In his not so diplomatic analysis of Zimbabwe’s long running crisis penned in 2007 as he was about to leave the country, former United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell describes President Robert Mugabe as a brilliant tactician who has “survived for so long because he is more clever and more ruthless than any other politician in Zimbabwe.”
Dell might have added that another key reason for Mugabe’s longevity is that in the South African Development Community (SADC) he has a bunch of trusted collaborators, ever ready to prop up the Zanu (PF) leader’s bid to die in office as we saw Presidents Jacob Zuma and Rupiah Banda doing last week.
After failing two weeks ago to convene a meeting of the SADC Troika in Botswana to review deepening problems in Harare, the first thing that Zuma and Banda did when they eventually got a chance to meet in South Africa last week was to call for lifting of Western sanctions against Mugabe and his inner circle because the punitive measures have become an obstacle to achieving progress in Zimbabwe.
For the avoidance of doubt, the West does not need us to defend its policies on Zimbabwe. They are more than capable of doing that themselves.
But we wish Messrs Zuma and Banda could tell us just how does the fact that the European Union has banned Grace Mugabe from visiting her favourite boutique in Paris or London justify deployment of truckloads of soldiers to harass and intimidate villagers in rural Mutoko as has been happening in the past few weeks?
Surely Zuma as the SADC’s official mediator in Zimbabwe’s inter-party dialogue and Banda as the chairman of the bloc’s special Troika organ, should know that the cry of Zimbabweans is not that their leaders get visas to Europe, the United States, the moon or wherever.
The progress Zimbabweans want means food on the table, jobs, democracy, peace and tranquility. And these things do not come from America or Europe.
True, unfettered relations with the West, as with the rest of the world, will certainly help Zimbabwe achieve greater economic prosperity and social progress.
But we will not fall for the old lie that Zimbabwe’s problems began in 2002 with the West’s imposition of visa and financial sanctions on Mugabe, his top associates and, at a later stage, private and state companies they control
Even that orgy of chaos and violence known as fast-track land reform that ruined the mainstay agricultural sector cannot, alone, explain why Zimbabwe is in this sorry state.
One does not need to be the proverbial rocket scientist to know that the root cause of Zimbabwe’s decay is Mugabe’s misrule and dictatorial tendencies.
Gukurahundi that claimed the lives of so many innocent citizens, the DRC campaign and war veterans pensions that ultimately ruined the Zimdollar, land reform that damaged food security and ongoing political violence are only some of the landmarks in a three-decade trail of misrule.
It is for this reason – and this reason alone — that Zimbabweans want Mugabe out of the president’s office!
That Mugabe has been able to defy the people’s will for so long is as much because of his brutal tactics as it is because of the vital support he has received from Zuma, Banda and the SADC. Shame on them!