President Robert Mugabe’s aura of invincibility and his big brother status in the Sadc region appears to have diminished if events from Luanda, Angola are anything to go by.
President Mugabe received yet another blow at the just-ended 31st Sadc summit held in Angola after regional leaders clipped his wings and threw Zanu PF’s election strategy into disarray.
Plans by President Mugabe and Zanu PF to organise a snap election were thwarted after Sadc leaders insisted on the implementation of a clear roadmap that would result in a free and fair election.
Regional leaders also poured cold water on spirited efforts by Zanu PF hardliners to have South African President Jacob Zuma removed from the role of facilitator to the Zimbabwe crisis.
The President left Luanda a bruised man after his public rebuke by long-time ally, Angolan strongman and new Sadc chairperson, Jose Eduardo dos Santos.
President Mugabe and dos Santos share similar political ideologies and both leaders deployed thousands of combat troops, heavy military artillery and jet fighters to save the government of the late DRC leader, Laurent Kabila in 1997 from being overrun by rebels.
But the new Sadc chairperson told leaders at the close of the summit, leaders in Zimbabwe, the DRC and Madagascar, the countries going through political turmoil, should appreciate that power was only held through a free and fair election.
“We are taking up the issues in Zimbabwe, Madagascar and the DRC. Countries need to put in place democratic mechanisms and understand that power can be held through free and fair elections,” Dos Santos said.
This was after the summit reaffirmed South African President Jacob Zuma as facilitator despite the fact that he was now Sadc Troika chairperson of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.
This was notwithstanding spirited attempts by Zanu PF hardliners to have Zuma removed from the facilitator’s role.
The Zanu PF hawks argued it was not possible for Zuma to undertake both roles at the same time.
But analysts believe the real reason behind such machinations were that they were angered by Zuma’s increasingly tough stance against Zanu PF’s truant behaviour in implementing agreed issues on the Global Political Agreement (GPA), which ushered in the inclusive government.
In fact, Zuma left the Talatona Convention Centre, venue of the summit much more empowered to deal with Zimbabwe’s political crisis after his Troika Organ was given wide -ranging powers.
Part of a communiqué released after the summit said: “The Troika shall develop the terms of reference, timeframes and provide regular progress reports.”
Buoyed by Sadc’s position on his role, Zuma immediately took a hardline stance saying the feuding leaders must stop delaying the resolution of the political crisis as they were running out of time.
“They are running out of time. They cannot perpetually have a unity government. They must hold elections, but they must prepare for them,” said Zuma.
He will be meeting principals to the GPA soon to inject a sense of urgency in a bid to end the crisis.
President Mugabe suffered another setback after regional leaders thwarted an attempt by Zanu PF to block the appointment of outside monitors, to ensure the feuding parties implement their political agreements under their delicate unity government.
At previous Sadc gatherings, leaders had decided that Sadc should appoint three regional officials to join Zuma’s facilitation team and work with Jomic, whose mandate is to monitor the implementation of the GPA.