Friday, February 13, 2009

Thabo Mbeki: A True Neighbour to Zimbabwe

Mbeki: A true neighbour

By Caesar Zvayi
Courtesy of the Zimbabwe Herald

HISTORY will record that after a decade of sustained assault on the foundation Zimbabwe laid since April 18, 1980, on February 11 and 13 2009, the Westerners came unstuck as Zimbabwe remained not only standing but united for nation- building, with the regime change project in tatters.

The opposition the Westerners had mooted and sponsored, and which they hoped to advocate their agenda joined hands with their nemesis, President Mugabe in an inclusive Government sworn to finding lasting solutions to the neo-colonial assault of the past decade.

On Wednesday, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Thokozani Khupe along with MDC leader Professor Arthur Mutambara all swore to bear true allegiance to Zimbabwe, and ‘‘to well and truly serve’’ their nation in the inclusive Government.

It is everyone’s hope that in taking that oath, the opposition leaders effectively turned over a new leaf, pledging allegiance to their country and not any foreign or third forces, no matter how powerful.

All Zimbabweans hope the trio — Tsvangirai, Mutambara and Khupe — understood the enormity of the pledges they made, particularly as this coalition Government resulted not from ideological congruence but Cde Mugabe’s legacy of inclusion pursuant to nation-building.

Let’s not forget that even the first Zimbabwean Cabinet reflected the spirit of reconciliation that had been pronounced by the then Prime Minister-elect Cde Mugabe.

It included members from all but one of the parties represented in Parliament.

The Republican Front (formerly Rhodesian Front) MP for Borrowdale constituency, David Smith came in as the Minister of Commerce and Industry; as well as the president of the predominantly white, Commercial Farmers Union, Dennis Norman.

Members of PF Zapu, then called the Patriotic Front, were well represented as well.

The only party that was excluded was the United African National Council of Bishop Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa.

And of course having pride of place in this historic story of Africa’s maiden victory over neo-colonial regime change projects is former South African president, Cde Thabo Mbeki.

A man who personifies to the hilt, the Biblical neighbour by refusing to be used against his brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe.

It is important to note that while the inter-party talks were finally carried out and concluded under the aegis of Sadc, the regional bloc simply bought into what Cde Mbeki had already started.

Cde Mbeki was involved in dialogue efforts in Zimbabwe soon after the 2002 presidential election when Sadc and the Commonwealth urged Zimbabwe to begin a process of dialogue after MDC refused to accept the poll outcome.

Negotiations then began under the facilitation of Cde Kgalema Motlanthe; incumbent South African President, who was then ANC secretary general, and Professor Adebayo Adedeji of Nigeria.

Though nothing came out of those talks, they laid the groundwork for the successful resolution of the talks under Cde Mbeki’s stewardship.

As Cde Motlanthe put it, the swearing-in vindicated Cde Mbeki’s policy of quiet diplomacy and South Africa’s policy of non-interference in Zimbabwe’s affairs.

Earlier on, Cde Mbeki had this to say to a reporter who asked him why he was ‘‘not pulling the plug on Zimbabwe,’’

‘‘The point really about all this from our perspective has been that the critical role we should play is to assist the Zimbabweans to find each other, really to agree among themselves about the political, economic, social, other solutions that their country needs.

‘‘We could have stepped aside from that task and then shouted, and that would be the end of our contribution . . . They would shout back at us and that would be the end of the story.

"I’m actually the only head of government that I know anywhere in the world who has actually gone to Zimbabwe and spoken publicly very critically of the things that they are doing.’’

We all remember how even our new Prime Minister implored Cde Mbeki to cut our fuel and electricity lines.

How Blair begged him to work closely with London, how Bush claimed he was his point man on Zimbabwe, but through it all, Cde Mbeki’s constant refrain: ‘‘Zimbabwe is not a province of South Africa and Zimbabweans have the capacity to resolve their problems,’’ always rang out.

Cde Mbeki remained true to himself when it would have been much easier to join the anti-Zimbabwe bandwagon like what the likes of Botswana’s novice president Seretse Khama Ian Khama did.

Cde Mbeki’s resilience should inspire us all to believe in ourselves and respect each other’s political space.

We hope the condescending Westerners have been put on notice and will respect us enough to stop meddling in our affairs.

It is providential that today, Cde Mbeki stands vindicated and all those who opposed and badmouthed him over Zimbabwe should hang their heads in shame. The inclusive Government he brokered between Zanu-PF, the MDC-T and MDC is as much a personal tribute as it is a triumph for Zimbabwe, Africa and the entire developing world.

It is a celebration of African solutions to African problems as espoused in the MoU that preceded the broad-based agreement, and should be a wake up call for African leaders to believe in themselves and not always look outside for solutions.

Therein is a lesson for the new appointees to Government, lets believe in ourselves.

Zimbabweans are aware of the enormous personal and national sacrifices this great son of Africa made to defend our right to self-determination and the flak he received from the reactionary media in Zimbabwe and abroad that would rather have seen us at each others throats for ‘‘good’’ copy.

It is important to note that apart from President Mugabe, no other man has been subjected to as much pressure over Zimbabwe as Cde Mbeki was made to bear.

The fact that he refused to give in when it would have been easier to do so testifies to his leadership credentials.

Here is a man Africa should call on to help resolve the crises afflicting various parts of the continent, and it is pleasing to note that the AU wants to use his expertise in Darfur.

AU Commission chairperson, Jean Ping, wrote to Cde Mbeki ahead of the 12th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly asking him to chair a high level panel to submit recommendations on how best to reconcile the fight against impunity (in Darfur) while also dealing with reconciliation and forgiveness.

This is in recognition of Cde Mbeki’s impeccable diplomatic credentials.

Diplomacy is defined as the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or countries, and Cde Mbeki’s aptitude at this is why this week we gathered for the swearing in of the Prime Minister and his deputies, and the new Cabinet.

Cde Mbeki himself captured it well where he said, all diplomacy is quiet, if it is not quiet then it is not diplomacy but something else.

We hope our brothers to our West will learn from Cde Mbeki’s maturity and statesmanship and drop, like a plague, their policy of Western appeasement.

The inclusive Government, which in effect is Cde Mbeki’s legacy, must find a fitting and lasting honour to bestow on this great son of Africa who managed to bring together diametrically opposed parties in the face of great hostility from Westerners who, no doubt, were smarting that the regime change they funded over the past 10 years was running aground.

The West’s desperation was manifest in attempts to mobilise a military invasion of Zimbabwe, which attempts again came unstuck because of South Africa’s principled stance at the United Nations Security Council where it insisted, Zimbabweans are capable of resolving their problems.

And this is what we are doing, the first step being the formation of the inclusive Government, but then that is just the first step.

Now the real work begins because we are supposed to close ranks against the attempted strangulation of our country and engage those who have been working to pull us down.

Therefore, even if we spent a decade claiming there were no economic sanctions, now is the time to admit our mistake and join others in calling for the lifting of the illegal coercive measures.

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