Heads of State and foreign ministers of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met on August 21 for the 31st Ordinary Summit for SADC heads of State and Government, in Luanda Angola.
The purpose for this summit was to discuss, a wide variety of issues affecting Southern Africa, including issues relating to HIV/AIDS, food security, and also to report on the progress off all the problematic areas of the region, such as Malawi, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo; countries that are battling issues that keep them from developing at the same rate as their Southern African counterparts.
It had been noted in the media, prior to the event, that Zimbabwe, a country that has been in political and economic absurdity for years now, was going to be on the agenda. This was not the case.
In fact, regional leaders were criticized by analysts who thought that the issues raised at this summit were the same issues discussed at previous summit meetings in Livingstone, Zambia and Sandston, South Africa. There were hopes that SADC could stamp its authority over Mugabe, and implement some type of compromise between the conflicting parties Zanu PF and the two factions of MDC.
Civic leaders from across the region were disappointed by SADC’s inability to not only take a decisive stand on Zimbabwe but also its inadequacy in solving regional problems in general, describing the bloc as a ‘toothless bulldog.’
“SADC has become an old boys club, an institution of heads of state. There was no substance on the table for these leaders,” Swaziland pro-democracy activist Musa Hlophe said.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, an assemblage of more than 350 civic society organizations that aim to promote democratic values and freedom through dialogue, also said: “(The summit) does not have significant forward strides, at least it is not retrogressive-it leaves much up to Zimbabwe’s political leaders to implement the GPA and carry out reforms.”
“SADC has to show that it has power to enforce its resolutions.” Phillip Pasirayi, the spokesperson for Crisis of Zimbabwe Coalition, told AFP. “So far there have been no decisive steps to ensure that.”
Dewa Mavhinga, activist and regional coordinator for Crisis in Zimbabwe, wrote about his experience entering Angola to attend the summit in The Zimbabwean, a newspaper for Zimbabweans in exile:
“Our experience entering Angola has reminded us that it is no easy task to build regional consensus around human rights respect and democracy norms. Four Zimbabwean civil society leaders, namely myself, Crisis Coalition spokesperson Phillip Pasirayi, Elections Resource Centre Director Tawanda Chimhini and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Manager Dzimbabwe Chimbga were detained at the Luanda airport for over five hours while officials went through our bags.”
An unsolicited crackdown that resulted in the confiscation of documents and reports detailing the political situation in Zimbabwe: the violence and the military’s involvement in political and electoral affairs
“Only concerted efforts to radically transform political power can loosen a dictator’s death-grip on the nation. SADC leaders must now realize that a power-drunk regime will not transform political power on account of diplomacy or niceties, but only when confronted by a greater, combined force of SADC and the people of Zimbabwe.” Mavhinga wrote.
The People of Zimbabwe:
Political analyst, Effie Ncube believes the solution to the countries problems lay within. The nation’s people waver, like foliage in the wind, between Mugabe’s Zanu PF and the two factions of MDC. “The time has come for us to stop looking towards SADC for a solution, they have failed,” Ncube said in reaction to the summit meeting. “We have to ask ourselves how we can end the stand-off without looking to outsiders for help.”
“The masses must move the country and make it into the Zimbabwe that we want,” said MDC-T deputy spokesperson Tabitha Khumalo, who believes that SADC sides with Zanu PF, and therefore, it is up to the people to solve the crisis in the country.
But what exactly is the ‘crisis in Zimbabwe? In a nutshell: Robert Mugabe; a man who has ferociously ruled the country, for decades, with an unwavering iron grip that has eroded any hopes for democracy.
How does an average person combat such a crisis? Not alone of course. There are many activists and organizations that are devoted to bringing freedom and democracy to Zimbabwe, a nation that was once an exemplary force in African independence and freedom.
Zuma and Zimbabwe:
It was decided at the summit meeting that South African President Jacob Zuma would be an intermediary in the Zimbabwean crisis, a decision that Zanu PF disagreed with.
The African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party of which Zuma is currently president, and Zanu PF, have been natural allies since their days of fighting against white oppression. “Quiet diplomacy” was the policy between South Africa and Zimbabwe, an understanding between the two nations, an unwritten rule of silence when it came to Mugabe and his power-drunk regime.
However, in December 2007, Zuma spoke up against Mugabe and his policies. ““It is even more tragic that other world leaders who witness repression pretend it is not happening, or is exaggerated. When history eventually deals with the dictators, those who stood by and watched should also bear the consequences.”
“A shameful quality of the modern world is to turn away from injustice and ignore the hardships of others,” he added. “There is no substitute or alternative to democracy, even in instances where we feel that democratic processes threaten our personal interests.”
It remains to be seen how Zuma will act in resolving the countries unending, decade-long crisis.