By Gershom Ndhlovu
Did the last SADC heads of state summit in Lusaka go as well as it has been portrayed? Maybe on other issues it did go as well as the media in the respective countries reported, but certainly, there are questions to be answered on why Zimbabwe President left Lusaka early if not, as foreign media are now saying, that he clashed with the new chairman, Levy Mwanawasa who wanted to table that country’s political and economic crisis during a closed session.
According to the online version of a South Africa newspaper, BusinessDay, quoting diplomats who attended the meeting, Mr Mwanawasa who chaired a session attempted to table for discussion the Zimbabwe crisis after South African President Thabo Mbeki submitted his report as the SADC appointed-mediator in which he said “there was progress in the talks although parties needed to intensify negotiations.”
Says BusinessDay: “"After Mbeki delivered his report to the summit, Mwanawasa, as the chair of the meeting, said there was an urgent need to discuss Zimbabwe because the situation there had become 'unacceptable'. Kikwete said there was no need to discuss it because talks were in progress and Mbeki concurred," a senior diplomat said.
"Kikwete then suggested Mugabe should be asked what he thought about Mwanawasa's proposal. When Mugabe was given the platform to speak he launched an angry tirade, attacking Mwanawasa left, right and centre before walking out in protest."The diplomat said Mugabe angrily asked: "Who are you, Mwanawasa? Who are you? Who do you think you are?""Mugabe also said he was aware of Mwanawasa's recent meetings with western intelligence agencies on Zimbabwe. He said he would 'not allow Mwanawasa to sell out Zimbabwe as he has done to Zambia'," the diplomat said,”
Mr Mwanawasa had earlier in the year referred to Zimbabwe as a “sinking titanic” when the regime in that country battered opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai leaving him with serious injuries for which he was hospitalised.
This is probably the incident that claimed the scalp of Zambia’s Foreign Minister Mundia Sikatana who has been outspoken on a number of issues on the continent such as the Darfur Crisis which he rightly labelled a racial issue and the Zimbabwean political and economic crisis.
The handling of the Zimbabwean crisis by Mbeki and Tanzanian president, Jakaya Kikwete as chairman of the SADC organ on politics, defence and security is what brings into question the setting up of the SADC defence brigade as a laughable exercise because the standing army, if there is one, will not go any where it is needed because of issues of sovereignty that are brought in when it matters even when a purely political solution is needed.
Extrapolated at continental level, NEPAD’s African Peer Review Mechanism or APRM, cannot work for similar reasons because paranoid leaders like Mugabe do not want to subject themselves to scrutiny by other well-meaning leaders like Mwanawasa in this case.
This is why Mugabe keeps on harassing Tsvangirai even for going round the shops to see what mayhem his government is causing not only for ordinary people, but businessmen as well who are forced to sell goods at sub-economic prices.
Leaders like Mbeki and Kikwete need to learn and understand that their approach of quiet diplomacy to issues like Zimbabwe will only entrench dictators like Mugabe and lead to further suffering of the already suffering Zimbabweans.
This is equally why it is next to impossible to bring African countries together for purposes of establishing a United States of Africa because of the different democratic values that different countries hold which they may not only want to impose on others but may not want to relinquish.
Ironically, it is leaders like Mugabe who are keen on establishing the U.S. of Africa and yet they do not want to subject themselves to the authority of a smaller entity like SADC for which they are voluntary members. May be it is time SADC considered the possibility of suspending Zimbabwe’s membership from the sub-regional body.