Foreign Policy Blogs

SADC Speaks

Members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have broken their silence on Zimbabwe. Regional cooperation all along has presented the greatest hope for promoting change by taking the responsibility away from individual leaders such as Thabo Mbeki. Traditionally regional leaders, with memories of colonialism on the ground and the manifestations of apartheid and similar policies still fresh, have advocated solidarity. This always made sense inasmuch as the threat from without was always greater than that from within and as long as those threats hoped to find weak spots by weakening that solidarity. But times have changed and the threat in Zimbabwe most certainly does not come from without.

Last week:

 Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa, currently deputy chair of the SADC, broke ranks with the regional body to admit that “quiet diplomacy has failed to help solve the political chaos and economic meltdown in Zimbabwe,” and even likened the country to “a sinking Titanic whose passengers are jumping out in a bid to save their lives.”

Acknowledging the gravity of the recent outbreak of violence in Zimbabwe, he said Zambia had been forced to re-think its position after “the twist of events in the troubled country”, which “necessitates the adoption of a new approach”.

Leaders in Lesotho and Tanzania appeared set to join Mwanawasa last week as they met in Maseru, Lesotho's capital, to try to get to grips with the regional response to Mugabe. In recent weeks Mugabe's capacity to use regional loyalties against what he perceives as outside imperialists has begun to founder on the realities of his erstwhile allies.

At the same time, opposition forces within Zimbabwe continue to stand up against the flailing regime.  Some Zimbabweans continue to speculate about a future without Mugabe. The old tyrant is unlikely to step down anytime soon, and some analysts fear that violence will escalate leading to the inevitable crackdowns. But if regional leaders can continue to develop a backbone and if the internal opposition refuses to be cowed, maybe, just maybe Zimbabweans will be able to look to a future free of Mugabe. The walk to freedom won't be easy but at least a path is beginning to reveal itself.