Thursday, 7 August 2014

Morgan Tsvangirai’s headache

By Fungi Kwaramba
HARARE - Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is in a Catch-22 situation in his bid to press regional leaders meeting in Zimbabwe next week to resolve a deepening socio-economic and political crisis.

His bitter rival President Robert Mugabe is set to take over as chairman of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (Sadc).

Sadc, the regional body that brokered the Zimbabwe power-sharing deal in 2008 after disputed elections, will hold its 34th summit on August 17 and 18.

The Sadc Heads of State and Government Summit will be held at the Elephant Hills Hotel in Victoria Falls.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai
However, analysts have pointed out that while Mugabe might now have an upper hand through Sadc, the economy and infighting within Zanu PF will be his undoing.

The summit will be the crowning moment for Mugabe, who became deputy chair of Sadc in Lilongwe, Malawi, during the 33rd summit last year, but takes the reigns as the new chairperson next week.

Southern African leaders, who last July endorsed the re-election of the Zimbabwean veteran politician, brushing aside appeals from the opposition MDC who said the vote was rigged, will enthrone Mugabe as the Sadc chair.

At 90 years, Mugabe is Africa’s oldest leader.

Assumption of the chairmanship entails hosting and chairing the summit of heads of state and government, council of ministers meetings, standing committee of senior officials’ meetings and sectoral meetings.

Zimbabwe will also be expected to chair extra-ordinary meetings at summit, ministerial and at other levels.

Tsvangirai’s party told the Daily News yesterday that there was still hope to use the summit to either formally or informally appraise regional leaders about the dire state of affairs in Zimbabwe.

Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC spokesperson, said the forthcoming summit offered the opposition party and the people of Zimbabwe “a window of hope”.

Mwonzora said the regional bloc should be informed that a new Constitution — that was a key component of the global political agreement (GPA) brokered by Sadc leaders — has not been fully implemented.

“As a party, we will make presentations on the state of affairs in the country whether formally or informally,” Mwonzora told the Daily News.

“We are going to dispatch a delegation to inform Sadc about the dire state of the country’s economy, the failure by the Zanu PF-led government to adhere to the new constitution which is a product of the GPA.

“For instance, there is an unwillingness to implement rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights, people cannot demonstrate. There are a lot of human rights violations and the most
telling is in Chingwizi.”

A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Chingwizi, a transit camp in Mwenezi district, which government set up in February to house at least 3 000 people who had been displaced from the flooded Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam basin where they used to live.

People at Chingwizi are living in squalid conditions and often fight running battles with the country’s law enforcement agents keen to evict them from the transit camp.

While Mugabe’s appointment, which will see him presiding over the continental body until August 2015 and subsequently as a member of the Sadc Troika until 2016, Mwonzora insisted that “Sadc is not Robert Mugabe.” Analysts said the appointment has reinforced the importance of using Sadc legal and policy frameworks as a departure point for engagement.

“What we are doing is we are formally and informally approaching Sadc heads and appraise them about the situation,” Mwonzora said. “We will not go to Mugabe who is the author of the present problems.”

Tsvangirai’s erstwhile comrades in the MDC renewal team have also said they were going to dispatch a delegation to Sadc.

Rugare Gumbo, Zanu PF spokesperson, said Tsvangirai and his party and the entire opposition were free to do as they wish.

“We cannot talk about that. The elections are over, let us talk about the economy,” Gumbo said. “As far as we are concerned, what they are doing is their business. We are concerned about development.”

Piers Pigou, southern African director of the International Crisis Group, said Mugabe was being rewarded for ensuring elections were not violent, “even if there remains profound questions about the deficits in the process, raised by Sadc and the AU, although not major enough for them to pull back from endorsement.”

“An accommodation of Mugabe is regarded as the best way of containing him — better inside the tent than outside,” Pigou said.

Stephen Chan, professor of World Politics at School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said it also suggests that there should be a succession process in Zimbabwe.

“It will likely be one of at least two years to allow for stable transition and to accompany Mugabe’s filling of these valedictory roles,” he said.

“Both Sadc and the AU accepted the electoral outcomes of 2013, despite the controversies involved; so, for these groups, no lines have been crossed.”

Pedzisai Ruhanya, the director of Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) think tank, said the MDC will yield nothing from the summit.

He said the fact that Mugabe will take over at Sadc does not however mean that the regional body will not listen to Zimbabwe’s problems.

“If they want to make presentations, it should be about the undemocratic terrain in the country,” Ruhanya said.

“They must speak about the broader institutions on governance. The fact that Mugabe will assume the chairperson-ship does not mean the MDC cannot be heard.”

“One person cannot constitute Sadc, but the MDC should not continue to be cry babies. The MDC should organise the people and confront this regime. The opposition is fractured. Before they go to Sadc, they should first organise themselves.” Daily News

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