HARARE - Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is ratcheting up the pressure on regional bloc Sadc, whose leaders are meeting in the Botswana capital Gaborone today, to once again intervene in Zimbabwe’s worsening and seemingly unstoppable political and economic crises.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News at the weekend (see full interview on page 4), the former prime minister in the Government of National Unity also accused President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF of forcing the country to “its knees” through their misrule and being oblivious to the suffering of Zimbabweans.
He said Sadc had issued a contradictory verdict on Zimbabwe’s disputed 2013 national elections, which the regional body had described as free but not fair — presumably hoping that this would encourage Mugabe to institute much-needed reforms and end the country’s long running political and economic crises.
“Now, the critical thing is that Mugabe has left the (Sadc) chairmanship, (and) the crisis of Zimbabwe is not going away. It now behoves Sadc to bring back Zimbabwe on the agenda of Sadc. It’s in their responsibility because what happens in Zimbabwe affects the whole region.
“We are a very pivotal country that we cannot allow an implosion of this magnitude which is going to affect the whole region and Sadc is just folding up its arms and looking (at it) as if nothing is happening. So it’s unavoidable that Sadc will have to bring back the Zimbabwe crisis on its agenda,” Tsvangirai said.
If the MDC leader succeeds in pushing Sadc to intervene in the Zimbabwean crisis, this would not be the first time the regional body would have been sucked into Harare’s recurring problems.
After the country’s violent and vociferously disputed national elections of 2008, the 15-nation bloc, led by South Africa and its then president Thabo Mbeki, put pressure on Mugabe and Tsvangirai to form a power-sharing government in a bid to try and end the anarchy that has characterised Zimbabwe for most of the past two decades.
Sadc leaders also tried valiantly to shepherd the country to a credible election in 2013, which was largely peaceful but still not free of problems as opposition parties and independent electoral bodies alleged electoral malpractices and an uneven playing field.
With Mugabe’s assumption of the chairmanship of both Sadc and the African Union soon after those elections, democracy activists feared that Zimbabwe would fall off regional, continental and international radars on account of its human rights deficits.
But the coming in of Botswana President Ian Khama as Sadc chairperson appears to have rekindled hopes that Zimbabwe will not be able to escape censor when it transgresses its citizens’ rights.
Analysts also say that it is noteworthy that Khama sheltered Tsvangirai in 2008 after the opposition leader defeated Mugabe in that year’s presidential elections and then faced threats on his life after authorities held back the results of the ballot for weeks on end as they seemingly plotted how to thwart the democratic process.
The brutally-honest Khama, who is not much liked in Zanu PF and Zimbabwean government circles, continues to be one of the few African leaders willing to openly criticise and take on Mugabe — recently blaming the nonagenarian for presiding over the country’s economic collapse that has forced millions Zimbabweans to emigrate to other countries that include South Africa and Botswana.
Asked by the Daily News, at the weekend, whether he had sent a team to Botswana to lobby for Zimbabwe’s return to Sadc’s agenda, Tsvangirai said he had as it was important to keep reminding the regional bloc of its obligation to the country.
“Yes, because it’s very important to say ‘you thought you have resolved, you were given a mandate to oversee the Zimbabwe crisis, you did not complete the job because the election was disputed, violence has continued in one form or the other’.
“The fact that Mugabe is chair does not mean that Zimbabwe is in a stable situation. So, we will advise them that you will have to go back and revisit this issue, because instead of resolving this issue, the issue is actually escalating out of control,” he said.
Tsvangirai spoke in the wake of his party boycotting the more than 20 by-elections that have been held in the country since 2013, in protest against Mugabe’s refusal to implement necessary electoral reforms in line with the country’s new Constitution.
The other key demand the MDC is making is that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) should undertake a biometric national voter registration exercise, which will hopefully give rise to the creation of a clean and accurate voters’ roll.
Tsvangirai and other stakeholders allege the voters’ roll, inherited from the Registrar General’s office by Zec, is littered with gross irregularities and includes names of thousands of deceased people.
“Everyone accepts that the political, technical and environmental issues under whose conditions those elections were conducted will leave a lot to be desired in terms of the standards set by Sadc,” he said
Regarding Zimbabwe’s escalating political and economic crises, Tsvangirai said there was need to lobby and increase the spotlight on the country’s problems and leaders, in an endeavour to find long-lasting solutions.
“To have a solution, you must escalate the crisis. Why do I say that? Perhaps it has not dawned on Mugabe that the country is on its knees ... It has not dawned on Mugabe that the country is desperately looking for leadership. We are desperately looking for a way out of the crisis.
“We are almost like the Greek situation. But the Greeks can fall back on the EU (European Union), isu tinoita fall back on who (who will we fall back on)? Internationally, there is no one who can back a regime that has been discredited, which has been illegitimate for all this time. There is no one who is going to take the risk to rescue this country,” he said.