HARARE – President Robert Mugabe will remain saddled with the tough mediation of South African President Jacob Zuma after the African National Congress (ANC) retained the Zimbabwean crisis mediator as party leader.
Zuma’s re-election at the party’s congress yesterday effectively means he will remain Sadc’s key man to Zimbabwe, which is heading towards a watershed general election next year.
Mugabe and his Zanu PF party have warmly embraced Zuma’s rivals such as expelled ANC youth leader Julius Malema in a clear sign of their unhappiness with Zuma’s insistence on Zimbabwe creating conditions for a free election.
Close Mugabe allies such as political flip-flopper Jonathan Moyo have also repeatedly shown disdain for Zuma, with some quietly praying for him to lose the ANC election to deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe.
Although Zuma’s term as President of South Africa will end in 18 months, political dynamics in the mineral-rich country point to the fact that the leader of the ANC will continue leading the country due to ANC’s massive command of the majority support. This means Zuma is likely to lead South Africa well beyond that country’s 2014 election, giving him space to oversee Zimbabwe’s transition.
In a recent interview with a British newspaper, Zuma did not mince his words saying while Mugabe was a liberation war comrade, the quest for a democratic Zimbabwe where the people’s vote is respected is the primary focus.
Zuma said although Zanu PF and the ANC share the same revolutionary roots, he does not give preferential treatment to the 88-year-old strongman when he meditates in Zimbabwe’s long-drawn political crisis.
“I deal with issues as they come as the ANC and as an individual. What we need in Zimbabwe is to ensure that Zimbabwe is democratic, that’s why we talk to all of them (Zimbabwean politicians), let the Zimbabwean people decide which party leads them. We can’t interfere,” said Zuma recently.
On Mugabe’s propaganda that the MDC is a stooge of the West, Zuma said:
“We don’t say that in the ANC. Much as it is true that we come from the liberation movement with Mugabe, but that to us does not give anyone a licence to mishandle his country, so if at all there was mishandling of the country we’d be critical,” he said in the interview.
Although Zuma has publicly denied any major rift between him and Mugabe, his mediation has been a pain for Zanu PF, some party officials have admitted.
Deviating from predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, who employed “quiet diplomacy” to deal with Mugabe’s intransigence, Zuma has been a constant thorn in the flesh to Zanu PF.
He has repeatedly insisted that Zimbabwe government partners fully implement the power-sharing Global Political Agreement (GPA), the founding accord of the fragile coalition government.
Zuma and his team have also repeatedly dismissed Zanu PF moves to sabotage the constitution-writing process and call an election under the current Lancaster House Constitution.
This has seen Zanu PF moving closer to the anti-Zuma lobby fronted by Malema, who was in the country recently.
Malema, who says he views Mugabe as a hero, whose ideas should be tried in South Africa, has told local state media that Zuma “hates” Mugabe despite pretences of friendship.
In turn, Mugabe’s Zanu PF has become like a second home for Malema.
In the past, top Zanu PF leaders have reinforced the Malema sentiment that “Zuma hates Mugabe” and have publicly attacked his mediation on the Zimbabwean crisis.
Others such as Moyo have suggested Zuma and his mediation team are driving a United States regime change agenda to push Mugabe out through Sadc mediation.
The ANC on its part has expressed serious reservations on Malema and Zanu PF’s relationship, which the party fears could be used to destabilise Africa’s biggest economy.
Simon Khaya-Moyo, the Zanu PF chairperson who attended the ANC elective conference, yesterday sought to downplay Mugabe and Zuma’s widely recognised rift.
“We have a common liberation history and culture. We are one,” he said delivering his party’s message of support after the announcement of the ANC’s leadership election results.
“The two parties successfully led the demolition of apartheid in both Zimbabwe and South Africa,” he said. – Daily News