On Monday Zimbabweans woke up to be confronted by conflicting interpretations of what transpired during the Sadc Extraordinary Summit on Zimbabwe and Madagascar held in Sandton, South Africa, at the weekend.
At the end of the summit the regional leaders released a communiqué which has now become the centre of controversy in the media.
On point number 22, the communiqué reads: “Summit noted the decisions of the Organ Troika Summit held in Livingstone, Zambia, in March 2011”.
The Livingstone resolutions angered President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party after they condemned violence and apportioned blame to the security institutions and Zanu PF.
During the summit in Sandton, President Mugabe reportedly spoke for close to 45 minutes trying to convince his regional colleagues to disregard the resolutions of the Zambia Troika meeting.
But at the end of the summit the leaders only said they had “noted” the resolutions from Livingstone.
Zanu PF, with the complicity of the State-owned media, is proffering its own version of the communiqué saying the Livingstone resolutions were thrown into the dustbin in South Africa. They were “rejected”, we were told.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his party say the Livingstone resolutions were reaffirmed at Sandton and they live on.
The question is: What is the truth?
Sadc Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao told journalists after reading out the now controversial communiqué that the summit did not have powers to reverse or throw out decisions of the Troika Organ.
“The Troika Organ is a treaty of Sadc,” he said. “No one has the power or mandate to change what (was) deliberated in Livingstone.”
Lindiwe Zulu, President Jacob Zuma’s international relations advisor, weighed in, saying: “Whether you use ‘noted’ or ‘endorsed’, it means the same. “As far as the summit is concerned, the Troika report presented in Zambia by Zuma has now been fully endorsed by Sadc.”
While the summit effectively endorsed the Livingstone resolutions, the Sadc leaders were very cautious in the wording contained in the communiqué.
They appeared reluctant to expose President Mugabe to further embarrassment hence the diplomatic language in the communiqué.
There is a sense that the leaders were careful not to offend President Mugabe perhaps fearing a backlash from the combative veteran ruler who appeared ready to go it alone after he was infuriated in Livingstone.
But in doing so, Sadc has given Zanu PF an arsenal to spin the whole issue over the word “noted”.
Zanu PF is now deliberately misleading and misinforming Zimbabweans on what really transpired in Sandton.
Could Sadc be taking us back to the era of quiet diplomacy by former South African president Thabo Mbeki?
It then brings the whole issue as to why Sadc did not delve into the thorny issue of security sector reform, which is a key factor in the roadmap to free, fair and credible elections.
A clear roadmap with the necessary humps, robots and signposts is an exercise in futility without a reformed security sector.
Security institutions in Zimbabwe are an impediment to the democratisation of the country as long as they remain power brokers — deciding who should be at State House.
Service chiefs have made it clear that they will not salute any leader other than President Mugabe.
Sadc should have dealt with this contentious issue. It won’t go away.
But Sadc must be commended for not relenting on the protracted Zimbabwean crisis and at least impressing upon President Mugabe the need for political reforms in a country he has ruled for over a generation.
Next month negotiators from the three political parties will resume talks on the roadmap with the hope of thrashing out any outstanding issues.
They will give timetables on issues in the roadmap.
Mindful of the fact that Zanu PF wants elections this year, Tsvangirai, who is opposed to that idea, should sleep with one eye open.
Zanu PF has the capacity to mobilise the necessary institutions and ensure the process is done in time for elections this year.
Did we not see how effective our police are after they rounded up close to 30 suspects within hours of the unfortunate murder of a senior police officer in Glen View?
The same police force has taken over a decade to arrest the main suspect in the grisly murder of MDC-T activists Talent Mabika and Tichaona Chiminya at Murambinda Growth Point during the run-up to the 2000 general elections.
They need to show they can act with impartiality and speed in arresting the perpetrators when the victims are members of other parties.