Zuma has belled the cat

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe and his former ruling party, Zanu PF, received a much deserved royal shellacking from regional leaders at the weekend.

This followed Mugabe’s amateurish and ill-advised use of the country’s legal processes last week in his ongoing, but futile attempt to subvert Zimbabwe’s tentative march towards a more democratic dispensation.

The sum total of the momentous special Sadc summit on Zimbabwe, held in Maputo on Saturday, was not just the total and public humiliation of the octogenarian by his regional peers, it also presented streetwise South African President Jacob Zuma with an opportunity to finally bell the cat that Mugabe is, ahead of the country’s much-anticipated harmonised elections.

There is absolutely no-where to run for our wily leader, if he is not to risk losing Sadc’s support completely, which Mugabe craves badly.

To put it impolitely, the president and his henchmen are in deep doo-doo right now — and it promises to get worse from here.

As Education minister David Coltart so mischievously observed at the weekend, the outcome of the Sadc
meeting constitutes a major political faux pas for him and his party — and is indeed hugely damaging and embarrassing for people with such big egos.

But crucially, it means there is now an opportunity for voter registration and the inspection of the voters’ roll to be completed before nomination day if Mugabe sees sense for once and obeys the Sadc directive to complete the full and agreed rigmarole of steps necessary for the holding of successful, free and fair elections.

The sad thing for Mugabe is this whole painful experience is entirely self-inflicted and unnecessary.  It could have been wholly-avoided had he put the interests of the country ahead of his and Zanu PF’s last week.

Alas, there are people around this tired old man who are clearly determined to destroy both him and the country.

The extent of the folly of Mugabe’s advisers and spin doctors around him was reflected in their desperate attempts to portray the Maputo meeting, which had been needlessly postponed by a week at Mugabe’s request, as to solely to discuss the sourcing of finance for the forthcoming elections — expected to cost our cash-strapped country $132 million.

Zuma and team flatly refused to entertain these ruses, and the funding issue was not discussed at all during the summit.

The result: the summit rudely reminded Mugabe once again that he is the president of this country only by virtue of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which Sadc mid-wifed — not because he won an election!

To this extent, Zuma and colleagues also duly impressed it on him that the forthcoming elections are necessarily neither court nor time-driven — but process-driven, hence the recommendation  that he approaches the bench to move the Constitutional Court’s contested finding that polls must take place by July 31.

Other major outcomes of the Maputo summit were the pointed directives that service chiefs desist from their dangerous disposition to dabble in politics — and that Sadc observers be deployed in the country with immediate effect to watch over the elections and its preparations.

Our hope is that Zuma and Sadc will keep this firm hand on the steering wheel until after the polls.

They are Zimbabwe’s last hope. - Staff Writer

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