SADC exit threat: Mugabe clearly overreacting

July 8, 2013 at 8:03 pm Leave a comment

 by Takura Zhangazha

AT the launch of his political party (Zanu PF) manifesto for the July 31 
2013 harmonised elections last Friday, President Robert Mugabe made some 
rather shocking remarks as regards the Southern African Development 
Community (SADC) The statements may be forgivable given that they were made 
within the context of our never ending electoral campaign season but they 
would still warrant reasonable critique.

When President Mugabe intoned that SADC was after all a membership 
organisation and that Zimbabwe reserved the right to withdraw its membership 
if it felt its rights as a sovereign state were being violated, it was as 
though he was speaking about the Commonwealth or our membership of some 
abstract nostalgic colonial organisation. President Mugabe opinions, on the 
face of it, may appear to be fair statements were it not for the fact that 
Zimbabwe owes components of its liberation struggle and achievements to the 
then Frontline States and subsequently the Southern African Development 
Coordinating Committee (SADCC, now referred to as SADC).

Given the fact that SADC is not an ahistorical, let alone, simplistic 
geographical grouping of nations, President Mugabe’s statements were 
unfortunate; more-so because they come from a liberation struggle icon not 
only in Zimbabwe but also in the Southern African region. This is an 
important point to make because even if Zimbabwe’s inclusive government was 
established via the facilitation of SADC, the meaning of the political 
importance of the latter cannot be downplayed on the basis of an ephemeral 
diplomatic tiff.

As has been widely reported in the media, when President Mugabe accused 
members of the SADC facilitator’s mediation team of being ‘street kids’, he 
probably meant South African President Jacob Zuma’s international relations 
advisor, Lindiwe Zulu.  While one cannot argue with the President in finding 
fault with the manner in which Zulu has conducted herself as regards the 
Zimbabwean political impasse, the fact that he then had to intimate that our 
country would possibly ponder a withdrawal from SADC was to say the least, 
an over-reaction.

Disputes with the SADC-appointed facilitator’s representatives cannot be 
allowed to undermine the historical political integrity of SADC.  Zimbabwe’s 
independence would not have been won without our neighbours. Agreed, the 
same can and should be said for South Africa (which has found itself in the 
unenviable role of a post-colonial hegemony) which attained its independence 
after a collective regional push for the freedom of its people from the 
clutches of apartheid.

It is trite to note that the visionary leadership of the late Samora Machel 
and Julius Nyerere as well as the living Kenneth Kaunda remains evidence 
enough of the significance of SADC to Zimbabwe’s liberation as well as that 
of the country with which President Mugabe appears to have differences with 
(both as a facilitator and a pretender to the Southern African political 
throne).

It, therefore, becomes important to emphasise that Zimbabwe has an umbilical 
cord with the Southern African region. It’s independence and that of those 
states that attained liberation after Tanzania and Zambia was contrived from 
a unique African regional solidarity that not only united liberation 
movements but the peoples of Southern Africa. Dar es Salaam and Lusaka were 
liberatory cities, not in and of themselves but more because the Southern 
African peoples thought and felt them to be the cities of our liberation 
from colonialism. It is therefore borderline (and can only be) moot to wish 
to withdraw from a regional organization that represents our rich liberation 
struggle history.

Perhaps latter day leaders do not understand this history as much as 
President Mugabe, given the fact that he too is a product of the same said 
regional history of struggle. It is however key that the Zimbabwean 
President understands that he is one of the key harbingers of this same 
history which he cannot dismiss with angst all because of a regional 
facilitator’s assumed misdemeanours. Southern Africa, if the truth be told, 
is the sum total of its liberation struggle related historical past and its 
organic present.

To put into the public arena, the thought of a Zimbabwean withdrawal from 
SADC is thoroughly ahistorical and unfair to the narrative of peoples’ 
struggle solidarity across borders. In contemporary times, the revolutionary 
solidarity of old may no longer exist and neither is the world as binary as 
it was during the Cold War. And frankly speaking, in our region national, 
leaders will react differently to various issues depending on their 
political aptitude as well as their domestic challenges. Whoever they are 
and whatever their challenges they cannot easily dismiss the history of 
Southern Africa’s people-centred struggle for liberation and the attendant 
regional solidarity that accompanied it.

It has been said elsewhere that South Africa’s current president may not 
have as nuanced, let alone as organic a view of international relations, but 
that does not mean his perceived mistakes are tantamount to an outright 
dismissal of the political significance of SADC. Indeed Zimbabwe has been on 
the backburner of global and regional hegemons, but in the case of SADC, no 
matter how upset we might get with whoever is interacting directly with us, 
we cannot ever think of withdrawing from it.

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