THIS week’s summit in Pretoria, South Africa, predictably saw southern African leaders rally behind Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF party.
We were not entirely surprised by this move.
For nine years now we have watched these leaders, apart from Botswana’s Ian Khama and the late Zambian leader Levy Mwanawasa, fail to lift a finger against Mugabe and his murderous thugs in ZANU PF.
But given the depth of the crisis we had hoped that there would be a change of tack in dealing with the man-made crisis in Zimbabwe.
A communiqué released on Tuesday morning said Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai would be sworn in as prime minister on February 11.
It also said the Zimbabwean parliament will also pass a constitutional amendment creating the post of prime minister.
Cabinet ministers would then be sworn in on February 13.
It is important to point out that immediately after the announcement the MDC rejected that they had struck any deal with Mugabe.
The party said the communiqué fell short of its demands.
Given the conflicting messages emanating from the conference it looks like we are back to square one. The stalemate continues. This is really sad.
SADC’s failure to nudge Mugabe to relent on his control of key ministries and their endorsement of the Zimbabwean leader’s position was a huge disappointment.
We fail to understand why they sided with Mugabe in his demand to share the home affairs ministry.
SADC must admit that they have reached dead-end.
It is clear that most of the SADC leadership have not been neutral arbiters in the dispute.
They have on the whole shown themselves to be clearly biased in favour of Mugabe and ZANU PF. Remember how Thabo Mbeki last year said there was no crisis in Zimbabwe.
The whole deal was heavily tilted in Mugabe’s favour and with the benefit of hindsight we wish to state that Tsvangirai blundered when he signed that skewed agreement in September.
Mugabe has staunchly refused to cede control of the home affairs ministry to the MDC. The reasons are clear: he wants to retain control of state security apparatus.
Without control of the police Mugabe and ZANU PF cannot coerce people to back the crumbling party. This is the reason he will not let go of that important ministry.
Four months after the signing of that agreement it is now clear that Mugabe was never interested in sharing power with Tsvangirai.
Mugabe’s refusal to let go the contentious home affairs ministry, in charge of the police, is clear testimony that a leopard does not change its spots.
We had hoped that southern African leaders would approach the Monday talks with a full acknowledgement that Mugabe lost the only free and fair election conducted in Zimbabwe last year.
That he has retained power only came through a systematic brutalization of his people.
SADC leaders should therefore have pressed Mugabe to concede to the MDC’s demands for equitable power sharing.
Sadly, the options for Tsvangirai appear limited.
If the MDC national executive committee which meets in Harare tomorrow rejects the SADC position, the regional body should declare a deadlock.
These SADC leaders should then take the Zimbabwe issue to the African Union (AU) and widen the scope of the negotiations.
The continental body will need to take off the gloves and deal with Mugabe man-to-man. This softly-softly approach that we have seen over the past nine years must stop.
Now is the time to tell Mugabe that he is a man of yesterday – and that he belongs to the past. The sun should have set for him a long time ago.
The Zimbabwean strongman needs to be told in no uncertain terms that the world will not sanitize his regime.