President Jacob Zuma’s attempts to prop up President Robert Mugabe have been derailed. The South African presidency has announced he will not be visiting Zimbabwe today, Wednesday, as had been planned.
The Presidency has announced that Zuma will “no longer travel to Harare” in the Republic of Zimbabwe today. This follows Mugabe’s announcement – by letter – of his resignation on Tuesday night. The announcement, after 37 years of the Mugabe dictatorship, led to a flood of public jubilation in the streets of Zimbabwe’s cities and towns.
The Southern African Development Community “organ troika” and the SADC chairperson summit had taken a decision that the SADC chairperson, President Zuma and the chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, Angolan President Joao Lourencqo “should travel to Zimbabwe to assess the situation on behalf of the SADC”.
But this morning, The Presidency said the visit “has now been postponed” until further notice.
President Zuma has routinely sided with President Robert Mugabe and previously ignored Zimbabwe opposition leader and Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s call for him to intervene to save democracy in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai appealed to Zuma directly after Mugabe stole the 2008 presidential elections.
In March 2011, two years into the Zuma presidency, Tsvangirai – by this time Prime Minister under President Mugabe – “ran to South Africa” – as it was reported at the time by Independent Newspapers. He met Zuma at his controversial homestead, Nkandla, in KwaZulu Natal.
It was reported that if Tsvangirai was arrested in Zimbabwe, this could drive “the final nail into the coffin” of the then two-year old unity government. Tsvangirai firmly believed he was facing arrest. Already his Energy Minister Elton Mangoma, an Movement for Democratic Change MP, had been taken into custody.
Significantly Tsvangirai returned to Zimbabwe and sat out the unity government term to 2013. Mugabe went on to win those elections although it is widely believed that that poll was significantly rigged in favour of the ruling party, Zanu-PF.
Zuma’s aides, Independent reported at the time, said that Tsvangirai was at Nkandla “on private business”. Tsvangirai was in trouble for allegedly bringing Zimbabwe Supreme Court judges into disrepute. He suggested their decision to overrule a High Court ruling reinstating dismissed Speaker Lovemore Moyo – an Movement for Democratic Change MP – was political.
It was reported that Zimbabwe Attorney General Johannes Tomana – believed to be a lackey of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF – was about to arrest Tsvangirai even though the prime minister had retracted the comment.
Zuma was at the time the official Southern African Development Community mediator for Zimbabwe.
Zuma’s dilly-dallying over Zimbabwe was captured by Peta Thornycroft and Peter Fabricius – who both then wrote for Independent at the time. They wrote that Tsvangirai’s dilemma was that Mugabe was provoking him to quit the unity government so he, Mugabe, could call fresh elections and rid the government of the MDC.
Zuma announced that his “facilitation team” would travel to Zimbabwe, but then he altered his message. He announced that the team would delay the visit to the following month – April 2011 – to allow the three Zimbabwean parties, the MDC T (Movement for Democratic Change Tsvangirai), MDC-M (MDC Mtumbara) and Zanu-PF, Mugabe’s party, to prepare “their own progress reports” on their negotiations.
Mugabe’s officials had started to ban MDC rallies amid heightened political violence, Independent reported.
This time Zuma’s delay in getting to Zimbabwe appears to have averted a rescue attempt for Mugabe, a long-time ally of the African National Congress.
Thorneycroft and Fabricius captured Zuma’s facilitation failure from six years ago. “Tsvangirai’s visit to Zuma in Nkandla … suggests that events in Zimbabwe are overtaking his facilitation team’s relaxed schedule.” That failure to intervene led to the MDC being defeated in the 2013 election and the end to the unity government.
This time Zuma’s lacklustre approach to the Zimbabwe crisis has worked in the favour of the Zimbabwean revolution and the coup plotters there. Their aim to rid the country of a dictator has been victorious.
Ironically there is talk that Tsvangirai could again serve in a unity government, once again as prime minister. Mugabe’s former lieutenant, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is expected to be elected as President of Zimbabwe today, Wednesday.