William Gumede: Amid the despair of Zimbabwe, there is still hope

Share
Related Topics

There can be no clearer illustration of the impotence of Africa's regional institutions and leaders to find local solutions to the continent's problems than their astounding inaction in the face of Zimbabwe's terrifying descent into the abyss. Any deal to stave off the country's collapse will founder unless it involves both its neighbours and the international community, yet, no matter how dire the situation, there is just no appetite in Africa for an Iraqi-style foreign invasion to rid the country of Robert Mugabe.

Western intervention on this scale is a non-starter. First, African countries – even those who implacably oppose Mugabe – would see foreign forces on African soil as an affront to their dignity, especially if it involves one from Britain, the former colonial master of Zimbabwe. Second, although African countries have this week finally started to put pressure on Mugabe, they have always been opposed to using peacekeeping troops to resolve conflicts within the continent.

The United Nations must be central to the resolution of the Zimbabwean impasse, and the Security Council's condemnation of Mugabe is a necessary if long overdue component in the process. The fact that South Africa and China, who previously blocked discussion of Zimbabwe in the Security Council, joined in the condemnation is another step forward.

In the absence of an opposition in this week's presidential run-off, Mugabe will probably claim victory, no matter how ridiculous that would be. But such a farce can be prevented. Indeed, victory for the people of Zimbabwe can still be salvaged from this bloody wreckage.

Two things have changed. African leaders have finally come to terms with the fact that Mugabe is a shameful blot on the continent. The fact that Angola, Senegal, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda have added their voices to calls for Mugabe to listen to reason is ground-breaking in a continent where the rule is that African leaders do not criticise their peers even if they brutalise their people.

The other obstructive rule has been that African leaders always side with the fellow African leaders when they are criticised by the West, especially by former colonial powers, no matter the merits of the criticisms. That rule has also now been broken. And a third rule, that fellow African movements always close ranks when another is criticised by outsiders, is also now broken.

Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa's ruling ANC, now says that the ANC cannot support Mugabe and Zanu-PF on the basis solely of their shared anti-colonial struggle experience. In the African context this is hugely significant. It means that Mugabe is now for the first time isolated within Africa up to his rallying base.

But how to deal practically with the crisis? A joint African-West solution, backed by the UN, should involve cancelling the presidential re-run, and installing a transitional government based on the results of the 29 March elections, won by Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC. It would be an outrage if a solution involved Mugabe remaining head of Zimbabwe. A deal would also have to involve key Zanu-PF leaders in a transitional cabinet of national unity – without Mugabe at its head.

Disappointingly, during the UN Security Council meeting on Monday, South Africa blocked a stronger statement that would have formally recognised Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC, as the legitimate president, and a deal may have to involve giving Mugabe and his allies some kind of immunity. The advantages of this would outweigh the moral hazards.

African countries must send a peacekeeping force, during a transitional period, with members from all African countries that can contribute. The West could partner such a peacekeeping force by providing financial, material and logistic support.

There is more to be done: an offer from the West to cancel at least some of Zimbabwe's debt will do a lot to restore African confidence. Furthermore, both the UK and the US must pay the disputed funds for land reform, which Mugabe has used as a red flag to mobilise African leaders behind him since 2000. Many Africans still do remember unfulfilled Western promises in many areas – which remain a sore point across the continent.

Amid the despair of the death, destruction and starvation perpetuated by Mugabe – a situation abetted by the inaction of African and Western leaders – there is still the possibility of a solution to what has happened in Zimbabwe. But what's needed is a sense of urgency combined with cool heads and pragmatism.

William Gumede is author of 'Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai  

China has exposed the fatal flaws in our liberal economic order

Ann Pettifor
Jeremy Corbyn addresses over a thousand supporters at Middlesbrough Town Hall on August 18, 2015  

Thank God we have the right-wing press to tell us what a disaster Jeremy Corbyn as PM would be

Mark Steel
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future