Controversial South African political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki says Sadc is obsolete and has failed to effectively deal with President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF since the disputed general election of 2000.
Speaking at a high-level Sadc Council of Non-Governmental Organisations Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Sunday, Mbeki fell just short of calling for the dissolution of the 15-member regional bloc, asserting it had not achieved anything since its formation 31 years ago.
The maverick and firebrand Mbeki – a brother of former South African President Thabo Mbeki and the deputy chairperson of the South African Institute of International Affairs — said: “I cannot find anything Sadc did in the past 31 years. Zimbabwe was their single biggest challenge and it failed completely to deal with (President) Mugabe . . .
“If you look at all the fraudulent elections in Zimbabwe since 2000, where was Sadc? Protocols to sanction the government’s behaviour we there, but never enforced to deal with the fraudulent elections that have taken place since (President) Mugabe and Zanu PF lost the constitution draft referendum in 2000.”
Zimbabwe plunged into a political crisis after the government lost the constitutional review referendum.
A ragtag group of war veterans violently invaded white-owned commercial farms – a move that was endorsed by President Mugabe.
Elections the same year were disputed with now Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC claiming Zanu PF had tweaked the results in its favour.
Presidential elections two years later saw the country plunging further into anarchy and the economy almost imploding in 2008 after another inconclusive presidential poll.
The African Union through Sadc intervened culminating in the formation of the inclusive government in February 2009. The wobbly government managed to stabilise the economy, but a fight for political power blights the unity government.
Mbeki, a former Herald features reporter in the 1980s, said the regional block had failed to be an agent of change because the majority of southern Africa heads of state did not believe in democracy.
“Obsolete institutions like Sadc cannot influence change. What is the purpose of you (civil society organisations) sitting here to try to influence Sadc?
Your resolutions will not make a difference because Sadc will not listen,” he said. “Do you think you can influence (President) Mugabe to follow the democratic path? Zimbabweans have been brutalised by State agents and the so-called war veterans. Sadc will not change, it’s not an institution for change.”
Former Sadc executive chairman and Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn party president Simba Makoni, however, disagreed that Sadc was obsolete and argued strongly that the region had achieved a lot since its inception in 1980 as a development coordinating committee.
“We were instrumental in the attainment of Independence in Namibia and the end of apartheid in South Africa,” Makoni said. “Sadc was also instrumental in the inception of the Southern Africa Power Pool. I don’t agree totally with Mbeki’s assertion that Sadc is obsolete. We need time to get to our destiny, and we will get there.”
Mbeki said change in Zimbabwe would come at a cost and slammed utterances by Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba that the army would not let Prime Minister Tsvangirai assume power if he wins elections. Nyikayaramba has also declared Tsvangirai a national security threat.
“Look at what is happening in the inclusive government, the army laughs at the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai. They laugh at him and Mugabe has not taken action against the general,” Mbeki said.
“Can people like (President) Mugabe change and can Sadc change him?”
Mbeki attacked Sadc heads of state for agreeing in May to suspend the Windhoek-headquartered Sadc Tribunal saying it was a “scandal”.
He said the tribunal’s operations were suspended to satisfy Mugabe’s complaint that it was not properly constituted after Zimbabwe lost a case against its land reform programme filed by the late white commercial farmer Mike Campbell.
Speaking on the same issue, Michelo Hansungule, professor of International Law and International Human Rights Law at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa, said Zimbabwe took issue with the tribunal when it realised Campbell had a strong case against it.
“At the beginning of the hearing, one of the judges specifically asked the counsel from Zimbabwe what government would do if it lost the case, to which he answered that Zimbabwe took seriously the proceedings and was there in good faith ready to implement any decision the tribunal would come up with in the spirit of advancing the rule of law,” Hansungule claimed.
“At the end of the proceedings, the tribunal easily found against Zimbabwe. However, Zimbabwe refused to enforce this decision on the grounds that the protocol on which the tribunal was based was illegal in that it was not ratified by the minimum number of states to bring it into force.”
Hansungule argued that the tribune was properly instituted and called on civil society in southern Africa to launch a massive campaign for the rescinding of the decision to suspend the court.
He said civil society should rise up and challenge the “Zanufication” of Sadc.
Meanwhile, the Civil Society Forum opened yesterday with a call for NGOs in the southern African region to fight for a conducive environment for free and fair polls.