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The Pied Piper from Gaborone: Will Masisi call the SADC tune on Zimbabwe?

It has been three years since the end of Robert Mugabe’s Presidency.

Yet Zimbabwe finds itself in a familiar situation characterised by a complex web of leadership crisis, declining rule of law and increasing securitisation of the State and civil rights issues.

The past month in Zimbabwe has seen a rise in indiscriminate arrests of activists, lawyers and journalists; the imposition of a curfew and the indiscriminate deployment of the military.

The Zimbabwean situation is not new, and has left the country in a permanent state of crisis for much of the past 40 years. The only new thing this time around is that it is happening under new leadership.

Into this environment now steps in SADC, the regional body which has in some way or the other given the people of Zimbabwe hope and despair in equal measure.

As President Mokgweetsi Masisi takes over the chairmanship of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, both Botswana and Masisi’s vision and priorities for the region will hopefully set the tone for how the Organ and SADC handle matters of peace and security. The Organ’s core mandate is to support the maintenance of security and the rule of law.

Of particular interest will be Masisi’s choice of diplomatic and other instruments to help craft and lead SADC’s response to the Zimbabwe situation. The SADC collective wisdom will require the organ to wear their unbiased hats while working to mitigate the unrest in Zimbabwe.Masisi will need to be resolute and more especially, objective.

Past Presidents in Masire, Mogae, Khama,

Mbeki, Zuma and more have all come and gone, yet the Zimbabwe unrest persists. Unfortunately there isn’t a playbook to guide any response to the Zimbabwe crisis. Everyday, a visible lack of solidarity in the region grows exponentially.

SADC itself can only do so much. Without any comprehensive support from the region, the current situation will continue unless there is a change of leadership within Zanu-PF, which in its current form is unlikely to happen or change anything.

The cost of Zimbabwe’s implosion will be multilayered for the region. As the new leadership transition of SADC takes place, a wait-and-see approach will only exacerbate the situation. The dilemma herein, will be that silence of any kind will validate former president Ian Khama’s long-standing criticism of SADC as a ‘toothless body’. Any intervention will have to view the Zimbabwe matter totally divorced from the prism or lens of domestic liberation politics.

Perhaps Masisi can use the ‘friendship card’ as a source of goodwill to bring President Mnangagwa and the MDC to the table for a constructive conversation that will lead to a peaceful resolution. It is also important to find a way to restore economic stability to Zimbabwe and commit regional resources to revitalise key economic sectors. Selective condemnation will not work. Only until all parties to the Zimbabwe problem are brought to the table will there be any prospects of finding a middle ground.

Today’s thought

“Best wishes for the future.”

 – The Avengers


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