guest column:Robert Sigauke
The only thing that the hashtag movement #ZimLivesMatter succeeded in doing was to draw international attention towards the Zimbabwean political situation.
This, indeed, persuaded Luthuli House to dispatch two teams on a fact-finding mission to Harare, firstly at presidential level, and more recently at party level.
The South African ruling party African National Congress (ANC) presidential emissaries could not, as per the wish of the opposition ensemble, meet with them as that would have broken protocol.
The emissaries were from the President of the Republic of South Africa in his capacity as such, to convey a message and take home a response from the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. Nothing more or less outside this mission.
The second delegation was an ANC party mission comprising of such stalwarts as Gwede Mantashe, Ace Magashule, Lindiwe Zulu and Tony Yengeni, among others.
This mission too, was sent by the president of the ANC as authorised by the national executive committee, to have a roundtable discussion with an erstwhile and sister liberation movement in the name of Zanu PF.
This mission too, could not have broken protocol and met to discuss the political situation with the opposition parties in Zimbabwe.
While the ANC has maintained a neutral official position with regards to the political and economic situation prevailing in its neighbour across the Limpopo, the undertones from its top officials like Zulu, Yengeni and Naledi Pandor are evidently far from this official position of the ANC.
This betrays the impatience of the ANC with Harare to the effect that the perpetuation of alleged human rights abuses, political persecution and economic hardships are putting incessant pressure on the region’s economic powerhouse.
South Africa wants Harare to know that it is consistently carrying the consequences of regional migration imbalances, putting pressure on its own fiscus against the backdrop of economic depressions since 2009.
Politically, the ANC would not want to be seen losing any shred of its commitment to fair and legitimate governance.
This is the reason why the cadres in the ANC have taken unofficial positions that are stark contra-distinct to that of the ANC because of the liberation umbilical cord that exists between the two governing parties.
The ANC cadres too, have been quoted as saying they will dispatch further missions to meet and discuss with the opposition parties in Zimbabwe as well as the United States diplomat to Harare.
Why is this so wrong?
Zimbabwe is a sovereign State, and its territorial integrity must be acknowledged and respected. That is the departing point.
South Africa is the current chairperson of the African Union which, where need be, intervenes in that capacity to diffuse political tensions and humanitarian crisis on the continent.
South Africa too, as the regional powerhouse, has implicit responsibility to drive regional economic cohesion and political balance.
However, these are implemented in recognised structures being the African Union or the Southern African Development Community at regional level which processes commence with putting such on the agenda and getting a nod from the general council.
Besides these protocols, it can only intervene on a bilateral platform at the invitation of the host country. South Africa cannot, and should not, intervene outside these protocols.
It then boggles the mind why the opposition in Zimbabwe expected to air their grievances through missions that do not possess any diplomatic or political clearances to discuss anything with them.
It has been a long-standing piece of advice to the opposition that politics in Zimbabwe is far from hashtag gimmicks.
If you want to change anything real, you have to take the long haul.
Inciting falsehoods of abductions via Twitter can draw public attention, but it does not get things done on the ground, let alone shake a constitutionally elected government.
The ANC missions to Harare were neither on Sadc nor African Union accord, and even more so it was the ANC’s own insistence to dispatch a fact-finding mission in response to the Twitter rumbles fuelled by strangers like Beyonce.
This could only have been an opposition political alternative after failing to get Zimbabwe on the Sadc and AU agenda.
The failure of this political imprecision is in itself an embarrassment as the desired outcome should not have been dreamt as can be realised in the first place.
This route was thought to be shorter, but the advice still remains, if one needs to achieve real outcomes you have to take the long haul.