Tsvangirai's stock rises in region

HARARE - The Zanu PF contingent to Maputo, led by President Mugabe, trooped back with tails between their legs.

By all accounts, except Zanu PF’s, Mugabe was humiliated after Sadc charged against his decree for  elections to be held by July 31.

Of course Sadc did not interfere with the local legal process; it cannot. But it exerted pressure on Mugabe and he conceded.

Mugabe says the Maputo recommendation was a “happy outcome for Zimbabwe.” He is right about the happiness of Zimbabweans because the generality of them yearn for a free and fair election. But it is doubtful Zanu PF shares that happiness.

Given the rhetoric about compliance with the “rule of law” and the usual emphasis on absolute sovereignty, Mugabe’s reaction seems to conceal anger at the disruption of his designs and humiliation for him and his party.

Zanu PF may privately harbour a wish for the court to reject its own application for extension.
But the court has a second opportunity to decide whether it should serve the whims of Jealousy Mawarire or the broader democratic interests of all Zimbabweans.

However, the court may be disinclined from setting a precedent that allows the influence of political entities on its rulings.

That will get us back to square one. The current sense of triumphalism will need to be tempered with.

Notwithstanding the outcome of the application, the Maputo summit seemed to reflect the growing influence of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Just as Mugabe would be galled by the humiliation in Maputo, he would also be irked by Tsvangirai’s risen stock in the region. Mugabe’s wish is for the region to share his portrayal of Tsvangirai as a traitor.

That perception seems to have been bought by a few, including Zambian ruler Michael Sata.

However, like the trend at previous summits, Sadc deemed Tsvangirai to hold genuine concerns.

After Mugabe issued the election decree, Tsvangirai became the butt of social media jokes after claiming he had the keys to the election.  

While Tsvangirai may not solely hold the keys, it would appear his influence in the region has grown.

It will be recalled that Tsvangirai’s regional charm offensive a few months ago was pooh-poohed by Zanu PF and its sycophantic media.

It may have produced results after all.

In Maputo, Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube of the smaller MDC reportedly put up an impressive show, posing some poignant and direct questions to Mugabe.

Questions like why “it should be all about Zanu PF and not the people of Zimbabwe”; and why Mugabe behaves “as president of Zanu PF rather than Zimbabwe.”

It would seem the regional rulers were convinced.

After Maputo, and indeed the Livingstone summits and others, Zanu PF had better come to terms with the fact that Tsvangirai has become a credible Zimbabwean voice to the region. Sadc is listening to him.

Conversely, Mugabe’s status in the region has become diminished. In the past, he has banked on his standing as the irreproachable elder statesman and liberation icon. Sadc does not seem to be dissuaded by such reverence.

Mugabe’s predicament has not been helped by the likes of Jonathan Moyo who have demonstrated lack of diplomatic etiquette by routinely and openly attacking Jacob Zuma and his facilitation team.
Sadc’s unfavourable perception of Mugabe augurs well for Zimbabweans seeking change.

It means the regional body may continue to confront him boldly. Further, it generates confidence that Sadc may be candid enough if the conduct of the forthcoming election is unacceptable.

After Maputo, all now rests on the Constitutional Court; and, if it allows the extension, whether the time sought will suffice for all processes before a free and fair election can be held.

 A crucial lesson for forces seeking can be drawn from Maputo.

When democratic forces unite, they can achieve greater impact.

Tsvangirai and Ncube spoke with one voice against Mugabe at the summit.
The next challenge for them is whether they can form a united front for the election.
Just as Zanu PF has betrayed the liberation struggle, the political parties challenging Mugabe in the election will, if they adopt a fragmented approach, stand accused of betraying the democratic struggle. - Conrad Nyamutata

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