Southern Africa’s SADC Under the Spotlight

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
The Southern African Development Community (SADC), comprising 15 member states, convenes an extraordinary summit in Sandton, South Africa on 11 June, principally to discuss the extension of free trade
between itself and larger counterparts, the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA). On the sidelines of this conference, two of SADC’s reprobate siblings, Madagascar and Zimbabwe, will draw the greater media focus in the face new criticisms of SADC for its manifest apathy in dealing with regional crisis.

There are few parallels between Madagascar and Zimbabwe, and these are tenuous. The single common denominator bringing them to SADC’s tending are issues of governance and the right of their peoples to choose political leaders in free and fair elections, being devoid of violence and intimidation. Madagascar suffered a transfer of power to opposition leader, Andy Rajoelina, who headed up an imposed High Transitional Authority in what was tantamount to a military coup. Following lengthy negotiations, SADC recently bungled by approving a ‘road-map’ intended to return the nation to democracy, which the entire Madagascan opposition had instantly rejected. The people are not liberated.

Zimbabwe is the bigger headache for SADC. Surprisingly, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa demonstrated his increasing impatience with Zimbabwe’s failure to implement resolutions to save a shaky Global Political Agreement (GPA). Politically, Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity (GNU) is decaying. The problem is, nobody knows how genuine, or indeed impartial, Zuma is, especially behind closed doors. An apparent increase in levels of political violence and intimidation, ahead of elections, for which no date has even been set, the seeming militarization of politics by one contender party, and the polarization of the parties to the GPA are cause for concern. Yet SADC’s professed disquiet with Zimbabwe is not being matched with commensurate action or pressure. There is certainly no urgency and the people are not liberated.

This is, perhaps, not surprising. SADC has long been regarded as a toothless bulldog. It has unresolved issues concerning its ineffective secretariat, which lacks both political and administrative infusion from the club’s regional powerhouse, South Africa. Its objectives were once that of a political liberator in southern Africa. Added to this, the very concept that this old nationalist liberators’ club, might ever confront one of its own, indeed face up to Africa’s most upheld liberation revolutionary, showers water on fuming discontent in some parts of the region. Zuma’s ANC government, charged with structuring the election ‘road-map’ in Zimbabwe, is hardly likely tip the scales and topple a crony liberation party, thus exacerbating a rather disturbing trend.

Astonishingly, the Community has already suspended its SADC Tribunal, a regional law court, in the wake of its judgements made against the Zimbabwean government on land issues brought before it. The Tribunal had ruled that land reform in Zimbabwe was racist and illegal. Zimbabwe ignored the judgement and facilitated the suspension. Many are now crying foul. Their loss of recourse to regional law establishments, such as the SADC Tribunal, for protection against human rights abuses, leaves the victims of bad governance vulnerable to no justice or seeking refuge off-shore in foreign courts. This is a huge blow for democracy.

Now, opposition parties in Zimbabwe, which may well agree on an election road-map at the summit, still have serious contending issues. In particular, the essential need for security sector reform. Zimbabwe’s military and police service are considered to be fiercely loyal to Robert Mugabe and his former ruling party, which are clambering to retain power as Zimbabwe’s one and only liberator. Many believe the security forces are simply a party political militia, which cannot respect a constitution for all people. Clearly, without such reform, any election road-map will be critically damaged, before the first steps are taken.

SADC needs to take stock of its obligations to the people of southern Africa when faced with crisis in one nation or another. It needs to understand the requirement for impartiality and get over the liberation culture that appears to have ingratiated itself within. Southern Africa has golden opportunities at its doorstep, yet, like the rest of Africa, it seems destined for the slippery slope of internecine squabbles, economic demise and destruction in the deep waters of just too much politics. Without active and assertive regional leadership, empathy and simple common sense within SADC, North African styled revolutions may easily fester in the south.

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General Democracy

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIConcerns have been rising in Zimbabwe about the predominance of the military in running the affairs of the country. Naturally, there is nothing wrong with former military officers taking the stage in politics or commerce, if they have the substance to do so, but there is clearly a move to saturate both the civil service and strategic, government-owned corporations with these strongmen. One would be forgiven for asking, ‘for what purpose?’ They would seem rather naive if they did. What we are seeing in Zimbabwe is the smart coup d’état, a gradual non-violent, but extremely intimidating infiltration of the military into power.

Coup d’état are not uniquely African, nor are they new. The earliest know coup d’état was in 509 BC when members of the Tarquin dynasty led by Lucius Brutus overthrew the King of Rome to establish the Roman Republic. It has been going on ever since. Africa has a recorded 114 coup d’état, the first being in Ethiopia in 1910 when Empress Taytu, regent of the incapacitated Emperor Menelik II was overthrown. Egypt will be remembered for one of the earlier coup d’état in Africa where, in 1952, Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Nasser overthrew King Farouk, later resulting in the Suez Crisis.

The predominance of coup d’état in Africa have mostly followed the colonial withdrawal with the winds of change that swept through most of Africa in the 1960s. Prolific in suffering putsches are Ethiopia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Uganda, each of which suffered six military or violent takeovers. This is nothing like Haiti, with its 26 coup d’état, which, reflecting on the current state and health of Haiti, should surely be a signal to those attempting to impose military power elsewhere. There are disturbing correlations between military rule and oppression, freedom denial, human rights abuse and poverty.

Some might suggest that Zimbabwe’s situation is a little more unique in accepting some form of military rule. Zimbabwe’s birth was through the barrel of a gun, following a vigorous liberation struggle. Guerrillas who served the revolution during the liberation era, over thirty years ago, were de facto party faithful, political soldiers or militia, and so it seems the current crop of generals remain. Did anyone expect a different outcome after a Maoist styled insurgency? The concept of the apolitical soldier, and in Zimbabwe’s case apolitical policeman, thus has just never been muted, so long as their loyal support was in favour of the single incumbent liberation party or regime.

Zimbabwe has moved on and things have changed, conceivably for the better, as its people strive for greater democracy and freedom, away from the autocracy and pseudo-democracy offered by the liberation party. A couple of opposition parties have evolved in the last thirty years, providing the prospect for democratic, party political choice by the people. The hegemony of power, theoretically, should not be retained by a narrow mind set hanging onto its liberation bona fides. This brooks no choice.

The liberation party, and supposed architect of Zimbabwean freedom, is the benefactor of the generals’ unwavering loyalty and support, albeit given the patronage which has swayed that process in the last ten years. These same generals will deny Zimbabweans any legitimate choice, by suggesting, openly as they have, that only a party with liberation credentials can rule Zimbabwe. They have intimated, shamelessly, that if they do not get their political way, they will take over, pfuti dzinorira (we will go to war). With whom?

This is crass political folly. The problem with this thinking is that there is only one surviving party with liberation credentials, the other party with such qualification having been crushed and forced into a unity arrangement during the mid 1980s. Eventually those who took part in the liberation war will die out, besides such liberators do not have a God given right to rule eternally. So where does this leave the people’s democratic rights and choice and is this not, potentially, a malicious denial of their freedom and a perversion of the liberation struggle? Zimbabweans should take heed and forthrightly reject these sinister overtones, before allowing their nation to descend into a reign of deep subjugation.

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