple Mistakes
Many people who observe the Zimbabwe situation fail to recognise that
Mugabe has made several serious errors of judgment in the past year -
that, in my view, will cost him the Presidency in 2008. For the purpose
this missive I will deal with each of those errors of judgment in
rather than consequence.
The first error is an observation rather than a specific event. Had Mr.
Mugabe co-operated with President Mbeki in his various efforts over the
7 years to find a solution to the Zimbabwe crisis, we would have been
very different situation today. In all probability we would have seen
Mugabe retire some years ago and a 'reformed Zanu PF' regime
ushered in with
a reformist agenda. MDC would have been relegated to the opposition
international recognition would be creeping back and Zimbabwe would be
Instead Mugabe has repelled all attempts to persuade him that his time
up, humiliated and subdued the alternative leadership that is available
Zanu PF and insisted on remaining in power despite the clear failure of
administration in all spheres of government.
It was against this backdrop that his decision to try and defer the
electoral challenge from March 2008 to June 2010 in December 2006 came
such a shock to South Africa. He had talked about this for some time,
expected but it was not until he announced this decision at the
Zanu PF conference that it actually sank home in South Africa that this
might impact on the World Cup. The South African government is
hold the World Cup and to make a success of this huge event at all
Nothing will be allowed to disturb the path to May/June 2010!
Mbeki brought his Zimbabwe team back together and instructed them to
about a solution to the Zimbabwe crisis, one that would protect the
Cup and get the Zimbabwe situation off South Africa's back. One major
consideration that had changed since 2002/2005 was the rise of Jacob
and the understanding that this meant the ANC alliance was no longer
threat by the possible withdrawal of Cosatu.
The subsequent foreign policy review led to the meeting in Accra on the
March where President Mbeki met Mr. Mugabe and persuaded him to revert
March 2008 for the next elections. He also broached the subject of the
conditions under which those elections might be held.
Mr. Mugabe's third mistake was not to read those signals right and to
estimate his opponent in the form of President Mbeki. He assumed
it turned out) that he could 'deal' with Mbeki in the same way that
dealt with a challenge from Mr. Mandela in the late 90's when the
tried to get him to step down from a senior position in the SADC. He
that he had enough friends and supporters in the SADC region to be able
blunt the SA initiative. He was wrong on both counts.
President Mbeki knew his man - he understood very clearly just what
character he was dealing with and prepared his ground very carefully.
was fully briefed and he also drew in the international community to be
that they would support the new initiative. So when Mbeki called the
29th emergency SADC summit - it had been carefully set up and
Mr. Mugabe faced a united group of 10 SADC Presidents and 3 Foreign
Ministers when he walked into the hall in Dar es Salaam.
Even then, having learned of the consensual nature of the decisions he
faced with in SADC, Mr. Mugabe believed that he could manipulate SADC
avoid the full implications of the SADC decisions on the March 2008
elections. Because he was so confident he made his fourth mistake. When
two negotiating teams were scheduled to start work in May and June,
simply ignored the meetings and instructed his Ministers to go about
ordinary work. The timing of the second snub could not have been worse.
Presidents of 5 African countries were scheduled to meet with the G8
leadership in Germany and had thought that they had done enough to
that the Zimbabwe crisis would not ambush the G8 summit again. Instead
being able to say that the Zimbabwe crisis was being dealt with -
they had a
letter from Mr. Mugabe listing all the reasons why Zanu PF would not
the MDC. Mbeki was furious.
The unthinkable then happened - the talks began with no fanfare and
next 6 months Zanu PF arrived on time and on schedule for all arranged
meetings and eventually a complete package of reforms were agreed and
signed. Then Mr. Mugabe made mistake number five. He tried to avoid
implementing the deal just completed. MDC responded with outrage -
the past six months of painful negotiation been for? The proposed delay
the whole reform process was rejected and the facilitators were
with a complete impasse.
President Mbeki had his own problems to deal with and said to the MDC
he would deal with the situation as soon as he had completed the ANC
Congress in Polokwane. When he finally got back to the Zimbabwe
did the necessary preparatory work to ensure he did not fire any damp
and then called a meeting of the negotiating teams for this past week.
Mugabe then made his sixth mistake - he instructed his people not to
President Mbeki was informed that 'we have an election to contest, we
have the time for these futile meetings!'
Needless to say, the cattle prod came out of its box and was used and I
understand the negotiating teams are in South Africa today for what is
expected to be final talks about the whole process. President Mbeki and
SADC colleagues have too much at stake to allow Zanu PF to prevaricate,
time a deal will be done and it will be implemented. Kenya has driven
lesson home to regional leaders, there is just too much at stake.
I think that because of these key events and mistakes of judgment by
Mugabe team, Zimbabwe will get its elections - probably sooner rather
later, they will be reasonably free and fair, compromises will be made
time alone will give the outcome. They often say about tennis, that you
the game more from your mistakes than for the brilliance of your game.
Mugabe must ponder on that truth as he starts the final match of this
Bulawayo, 12th January 2008