Mugabe in political cesspit

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There is no denying events of the past week have been of the greatest significance to Zimbabwe’s political landscape after independence — eclipsing even the 1987 Unity Accord, the unforgettable 2000 constitution “No” vote, the momentous 2008 election and the signing of the GPA.

What happened last week is certainly the clearest sign President Robert Mugabe has lost his 31-year grip on power.

No amount of charisma or charm or oratory can get him out of the political cesspit he now squats. This has never happened before.

Last week, the former ruling party confirmed it is faltering and that its leader, seen as the only capable unifying force within the party, has lost control.

On Wednesday, we were left with little doubt Zanu PF’s centre cannot hold anymore.

The following day, Zimbabweans got the big surprise from Livingstone, Zambia, where Sadc pulled the rug from under the feet of the Zanu PF leader, telling him point-blank they were tired of his antics.

That was clearly too much for President Mugabe. Two consecutive days of shock, rebellion, humiliation and “betrayal” were just too much.

At home, he faced open revolt in his party. Three or so of his own MPs voted against Zanu PF in favour of MDC-T’s Lovemore Moyo for Speaker of Parliament.

Zanu PF chairman Simon Khaya Moyo is not a very close friend of VP John Nkomo or Obert Mpofu and the vote last Wednesday was by secret ballot. Anything could have happened and it is not an easy puzzle for President Mugabe to solve.

Out at Sadc, President Mugabe expected the usual pampering. Zimbabwe, Congo, Angola and Namibia have formed a fairly intractable bloc ever since 1998 when the Zimbabwean leader, who then chaired Sadc’s defence committee, ordered that troops be rushed to the aid of Congo’s embattled leader, the late Laurent Kabila.

These same four countries have ever since prevented any form of public Sadc criticism of President Mugabe that South Africa, Botswana and, perhaps, Mozambique, might have liked to hear.

So it must have been a real nightmare for the President when, on Thursday, he was confronted with “the greatest betrayal” coming from that least expected source.

He was used to polite requests by the Troika to tone down on his alleged intransigence and to be politely begged to have a free and fair vote.

But that same Sadc was wearing a different hat on Thursday. The Troika told him he should stop violence and accept a roadmap which a body formed by Sadc would soon draw up.

The Troika chairperson, Zambian President Rupiah Banda, was reportedly in an uncompromising mood.

President Mugabe is said to have been stunned. He has never been treated like this before.

Sadc — his own baby and whose leaders have literally worshipped him before — could not all of a sudden “betray” him like this.

He is said to have stood up to object, but was instructed to sit down and that if he had anything to say, he should wait for the next Sadc summit.

Meanwhile, he would have to do as the Troika said.

So he returned home on Thursday and addressed an extraordinary meeting of his party’s central committee.

There he sealed the fate of his party.

He declared Sadc could “go to hell” — effectively leaving him with no friend except perhaps for Libya’s embattled Muammar Gaddafi.

And then he said words whose meaning I am still trying to figure out. He was responding to charges by Sadc there was violence in Zimbabwe and that elections could only be held if the disturbances stopped.

He said: “I asked them (Sadc) which country is free of that conflict. Zambia here, we are the same. In any Third World or developing country, there are always conflicts, but you don’t judge them on that.”

Is our President acknowledging there is violence in the country and that he does not care and will proceed to have elections in that violence? What does that mean, Mr President?

The Sadc team would probably not be allowed into the country because that would be viewed as interference. It does not matter to Zanu PF that the other parties in the three-legged GNU welcome the Sadc intervention to bring a free and fair election.

But what President Mugabe must always keep at the back of his mind is that without Sadc, there is no GNU and therefore he is not a president.

President Mugabe should know that crossing swords with Sadc is hardly a clever strategy.

He may proceed to force an election, but if Sadc and the AU refuse to recognise the result, his regime will be completely isolated and relegated to the pariah status where it belongs.