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Mbeki a Scapegoat for MDC Failures
Posted: Saturday, May 12, 2007

New Zimbabwe (London)
Posted to the web 11 May 2007

By Dr. Sehlare Makgetlaneng

MORE and more people are facing the brutal reality that the effective national response to Zimbabwe's socio-political and economic problems is the key starting point in the resolution of these problems.

Central to this national task is the reality that Zimbabweans under the leadership of their political parties and civil society organisations must organise themselves to have dialogue among themselves to find means to resolve their country's problems. This is the case despite their different and antagonistic socio-political and economic interests.

Any political party which is in practice committed to the resolution of the national problems must struggle to bring together the people of its country to discuss strategies and tactics essential for the resolution of the national question. If the people of a particular country through their political parties have failed to execute this national task, they should not blame people of other countries. They should blame themselves and their individual and organisational leaders.

The political parties of Zimbabwe have failed to execute this task. The leading opposition political party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has failed to execute this task. It has attributed this failure to the programme of action embarked upon by the ruling party, Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front to entrench itself in power. It has reduced this programme of action to President Robert Mugabe.

The key reason behind this failure is the lack of serious well-organised opposition to the present political governance in the country. As a result of this failure, the MDC and its internal and external supporters have blamed political leaders of Africa for what they regard as their failure to resolve Zimbabwe's problems as if it is not the task of the people of Zimbabwe under the leadership of the MDC to resolve the Zimbabwean problems.

This is their means to hide the profound and unique practical and theoretical weakness of the MDC. The task of African political leaders and the people of other African countries through their organisations is to support Zimbabweans in their efforts to resolve their national problems.

While the MDC has sustained the politics of opposition in Zimbabwe, few people are convinced that it is capable to take care of the political administration of the society or to govern. There is an emerging popular position that it has failed to oppose the ruling party. Its practical and theoretical weakness has been intensified by its division into two organised factions under the leadership of Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara. They are referred to as MDC Tsvangirai and MDC Mutambara.

The two MDCs' lack of leadership and ideas appropriate even to challenge the ruling party, not to mention to mobilise Zimbabweans into action and to articulate strategies and tactics to convince Zimbabweans that one of them is capable to govern the country and to lead its reconstruction and development programme, is unique and frightening. They are disorganised and divided to pose any serious, well-organised threat to the ruling party. Despite their unity which is their opposition to Mugabe, they have individually and collectively failed to formulate appropriate strategy and tactics to exert pressure upon the ruling party to see the structural and fundamental need to have a serious dialogue with them.

The failure of Zimbabweans to organise themselves, to have dialogue among themselves and to find means to resolve their country's problems has led the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to appoint President Thabo Mbeki to facilitate dialogue between Zimbabwe's ruling party and the opposition party.

Far from being the victory of the MDC, this development has further marginalised the MDC by demonstrating that it has been so far incapable of impelling the ruling party to see a need for a serious dialogue with it. The ruling party has not been weakened by this development. Far from regionalising the Zimbabwean conflict, it has re-affirmed that the Zimbabwean crisis is the national question to be resolved by Zimbabweans. It has re-affirmed the position of African leaders that Zimbabweans, not external actors, must solve their own national problem.

This development has led some of those who maintain that the task of resolving Zimbabwe's problems is primarily that of African leaders, not of the people of Zimbabwe, to abandon their position which is obviously incorrect. This incorrect position has its fundamentalist supporters in the former frontline state of the settler colonial rule in Southern Africa, the former settler colonial South Africa. It is articulated in the Southern African national newspapers.

The Weekender, published in Johannesburg, in its 21-22 April 2007 editorial maintains that it is the task of president Mbeki to solve Zimbabwe's problems. Questioning his intentions as the facilitator of dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition of Zimbabwe, The Weekender maintains that Mbeki "will not bring back 4-million escapees" or "4-million Zimbabweans" who represent "a third of the country's population" who have "fled their country of birth to set up home everywhere, from the obvious places such as" the United Kingdom and South Africa, to "the less likely locations of Taiwan, Eastern Europe and the Far East."

