Friday, 19 December 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu


Threats, insinuations, innuendoes and denials of an imminent attack on Zimbabwe, whatever the case is, it points to the fact that there is instability in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region as a result of the political situation in Zimbabwe.

Incidentally, not only has the SADC failed in resolving the problematic political situation in Zimbabwe, the African Union is also being dragged into the melee seeing that African countries outside of SADC, notably Kenya, are also calling for the removal of President Mugabe.

What worsens matters is the recent call by Britain, France and the United States of America for the removal of President Robert Mugabe by force if necessary. It is not a secret that there are alliances within SADC with some member countries in support of President Mugabe while others such as neighbouring Botswana, are unequivocal in the denunciation of the regime which they tame illegitimate.

Not that it would be unprecedented for any African country to raid another if only to get rid of a tyrannical leader. In 1979 Tanzania raided neighbouring Uganda to help oust the maniacal Idi Amin who had killed over 300,000 people during his eight year rein.

On the Comoro Islands, Colonel Mohammed Bacar, a French-trained former gendarme, seized power as President on the island of Anjouan in 2001. He staged a vote in June 2007 to confirm his leadership that was rejected as illegal by the Comoros federal government and the African Union.

On March 25, 2008 hundreds of soldiers from the African Union and Comoros seized rebel-held Anjouan, generally welcomed by the population.

In the West African sub-region, Economic Commission of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) forces intervened in a number of trouble spots, notably Sierra Leone and Liberia where civil wars raged in the 1990s and hundreds of thousands of people were killed and others displaced in the conflicts.

In 1998, a SADC military force rolled into Lesotho to intervene in the political crisis that was characterised by chronic political instability, failure to manage the process of demilitarisation and civil military relations effectively, as well as intra-party conflicts and political party fragmentation.

“The role, functions and legitimacy of the electoral management system were severely tested. Hence, from this perspective, the 1998 political crisis over the administration and outcome of the election was the most violent manifestation of a multifaceted political crisis with deep socio-economic roots in a stressed socio-political environment,” according to a monograph of the Franco-South African Dialogue compiled by Diane Philander.

Although Zimbabwe is teetering on the brink of collapse as a nation state because the current government is functioning on an ad hoc basis as a result of failure by President Mugabe to appoint a Cabinet in the wake of stalemate with the Morgan Tsvangirai faction of the Movement for Democratic Change, the situation in that country cannot technically be classified as a civil war but it is definitely akin to the Lesotho situation of 1998.

What needs to be done is to make Mugabe see sense on the need for him to honour the letter and spirit of the power-sharing agreement which was recently signed between himself and opposition leaders Tsvangirai and Mutambara.

Mugabe’s folly, however, is his desire to emasculate the other groups by denying them access to powerful ministries such as Home Affairs which holds the key to peace in that country.

The police together with other forces have not only harassed opposition leaders, they have also brutalised opposition supporters before the elections in March and the subsequent re-run in June, and after. Several hundreds of MDC supporters have been killed at the hands of the police and ZANU-PF supported militia.

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki who is the SADC appointed mediator in the Zimbabwean crisis does not equally help matters because of his naked biasness against Tsvangirai who won the first round of elections last March but was forced to withdraw from the election re-run because of violence perpetrated by ZANU-PF cadres against MDC supporters.

With a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic proportions unfolding in Zimbabwe exacerbated by a cholera outbreak, inflation running into hundreds of millions percentage points and general food shortages, African leaders in particular and world leaders in general are complicit to what is happening in that country for failing to decisively intervene in the crisis and going by the Mbekian maxim of quiet diplomacy which has clearly failed the people of that beautiful country.

Zambians living abroad have learnt with a sense of shock and dismay that the government is in the process of changing passports and that holders of the old documents should change them by April next year.

Much as there is need for the change of old passports to new ones with enhanced security features, the suddenness with which the process is being conducted is illogical, to say the least. The changes with the concomitant costs should apply to new applicants and those whose passports are expiring rather than a blanket call for everyone to change the documents.

The Zambian authorities should understand the cost involved in changing passports for individuals and families and also the cost of obtaining visas in foreign countries and the general inconvenience of the process. This is not to mention the fact that some passport holders hold documents that were issued as recently as three months ago from the old batch.

This change of passports being foisted on the citizens could cost Zambians living in the UK up to £2,000 applying for new visas within a short time and in these days of the credit crunch, this is not a small amount.

Even then, the process of applying a passport both at home in Zambia and abroad can be stressful. Passports take ages to be sent to embassies and high commissions from where they are applied for and staff at these missions always blame the Passport Office in Lusaka for the delays.

One hopes that the new Home Affairs Minister, Dr Kalombo Mwansa will look into the concerns and change the modus operandi of the passport renewal exercise.



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