Foreign Policy Blogs

SADC = Sad Sack

In what has to be among the most disappointing news from southern Africa in a long time, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has chosen to acquiesce to Robert Mugabe's rule. A meeting that beforehand was hailed as preparing to take a stance against a regional despot instead ended up asking "The West" to ease sanctions and engage in dialogue with Mugabe. Almost dumbfoundingly, the meeting called "for the lifting of all forms of sanctions against Zimbabwe".

Perhaps most disturbingly, SADC also appointed as mediator South African President Thabo Mbeki. Implicitly South Africa has continued to advocate a "silent diplomacy" that in the end would result in Zimbabwe's betterment. Instead what we get is a ratification of the same. Let these words ring through your head: "The extraordinary summit reaffirms its solidarity with the government and the people of Zimbabwe." That's right. Given a chance to push change, indeed under circumstances in which they all but promised to do so, SADC has declared its fealty to Robert Mugabe. They stared Mugabe eyeball to eyeball. And somehow they blinked.

Imagine the state of the resistance, however divided, in Zimbabwe today. A dictator was validated while Zimbabweans suffer. A dictator was validated, and in the process SADC has effectively given the go-ahead to the oppression of his opposition. A dictator was validated and so SADC failed. And in so doing, SADC abdicated every claim it might have to reponsibility in Zimbabwe. Catastrophe looms. I think it is safe to say that SADC had its moment to help determine the course of contemporary Southern African history. It failed. And it did so egregiously.