It continues, pointing out that Mbeki "cannot reverse Zimbabwe's brain drain and its inexorable economic slide, nor stem the rot of its institutions of governance. He can do nothing about the social ills that have resulted from Zimbabwe's meltdown, such as unemployment and worsening HIV/AIDS burden."

This position of The Weekender is as if Mbeki is the president of Zimbabwe or as if Zimbabwe is a province of South Africa. The point is that Zimbabweans' problems which we are told that Mbeki cannot solve are obviously problems to be solved by Zimbabweans, not by Mbeki.

President Mbeki has become a target of some European South Africans. Some of these European South Africans are against Africans of South Africa. They claim to be for Africans of Zimbabwe. This is interesting aspect of the position of a considerable number of European South Africans. They are against Africans of South Africa and claim to be for their brothers and sisters of other African countries.

David Bullard of Sunday Times, another national newspaper published in Johannesburg, had a published piece, 'Offer Zimbabweans dignity - and visas", on April 22, 2007. He maintains that various newspapers articles have "described how highly qualified Zimbabweans are having to eke out a living as security guards or waiters. Desperately as they are, they run the risk of being exploited because they are not legal citizens and there's no chance of them filing an official complaint."

This is the problem faced by Zimbabweans, not only in South Africa but also in other countries throughout the world. It is the problem faced by Africans of other African countries and by those who are not Africans throughout the world. David Bullard argues as if this is the problem faced only by Zimbabweans only in South Africa. Bullard's position is the same position of regarding South Africa as one block which is unjust and the rest of Africa as another block which is just. It is the same position which isolates South Africa from the rest of the continent in terms of contributing towards the solution to problems faced by the continent or some African countries such as Zimbabwe. This can best be understood if we take into account Bullard's position that the South African "government's stand on Zimbabwe is an international disgrace, particularly for a party that fought for racial equality and justice."

Which political party in Africa which is either now or was in the past the ruling party which fought for racial inequality and injustice? The ruling parties of the colonial Africa, not of post-colonial Africa, fought for racial inequality and injustice.

Bullard maintains the position that it is the responsibility of South Africa to solve Zimbabwe's problems. If South Africa does not make serious efforts to solve Zimbabwe's problems, these problems "are bound to get worse." He argues that it is because the South African government has refused to solve Zimbabwe's problems that these problems are going to increase. Maintaining that quiet diplomacy "loosely translated," means "we can't be bothered to do anything and, besides, we're hoping the problem just goes away," he concludes that the problem "hasn't and, thanks to the ANC government's spinelessness, things are bound to get worse."

Bullard concludes his article by appealing to President Mbeki to "offer Zimbabweans dignity - and visas." In his words: "So please Mr Mbeki, stop being a pipe-smoking intellectual for once and set up a fast-tracking system to legalise these unfortunate [Zimbabwean] people. Having betrayed them for so long it's the least we can do."

President Mbeki of South Africa has betrayed the masses of the people of Zimbabwe by not solving their national problems? Really?

This is the same problem of not critically viewing the Movement for Democratic Change. Mbeki has been used as a means to avoid the issue of confronting the internal dynamics of the MDC particularly its weaknesses and failure to constitute itself as a viable opposition political party practically threatening to assume state political power.

It is a tragedy of Zimbabwean politics of opposition that as the leading opposition party, the MDC continues regarding such individuals as its supporters - individuals who support the interests of their fellow Europeans in Zimbabwe and throughout the world. It should not oppose in theory what it supports in practice that the resolution to Zimbabwe's socio-political and economic problems is not within itself, the MDC Tsvangirai or the MDC Mutambara, but within the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front.

Dr Sehlare Makgetlaneng is the Head of Southern Africa and SADC programme at the Africa Institute of South Africa in Pretoria, South Africa

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