Contextual Content

Mugabe under pressure

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe continues to draw international condemnation. Leaders of The Southern African Development Community otherwise known as SADC refuse to endorse the upcoming rerun of the general election as free and fair.

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Story Transcript

ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe continues to draw international condemnation. Leaders of the Southern African Development Community, otherwise known as SADC, refused to endorse the upcoming rerun of the general election as free and fair. And former South African President Nelson Mandela condemned the regime.

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NELSON MANDELA, FORMER SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: We watch with sadness the continuing struggle to [inaudible] and the tragic failure of leadership in our neighbor in Zimbabwe.

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Presidential hopeful Barack Obama issued this statement.

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SEN. BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (D): Not only do I think that the United Nations needs to continue to apply as much pressure as possible on the Mugabe government, but in particular other African nations, including South Africa, I think, have to be much more forceful in condemning the extraordinary violence that has been taking place there. And, frankly, they have been quiet for far too long.

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I spoke to Adam Habib in Johannesburg about the ongoing political crisis in Zimbabwe.

VOICE OF PROF. ADAM HABIB: There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that the dilemma we confirmed is in Zimbabwe is about how to get an autocrat out of power. I think there’s a large degree of agreement between Obama and Mandela and a variety of other stakeholders across the ideological spectrum around those kinds of issues. The remarks that Obama makes with regards to South Africa, what I think that that doesn’t understand is the issue of what the South African political elite have been trying to do in Zimbabwe. It suggests that South Africa has been complicit in Mugabe’s behavior. And I wonder whether that captures the real dilemma the South African political elite confirmed, and whether that is actually true of what is actually going on in Zimbabwe. I think that the South African political elite, including Mbeki, recognize that Mugabe’s an autocrat, recognize that there is a difficulty with keeping [inaudible] into power, and that they’ve been trying to facilitate an exit. The real question is that they’ve been struggling to figure out how to do that. And I think as much as they’re struggling, I think the critics haven’t been able to put any serious solution on the table. Whether those critics are the UK political elite or the US political elite in all of their manifestations or the human rights activists in South Africa, nobody has put a plausible alternative to Mbeki on how to get Robert Mugabe to exit from the political stage. But the debate on Zimbabwe has slightly been, intellectually, completely lazy. Most critics have suggested, they have criticized Robert Mugabe, and have sometimes criticized the political elite in South Africa. But truly he has not been able to put serious alternatives on the table. There are three serious options to get an exit of Robert Mugabe. The first is an invasion, either by the South African government and/or by SADC and/or the African Union, or even an external partner. Now, we know that that’s not feasible. It’s not politically feasible, and I’m not even sure that, if South Africa were to do it, that we have the military capacity to pull it off. I’m not so sure that you bring democracy through the barrel of a gun. We’ve seen the failure of this strategy in Iraq. The other option that has often been mooted is the idea of sanctions. Now, I think sanctions are maybe symbolically satisfying, and maybe useful in penalizing the Mugabe regime and his inner cronies, but in the short term it’s unlikely to facilitate a resolution. The third option is the issue of a mediated engagement, the mediator, Thabo Mbeki in this case, having to facilitate a negotiated exit. The trick in a negotiated exit is it really emerges as a result of the leverage the mediator may have vis-à-vis the political protagonist. And in this case, the big question is: what is the leverage that Mbeki has had over Robert Mugabe? The strategic orientation of a negotiated or a mediated engagement is it’s the only game in town, if you like. And perhaps the MDC’s pullout earlier this week, and now the more vocal criticisms of the SADC leaders, may give him some degree of leverage. I’m not so sure it’s enough to facilitate a breakthrough immediately, but I think perhaps this, coupled with the fact that SADC leaders and/or African Union leaders may be prepared to suggest to Robert Mugabe that he will be expelled from both parties if he doesn’t engage. The one thing that Mugabe prides himself on is being a liberation leader, of having liberation credentials; and being kicked out of the African Union and SADC may take that last shred of dignity that he thinks he has, and maybe the sufficient leverage to get him to start engaging on this in a rational way.

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