Opinion by Margaret Matibiri
SADC leaders from the 16-member states resolved to set down October 25 as a day to protest against economic sanctions against Zimbabwe and jointly call for their “immediate lifting.”
The position which was communicated by the regional body’s executive secretary, Stergomena Lawrence Tax (from Tanzania) when she read out the communique to mark the end of the 39th Ordinary Summit of the Sadc Heads of State and Government in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania leaves a lot to be desired on the bloc’s position on African opposition.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who took over the chairmanship of Sadc at the summit reiterated the need for sanctions against Zimbabwe to be lifted as the country under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, had opened a “new chapter”.
“These sanctions have not only affected the people of Zimbabwe and their government but the entire region. It is like a human body, when you chop one of its part it affects the whole body,” he said.
“Therefore, I would like to seize this opportunity to urge the international community to lift sanctions it imposed on Zimbabwe.
“This brotherly country after all has now opened a new chapter and it is ready to engage with the rest of the world. It is therefore, I believe, in the interest of all parties concerned to see these sanctions removed.”
The planned and later banned demonstrations scheduled for August 16 (which saw protesters being dispersed violently by the security forces) were called for by the MDC, the leading opposing political party in Zimbabwe perfectly coinciding with Mnangagwa’s trip for the summit.
The regional bloc took a stance to rally behind Mnangagwa and this has become a norm for the liberation movements to be on the same wavelength in any internal disputes.
Sadc has already made up its position on Zimbabwe’s electoral disputes by accepting Mnangagwa as the president based on the constitutional court ruling.
The MDC which depends heavily on the regional body and has to do so for reprieve wherever there is need for interference from the international community has been left in the cold.
Instead of Mnangagwa being called out for violence that erupted in the country, he worked his way around the problem and managed to control the narrative which is that the problems in Zimbabwe are not political but economic due to sabotage from the West through sanctions.
The MDC has been known to use the economic crisis as its trump card.
The current stance will see reports of aggravation by the MDC being rubbished by Sadc closing the line on the opposition as it is the same Sadc which has to take matters up with other international bodies like the AU.
So the question arises, who will listen to the voice of those in opposition of governments in Africa?
Have the opposition parties been left to dry out?
Is Sadc changing the narrative of African politics?
Sadc which is at the moment believed to be comprising of a new and different crop of leaders believed to be ‘cunning’, ‘intelligent’, ‘bloodless’ and opting for a less confrontational approach with nemesis seems to be moving in and thwarting African opposition.
It is reshaping African politics.
All leaders having problematic opposition in their respective countries have joined forces to ensure they can control the narrative.
Dangerous strong allies seem to have been created and they will see Sadc having bias towards a lot of issues that may threaten to overthrow members (allies).
Instead of taking a stance to support and/ or question Mnangagwa’s government’s response to political unrest, Sadc backs him up and even set aside a day, October 25 to demonstrate against the economic sanctions on Zimbabwe.
The MDC has been rendered useless as Mnangagwa concedes that indeed there is a crisis in the country but that it is an economic one and one that is beyond his control as it is as a result of sabotage from the West.
Now, for the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC to go in the streets and call for the ouster of Mnangagwa on the grounds of political and catastrophic economic policies paints a picture of a ‘loser who is trying to negotiate into power’ after failing to do so through the ballot.
The euphoria that grabbed the nation in the post November 2017 military intervention is still lingering around in the country, a quick remedy was issued by the body empowering Mnangagwa as he was appointed as the Chairman for politics, defence and security.
The current position can assist him in thwarting any political and security threats that may threaten his grip on power.
All hope may be lost for African opposition.