Mbeki on tightrope

With the outcome of the Zimbabwean presidential run-off poll now official and certainly a foregone conclusion, the finale has had a predictable hollow ring about it.

With the outcome of the Zimbabwean presidential run-off poll now official and certainly a foregone conclusion, the finale has had a predictable hollow ring about it.

Just as everyone thought, the madness of continuing with a single-contestant presidential race capped an otherwise one-man tragi-comedy in which Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe featured as self-appointed star, director and producer.

If Mugabe had been a self-proclaimed boxing champion who arrives at a tournament to find no opponent in the ring, rest assured he would similarly have sparred with the air for a mandatory 12rounds in defence of his title.

This notwithstanding the fact he would have known well in advance that his opponent had bailed out.

Such is the nature of African politics that it sometimes lends itself to facetiousness even when a situation as that in Zimbabwe poses dire consequences for the South African region.

What next now that the Mugabe regime has firmed its grip on power again? Will relations between Mugabe and arch-rival Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai thaw to give Thabo Mbeki's mediation efforts a chance?

Though much-maligned, Mbeki's efforts still offer a realistic chance to deliver in a climate characterised by suspicion and belligerent attitudes.

Wisdom precludes any mediator from publicly condemning either of the disputing parties, as public pressure would have Mbeki unwisely do, lest he inadvertently puts a spoke in the wheel of the mediation process.

Walking the tightrope is a more precarious exercise than a mere act of witnessing the process from the sanctified court of public opinion.

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