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Mbeki privatized Zimbabwean crises: Biti

Opinion by Tendai Biti

Wananchi, on 15 September 2008 the Global Political Agreement was signed at a packed Harare International Conference Center ,virtually five years ago. 15 September 2008 was the day Lehman Brothers fell, thus officially triggering what we have come to refer to as the Global Economic Crises.

Tendai Biti
Tendai Biti

Many will express their own judgment on the wisdom or otherwise of the GPA .A lot will also express their own judgment on the GPA, the progeny the GNU.

The jury maybe out there but no doubt the GNU s biggest failure was failure to execute a reform agenda. Its failure to address the key impediments to a free and fair election .

But they are reasons for this, chief among these being deliberate intransigence on the part of the revolutionary party in allowing reform and renewal.

My suspicion is that the modicum of peace and stability achieved in the last five years, the stabilization of the economy and most importantly the production of a new Constitution are the greatest achievements of the GNU.

History is always the proper judge of historical events. Fifty years from now, A level students will be asked to interrogate the spatial and geo spatial location of the GNU in the short term and long term evolution of the Zimbabwean State.

An immediate favorite would be “Do coalition governments work in Africa?”

One person that history will scrutinize thoroughly in the context of Zimbabwe is the esteemed former President of South Africa His Excellency Thabo Mbeki.

In light of the fiasco that exploded more publicly after 15 June 2013, but had always been there, had we carefully looked for the signs, Mbeki must be quite satisfied about his quite diplomacy.

This Mbeki character is quite a complicated individual. Mark Gevisser s biography of him,” A Legacy of Liberation” pretty much captures the individual complexity of this literally and metaphorically true child of the struggle.

His ideological contradictions are many too, and they have been dissected by so many, none more poignant than my Irish, American, Zimbabwean and South African friend Patrick Bond in his book “Talk Left Walk Right”.

During the negotiations we had our big fights with him. Nasty letters exchanged hands will come to the public some day in our life time. But our troubles had started earlier. What was his role in the 2005 split of the MDC for instance?

President Tsvangirai in his book “At the Deep End ” has had a say on this. Going through my archives recently I came across an article ,I wrote way back on 4 August 2005, headed ” Advocate of Dishonesty: Mbeki and the Zimbabwe Crises”.

It was an article written after an address by Mbeki to a Land Summit that was reported in the Business Day of 29 July 2013. After a serious rant I concluded the article as follows:

” Mbeki s comments ..underplay the extent of the Zimbabwean crises. They are comments underlining the miasma of the failed policy of quiet diplomacy and Mbeki s own hypocrisy on Zimbabwe so ably exposed by William Gumede in his book ” Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for Soul of the ANC”.

The Zimbabwean Crises expressed in illegitimacy, misgovernance economic collapse and failure will not be washed away by verbose tirades and will haunt President Mbeki for quite some time”.

Of course the crises did haunt him.

But then again in so far as Zimbabwe is concerned, like him or not the man had his own plan which he achieved. Muruti, Reverend Frank Chikane, one of President Mbeki s close confidant has been busy since his resignation from public office.

Apart from his ministry, he has written two insightful books into the mind of his boss, namely “Eight Days that shook the World : the Removal of Thabo Mbeki “,and the recent one “,The Things that could not be said”. These books repay study.

It is clear that one of the epicenters of Mbeki s governance was a strong active expansionist Pan Africanist foreign policy. What he himself called “the renaissance of Africa and the building of a better world, focused on the challenge to defeat global poverty, underdevelopment and inequality”.

On the basis of what he deemed a responsibility towards Africa, diplomatic forays were made into Cote d ‘Ivoire, Comoros,Lesotho, DRC, Sudan, Burundi and of course Zimbabwe.

The central thrust of Mbeki s interventions was never democracy but stability. This Reverend Chikane makes clear in a passage from his second book (in fact his third, the first being his autobiography “No Life of My Own”).

“Mbeki’s starting point was to end wars and conflicts on the continent. There was a common understanding that there could be no development where there there were conflicts wars and instability. The change from the OAU to the AU came at the right time to lay the basis for stabilizing the continent politically as well as pursuing its developmental strategies.”

So if stability was the end target Mbeki got his prize in Zimbabwe. But a close perusal of the GPA itself shows that, it went beyond stability. It was a transitional document that provided a soft landing to the status quo. Indeed, the opportunity for the subordination of stability to democracy.

But the fiercely Pan African Mbeki also achieved another thing, he essentially privatized the Zimbabwean crises. Everyone was kept out. Post Mbeki ,the question on everyone s mind is what was the plan of Sadc.

Was it to pursue the stabilization agenda? Clearly not.

Was it to pursue the democratization agenda? Clearly not.

Clearly because there was no plan, you now have an African Response that is in tatters. I was pretty amused to read President Mbeki s alleged judgment on the 31 July election. The truth of the matter is that Mbeki s dream for Zimbabwe and indeed for an African Renaissance has been devalued severely in the last few years. Particularly his own personal experiences in his own country.

But he must accept and take some of the blame. For starters quiet diplomacy as a concept is dubious but in practice it is even more tenuous. More importantly is the fundamental fact that any formula or agenda that does not sufficiently recognize the immutability of the rule of law and democracy is unsustainable. The assumption that there is a substitute or alternative superior to democracy is incorrect.

I must emphasis peace and stability are important. But they can not support another cornerstone of renaissance. At most there must be equal treatment. Sustainable societies are not made sustainable by the absence of war but the presence of choice.

On July 31, outright war was absent but the mother of illegitimacy was created. I suspect President Mbeki may now realize this, the importance of the rule of law and democracy.

In his farewell speech to the nation after his recall by the ANC, made on 21 September 2008, Mbeki expressed two regrets. His first regret was the failure to deal with poverty in South Africa and secondly his understatement of poverty. He put it thus;

“Despite the economic advances we have made, I would be the first to say that even as we ensued consistent economic growth, the fruits of these positive results are still to be fully and equitably shared among our people, hence the abject poverty we still find coexisting side by side with extraordinary opulence. Importantly, we had an obligation to ensure that democracy becomes the permanent feature of our lives and that all our citizens respect the rule of law and human rights”.

President Mbeki said this after the rough and tumble of Polokwane. A rough and tumble that is the national anthem of this lacerated country. So Reverend Chikane is it still correct to describe Zimbabwe as one of Mbeki s great legacies?

I think not.

Zikomo

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