Hopes that African Union leaders would pressure Robert Mugabe to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with the opposition took a blow today when they received him as “a hero” at the AU summit in Egypt.
Mugabe attended the AU summit after being hurriedly inaugurated on Sunday after a widely condemned election on Friday in which he was the only candidate.
Prior to the summit, democracy groups called for the African Union to act in a manner consistent with its mandate to promote “democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance”. Jennifer Windsor of Freedom House argued that the AU could “set a powerful precedent and send a clear message of hope to the people of Zimbabwe by isolating Mugabe and pushing for his swift exit from the country’s political arena.”
Some African leaders had called for the election to be postponed and for an end to the regime’s violence and intimidation. Speaking in Nairobi, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga (above) urged the AU to suspend Zimbabwe’s membership. But, while the AU accepts the election fell short of acceptable standards, other leaders have been notably quiet.
There is speculation that Mugabe will propose a government of national unity to the Mutambara faction within the Movement for Democratic Change in an effort to marginalize MDC leader Tsvangirai. The arrangement, in which the MDC would remain subordinate to the ruling Zanu-PF is reportedly favored by South Africa”s President Thabo Mbeki. “Zanu-PF and the MDC must enter into negotiations which will lead to the formation of a transitional government that can extricate Zimbabwe from its current political challenges,” South Africa’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement today.
Thokozani Khupe, MDC vice president, today called for a “transitional authority” based on the March 29 vote.”Zimbabwe is burning,” Khupe said, “It is important that the African leaders save it before it burns beyond recognition.”
Analysts suggest that economic collapse and the threat of intensified sanctions will force the regime to reach an accommodation with the MDC. In a 1987 essay in Foreign Affairs, Mugabe himself wrote of “the value of sanctions as a means of raising the cost” of misrule. But the hard-line security service hawks who took control of Mugabe’s campaign after his humiliating loss to Tsvangirai in March will resist any that deal does not include immunity from prosecution on human rights charges.
“The economy will force him to the negotiating table and so he has to convince the hardliners that ‘we will have to negotiate or perish’,” said Eldred Masunungure, a leading political analyst. “The economy will be Mugabe’s Achilles heel, he has little leg room to wriggle. He had hoped his election would bring legitimacy, that has not happened”.
South Africa joined with Russia in opposing a UN Security Council declaration that Zimbabwe’s run-off election illegitimate today in the face of South African opposition. The US and European members supported a UK-drafted statement that the results of today’s election “could have no credibility or legitimacy”.
Adoption of the text required unanimous approval by all 15 Security Council members, but South Africa, backed by Russia, opposed it. South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said that it was not the Security Council’s business to certify elections.
While promoting itself as an impartial mediator, Pretoria has consistently sided with Mugabe against the country’s democratic forces. Moeletsi Mbeki, president of the South African president, suggests that Mugabe and Mbeki share a deep hostility to the independent labor movement. The MDC’s Tsvangirai is a former trade union leader and Thabo Mbeki lost the leadership of the African National Congress to Jacob Zuma, who was supported by the Congress of South African Trade Unions. “It’s a class thing,” said Moeletsi Mbeki.
Nevertheless, it appears that Mbeki may have become frustrated with Mugabe. Newly-revealed documents show that he warned Mugabe that “to resort to anti-imperialist rhetoric will not solve the problems of Zimbabwe, but may compound them.”