Political analyst and commentator Moeletsi Mbeki couldn’t have given a more apt analogy of the circus surrounding the ‘diplomatic’ handling of Mugabe and his illegitimate occupation of the presidium, especially by the AU, in a television interview with Debra Patta on 3rd Degree. He alluded to Mugabe as the naughty boy in the school playground who is rude to fellow boys, rude to the prefects, as well as the teachers and headmaster. The other boys, who probably would have loved to do the same but are too scared, are often so ‘besotted’ by his pranks, they urge him on/encourage him. Most notable of these boys is South Africa, as seen during the existence of the Commonwealth, after Zimbabwe had held elections that were widely declared not free and fair. South Africa was most vocal in defending Zimbabwe from being expelled from the Commonwealth. No doubt South Africa did the same thing at the AU summit in Sham, my mistake, Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.
Moeletsi Mbeki lambasted the very concept of a GNU being recommended as the peaceful and only solution by the AU. He argues that Kenya set a really bad precedent that sought to legitimise governments that had outright been rejected by the majority, but just wouldn’t leave and would make everyone’s life hellishly miserable until they were granted ‘leeway’ to share power. Recently, the Secretary-General of Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO) said, “The election situation in Zimbabwe is unacceptable. What is the point of having elections in Africa, if it always ends up by a power-sharing system? The Kenyan example should not be a model for Africa.”
African governments advocating so-called GNUs ought to be ashamed of themselves as this defeats any semblance of democracy.
Moeletsi Mbeki also pointed out that the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe would likely remain unresolved for a long time because the AU, and indeed the rest of the countries in Southern Africa, remains divided over what to do with Mugabe. There are also those who continue to revere and remember him as the great statesman who did not tolerate colonial rule. Sadly, those who see him in that light are many.
Binyavanga Wainaina in an article titled Throwing fuel on a dying fire says, “Mugabe’s primary source of power becomes the power we give him. The man is bouncing around Zimbabwe with the energy of a five- year- old powered by Duracell… the New York Times will headline him. The BBC and George Bush too. Mugabe is getting the attention no African leader ever gets. He is a big deal. And this is his fuel…”
Indeed, it is the people around him that allow this circus to continue. Michela Wrong in her article How a continent missed its moment asks: “But what did the international community really expect of the AU? Any organisation that includes among its elder statesmen Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak (27 years at the helm), Gabon’s Omar Bongo (41 years) and Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang (a modest 29) will have problems lecturing members on the merits of democracy, as Mugabe himself pointed out. Exactly which recent elections could they have held up as models? Kenya’s? Nigeria’s? Ethiopia’s?”
The AU dubbed the ‘dictators’ club’ is a toothless dog protecting the egotistical interests of a cruel few. We are so tired of the same rhetorical statements. Just how many more people have to die before the AU or the UN Security Council actually do something? Why is it that all the whiteheads at the AU (save for Mwanawasa) seem to concur that a GNU is the only way forward? Many justify GNU as the only route that will avoid yet more bloodshed but it just smacks of the old guard protecting personal and future self interests. Once the concept of a GNU gets adapted as normal in Africa none of those old men will relinquish power easily.
Apart from the fact that a GNU does not address the problems of Zimbabwe or acknowledge the will of the Zimbabwean people, it also further entrenches the Kenyan precedent that will mean in future, holding any election will be a ritualistic waste of time. And what a joke Africa will become.
Amidst all this is the electorate for whom decisions are being made in high places. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has masqueraded as a will-of-the-people party. The challenge for them now is explain to the people what a GNU will entail should they eventually decide to enter negotiations with Zanu PF. Failing this, many Zimbabweans will perceive it the ultimate betrayal if they just jump in head first without engaging and consulting the electorate. Nelson Chamisa, spokesperson for the MDC, says the party already has a position paper on how they want any talks to proceed. Many of us are interested in its contents.
For some of us, a GNU controlled by Mugabe simply communicates that our votes did not count, that we have no say in our own governance and that in the future democracy will never matter again. In fact, right now we do not need a GNU. We need solutions to deal with stubborn old men who won’t let go of what’s not theirs.