Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Friday, August 05, 2005

Bailout failure will signal watershed in SA-Zim relations
The controversial Zimbabwean bailout package to be supplied by the South African government looks doomed before it starts as Zimbabwean officials have rejected the main political stipulation that they resume talks with the MDC. From the Business Day:
Nathan Shamuyarira, chief spokesman for the ruling Zanu-PF and a confidant of President Robert Mugabe, said yesterday that Zimbabwe would not relent to pressure for a negotiated political settlement with the MDC.

"We will not have talks with the MDC. We have been saying this over and over again. Why are we being forced to talk to them? Why should they talk to us?" Shamuyarira said.

His comments echo Mugabe's announcement last weekend that Zimbabwe would not succumb to pressure "from whomever" to accept talks with the MDC.
This then raises the question about the future of relations between the two countries. The political stipulations inherent in the package should be deal breakers, as the international community would not look favourably on such a generous bailout unless it was linked to political change. However, as I've stated before, it leaves South Africa damned if they do, and damned if they don't, as the fallout of a failed economic state in Zimbabwe will undoubtedly be felt directly by South Africa.

It also presents a watershed to Thabo Mbeki and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. If quiet diplomacy is publicly rebuked by the Mugabe regime in this manner, it must surely lead to its rejection as the diplomatic tool of choice. The simple issue of meeting with the MDC should not have been a deal breaker, for its consequences for Zanu-PF could easily be contained, and it illuminates the insincerity by which Mugabe has been stringing Mbeki along.

If negotiations over the next few days between Trevor Manuel and his Zimbabwean Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa come to nought on these stipulations, one should see a watershed moment where South Africa's policy toward Zimbabwe changes. It will not be overt - don't expect to see Mbeki publicly criticising Mugabe - but expect to see more emphasis placed on the MDC and the international community, and less assistance for Zanu-PF, particularly from the ANC party structures.