Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Monday, July 12, 2004

ANC in the hot seat over Zimbabwe
The ANC's persistently ambiguous stance on Mugabe's leadership is coming into even more fervent question after recent reports in the Sunday Times regarding covert meetings with Zanu-PF officials to share election strategies. Whilst I had in a previous post mentioned that the attempted AU censure may have been the first positive moves Mbeki had made against Zimbabwe, subsequent reports about Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma quashing the report seem to have put paid to that. This latest revelation is inexplicable at best, and raises some troubling questions.

The Sunday Times reported yesterday that top ANC officials "led by President Thabo Mbeki" held a top-secret meeting in June with leading members of the Zanu-PF to forge closer political ties. This, according to the Sunday Times, included open assistance on election strategies for the forthcoming Zimbabwean elections, as well as the provision of "between four and six" ANC election strategists to travel to Zimbabwe to assist Zanu-PF in their planning. In response, ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe said that no such agreement had been made, but added that there was an "open invitation" to Zanu-PF to study the ANC strategy in their recent election win. Whether or not the ANC sends election strategists is largely inconsequential, the main point is how on earth the ANC can be actively supporting the Zanu-PF in the first place.

Moreover, the talks happened on the eve of the AU summit, and it is reported that the AU censure document was widely circulated at the meeting, adding credibility to the recent reports that Zuma apparently shut down the AU censure after talks with Zanu-PF.

This all leads to some concerning postulation. The methodology of 'quiet diplomacy' has had the wind blown under its skirt, and this lays bare a troubling view of Mbeki's commitment to the resolution of the Zimbabwean problem. Could quiet diplomacy have been a ruse to cover a president who never had any intention of pulling Mugabe from power? Does Mbeki's respect of Mugabe's 'struggle credentials' really render him incapacitated to act in any meaningful way? A darker picture emerges of Mbeki's leadership here, and for the sake of our country's international image and for the sake of the Zimbabwean people, I sincerely hope that this is a false dawn. Mbeki needs to speak. This is not an issue that can be swept under the carpet, the implications are simply too substantial, and opposition parties need to be encouraged to continue this pressure until answers are supplied.