By Tichaona Sibanda
Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF delegation were last week left with egg on their faces when Zambian president Michael Sata kept coming up with sarcastic lines during the SADC Troika meeting.
Known for openly supporting Mugabe, Sata whenever he referred to the ageing ZANU PF leader during the meeting called him ‘sekuru Mugabe’ and would often chant ZANU PF slogans.
ZANU PF negotiators Emmerson Mnangagwa and Patrick Chinamasa could be seen cringing whenever Sata signaled his intention to speak. Apparently Sata is the only president in the SADC region who supports Mugabe and his bid to seek re-election with or without a new constitution.
Instead of using the more dignified and often used diplomatic language, Sata kept calling Mugabe sekuru (grandfather). Although guidelines exist, proper forms of address vary greatly from culture to culture.
The spirit of formality among Heads of State usually means not addressing others by their first names. Presidents are addressed as Your Excellency or Mr. President. Only by special invitation or long friendship should one address a Head of State by first name and then only when not in the public eye.
There were more surprises to come for Mugabe when Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai gave a blow-by-blow account of the dire situation in Zimbabwe. This seemed to attract Sata’s attention.
As soon as Tsvangirai finished briefing the Troika, Sata blurted out: “Aah sekuru Mugabe must retire and let Muzukuru (nephew) Tsvangirai take over.” This statement left Mugabe and his delegation seething with rage, according to sources that were in the meeting.
It was at the same meeting that Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos surprisingly suggested that SADC should consider the policy of intervening in the affairs of Zimbabwe.
It was a double-blow inflicted by Mugabe’s allies. First it was Sata calling on him to retire and then came the news that Dos Santos was advocating SADC take a more hands on approach on Zimbabwe.
The Angolan leader has been one of the most trusted and oldest allies of the ZANU PF, but his support for the regional bloc to stop Mugabe from unilaterally calling for elections might have turned a new page in Zimbabwe’s history.
Political commentator, Bekithemba Mpofu told SW Radio Africa the outcome of the summit last week demonstrated that South Africa President Jacob Zuma is keen to get his mediation job done properly. Zuma is the regionally appointed mediator in Zimbabwe’s crisis.
“I think his influence within SADC has been underestimated by ZANU PF. At this moment, Zuma seems to be immune from cheap politicking particularly that non-ZANU PF parties are puppets of the West,” Mpofu said. SW Radio Africa
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