The Failure of Regional Leadership
I have often said that the only country in the world that has the power, and
therefore the responsibility, to get Zimbabwe out of the crisis it is in, is
South Africa. The reasons are geopolitical and easily demonstrated. It is
the failure of South Africa to exercise that responsibility with the
effective use of power that has resulted in this country becoming what it
is - a failed State.
If we go back to the start of the real collapse in 2000, South African
leadership knew full well what the government was doing in Zimbabwe and its
implications. This was clearly revealed in the Mbeki memorandum of 2002
which argued that Zanu should stop the farm invasions and human rights
abuse, not because it was the right thing to do, but because these actions
might lead to the collapse of the economy, international isolation and the
loss of power by the 'Party of the Revolution', Zanu PF. For eight years,
South Africa used its regional and international influence, not to protect
the rights of the Zimbabwe people or to foster the interests of the country
and the region as a whole, but to prevent the MDC coming to power. What
Mbeki called 'negating the Chiluba factor'.
This policy was perpetuated right through to the end of 2008 and was
instrumental in not only denying the MDC its legitimate claim to power after
the March elections, but to 15 months of tortuous negotiations, facilitated
by South Africa on a totally partisan basis and resulting finally in forcing
MDC into a shotgun marriage with Zanu PF and the Mutambara group. These
negotiations were characterised throughout by a stance that pitted MDC
against all three groups at the talks - South Africa, Zanu and the Mutambara
Group. Having forced the consummation of the marriage, the South Africans
proposed that both the AU and the SADC, even though neither organ has any
leverage inside Zimbabwe, would 'guarantee' the deal.
South Africa is also unique in its knowledge of the Zimbabweans situation.
After early failures in intelligence, the South Africans have built an
intelligence network in Zimbabwe that is second to none. They have
infiltrated the CIO and now monitor every move and every initiative by the
various parties involved. They know what the real results of successive
elections have been, they know the relative strengths of the MDC and Zanu
PF, and they know what Zanu is doing to thwart the efforts of the
transitional government. Ignorance is no excuse.
So here we are, almost exactly one month into the SADC/SA brokered deal.
Still no movement on any of the issues accepted at the last SADC summit as
being matters to be sorted out in order for the new government to make
progress. Still no movement on the Governors, no movement on the question of
Permanent Secretaries, no movement on the recall of Ambassadors and new
appointments. Still no movement on the positions of Attorney General or the
Reserve Bank Governor.
The farm invasions have actually intensified and spread to urban areas where
smallholdings are being taken over by force. The use of the legal system to
intimidate and cripple the MDC and Civil Society has continued - we still
have eleven abductees missing and several still in Prison on trumped up
charges. No progress on the absurd allegations by the former regime that
Botswana was engaged in training military insurgents even though these
allegations are directly linked to the treason charges against MDC
leadership in the new government.
Now to crown it all, the region is withholding critically needed economic
assistance to the new government. In recognition of the reality that only
the region can assist us with our essential financial needs at short notice,
the new government lost no time in defining and presenting its needs to the
South African government. All they got in return was sympathy and the
organisation of a larger group under the SADC to consider the requested
package. Still no visible progress.
Just how critical the situation is, was clearly revealed last week when
Tendai Biti, the new Finance Minister introduced a revised budget. He stated
that in the first two months of the year, total revenue to the State had
amounted to US$36 million. Simply to meet essential basic needs and pay much
reduced salaries to State employees will cost about US$100 million a month,
so we were able to meet a mere 20 per cent of this from our own resources.
Revenues are unlikely to recover for at least six months and we desperately
needed the US$500 million we requested for budget support until our own
revenues were able to take up the slack. South Africa not only denied us any
sort of support, but also was instrumental in blocking any aid from any
other SADC States. A feeble plea to the so-called 'rich' nations for
assistance to the new government was the best they could muster.
Even in respect to the appeal for a US$1,5 billion line of credit on
commercial terms for private sector funding has not materialized though this
would be petty cash to South Africa let alone the SADC States as a whole.
What value is the so called 'guarantee' given by the SADC States if they
cannot enforce compliance with the deal negotiated and signed and cannot
provide even the minimum financial support requested?
For our part, I think the Zimbabwean people have been superb and disciplined
in the way they have handled themselves over the past decade. In spite of
all the provocation they have never turned to violence, even when it would
have been totally justified. In February the Civil Service (236 000 people)
went back to work after the payment of a paltry US$100 a month allowance to
each employee. In March the State was unable to improve on this because the
resources were simply not available. I think the reaction of teachers,
doctors and nurses and all the others, has been just incredible. Their
reward from their brother States in the region has been to send them away
empty handed, to return to their shattered homes where there is no food or
Not only to send them away empty handed, but also to turn a blind eye to the
continuing human rights abuse, violations of the State controlled media and
the flagrant violation of private assets. Even this past weekend South
Africa was unable to get their Zimbabwean counterparts to sign up to an
investment protection agreement that has been pending for years.
It is a mystery to me as to why regional leaders behave in this way. We can
excuse ignorance but there is none, we can even excuse poverty, but the
resources to help would only make a small impact on their collective
resources. We might even excuse them if they themselves were living under
tyrannies and were denied the basic freedoms that we have been denied, but
they actually claim to be democratic States with a reputation for freedom
and security. So what is their excuse? I am afraid they have none. For this
I think they fully deserve the opprobrium that their inaction and failure is
bringing upon them from a watching world.
Bulawayo, 22 March 2009