By Sij Ncube
Harare, February 25, 2016 – FORMER South African president Thabo Mbeki has all but confirmed the African National Congress (ANC) complicity in President Robert Mugabe’s continued misrule with critics saying Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy contributed to the failure of the government of national unity (GNU).
Mbeki, who was removed as the leader of the ANC in 2009, has come under renewed fire after he disclosed his role in ensuring Mugabe remained in power despite losing elections to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in 2008.
During his reign, Mbeki maintained “quiet diplomacy” on Zimbabwe, refusing to rebuke Mugabe even at the height of Mugabe’s controversial land reform programme which saw nearly a dozen white commercial farmers killed by his militant supporters and thousands of their workers displaced.
Mbeki never raised a finger after Mugabe unleashed institutions of violence against opponents, particularly the MDC-T, which the South African leader labelled agents of regime change.
But Mbeki has stunned the world further by disclosing that Mugabe delayed land reform in Zimbabwe to help the ANC negotiate with the then apartheid regime leading to South Africa’s democracy in 1994.
Critics say the revelations give credence to assertions the former ANC leader deliberately turned a blind eye to bad governance and human rights abuses in Harare for political expedience.
They point out Mbeki and his government never faulted Zimbabwe’s land reform exercise and electoral processes despite being mired in overt violence, including killings on farmers and opposition followers especially during 2000 and 2008.
The MDC-T estimates about 300 of its supporters were killed in cold blood in state-sponsored violence during the 2008 presidential run-off election violence.
Disclosures Mugabe rejected advice to conduct fresh polls after the bloody 2008 presidential run-off polls make Mbeki and the ANC government complicit in Zimbabwe’s dictatorship.
Instead of asking Mugabe to stand down, Mbeki cobbled a power-sharing pact which left Mugabe with all his previous powers.
But critics say Mbeki is also known and remembered for refusing to make public a security report which determined that Zimbabwe’s 2002 presidential polls were not free and fair.
He has further claimed that South Africa was vehemently against the removal of Mugabe by force allegedly by Britain and the United States of America, saying the ANC wanted Zimbabweans to decide their future.
But critics canvassed by RadioVOP Wednesday slammed Mbeki, pointing out Zimbabweans have a right to chart their future not the ANC and its mandarins which continue to maintain its quiet diplomacy on Zimbabwe as well as defend Mugabe often blamed for poor leadership.
After Mugabe’s disputed re-election in the June 2008 presidential elections, Mbeki cajoled the opposition led by Morgan Tsvangirai to forge a government of national unity (GNU) which also featured Welshman Ncube’s formation of the MDC.
Maxwell Saungweme, a development analyst closely following Zimbabwe’s politics, says Mbeki’s diplomacy is what led to the futile GNU.
“Mugabe survived in 2008 partly because of the support he had from Mbeki in the region. Yes, Mbeki would have persuaded Mugabe to run a peaceful poll, but his diplomacy was not supported by commensurate measures that would ensure compliance and that would practically dissuade Mugabe from embarking on an undemocratic poll.
“He needed to match his persuasion with clear deterrent measures, which did not happen. Diplomacy is about giving and taking, not just giving! But instead he supported Mugabe,” charged Saungweme.
David Coltart, who served as a minister under Mugabe in the coalition government and is privy to the negotiations to form the coalition under Mbeki, added his voice on the issue.
“Aside from whatever Mbeki did or did not do regarding farmers, the fact is that in 2002 he hid the fact that Mugabe was illegally elected by withholding the Khampepe report. Because of this he was complicit in denying the will of the Zimbabwean electorate.”
Ricky Mukonza, a political analyst based in South Africa, did not mince his words, accusing Mbeki of tacitly endorsing what the Mugabe regime was doing during the height of repression in Zimbabwe.
“With the aid of hindsight, it can be concluded that quiet diplomacy was a Mbeki way of propping up the Mugabe regime. Having listened to his recent interviews I am convinced that the man was indirectly involved in the perpetuation of bad governance in the country.”
Be that as it may, critics claim Mbeki’s disclosures could be calculated to ensure Mugabe gets a soft landing when he decides to eventually exit politics.
Mugabe turned 92 on Sunday but has not shown any signs of slowing down. He has refused to at least name a successor.
The dog-fights in Zanu PF are blamed for the internecine factional battles in the party to succeed him.