We must not fail Zim, even if SADC does

Zimbabweans go about their business near the Beitbridge border post in Musina yesterday.
Zimbabwe boarder Zimbabweans go about their business near the Beitbridge border post in Musina yesterday.

The Southern African Development Community's (SADC) response to the Zimbabwean impasse is disappointing.

But that was to be expected given the body's poor record in resolving political crises within its member states. Thursday's meeting of the SADC organ troika plus, which was attended by the troika states' foreign affairs ministers and our own Maite Nkoana-Mashabane in Botswana, failed to give the line of march to Zimbabwe's political actors.

It feebly "noted with great concern the situation unfolding in the Republic of Zimbabwe", and agreed that an extraordinary SADC summit of the region's heads of state be convened to deal with the crisis. It is inconceivable that the heads of state would turn against one of their own.

The SADC enjoys the dubious honour of being Africa's most ineffective developmental community. The people of Zimbabwe are questioning the body's intentions, and correctly so, given how it has disappointed them countless times in the past.

Some Zimbabweans think the SADC wants to prolong President Robert Mugabe's stay in office at a time when members of his own party and that the country's military is trying to force him into long overdue retirement.

Mugabe should see popular demonstrations and the demand by his party that he resigns as president, as a sign that his time is up.

SADC will have to take a leaf from the people of Zimbabwe and not the other way around. After all, this is the body that dismally failed to resolve the crisis in Lesotho and hasn't been able to keep in check King Mswati's dictatorial tendencies in Swaziland. The body has effectively allowed Congo Kinshasa's Joseph Kabila to remain in office long after his term of office ended last year.

While the European Union and the US imposed targeted sanctions on Kabila's regime, the SADC handle him with kid gloves. Instead of forcing him to commit to a definite election timetable, the SADC resolved to appoint a special envoy to mediate in the DRC.

We do not expect a solution to come out of the SADC. The people of Zimbabwe need our solidarity to sustain the momentum of their campaign to force Mugabe out, and to enable that country to have credible elections in 2018. We dare not fail them.