by Badia Jacobs
(IPS) JOHANNESBURG --
British daily paper has reported that President Thabo Mbeki gave assurances to President George W. Bush that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will leave office at the end of this year.
In return, according to the unconfirmed report in the Independent, Bush will provide a reconstruction package worth $10 billion in assistance to Zimbabwe over an unspecified length of time once a new leader is installed.
Mbeki has, up till now, pursued a policy of gentle persuasion and "quiet diplomacy" on Zimbabwe. His emissary, Nkosazana Zuma, the former wife of South African deputy president Jacob Zuma, and left-wing maverick ANC member of parliament Pallo Jordan (once a vocal critic of the Mugabe regime), who is also the chairman of the South African foreign affairs portfolio committee, have consistently repeated the mantra that respect for sovereignty is a fundamental pillar of South Africa's foreign policy.
Moreover, they assert, "the Zimbabwe crisis has to be resolved by Zimbabweans themselves."
Analysts, former liberation organizations and commentators are divided about Mugabe. Steven Chan, a former adviser to the Mugabe government and ex-diplomat at the Commonwealth Secretariat that facilitated the negotiated settlement at Lancaster House in the United Kingdom which eventually led to the Mugabe leadership of the country, says that the Zimbabwean president "has ultimately been bad for Zimbabwe."
But it is the economy that has been catapulted the nation into the limelight. Goodson Nguni, a banker in Harare, refers to the present crisis as "hyperinflationary." Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank has rece ntly decided to release billions of Zimbabwean dollars into the money market this week. Increasing the money supply is a pointless exercise, economists say, because there is "too much money chasing too few goods."
And in a twist to the tale of white capital in Zimbabwe, a group of white sugar farmers has just taken a subsidiary of Anglo American Corporation to court for participating in "theft and plunder" of their assets by Mugabe's supporters. They allege that black farmers are "looting" their cane crop and selling to Anglo's unit, the Hippo Valley Estates.
Mugabe's back is against the wall. Even the former South African liberation organization, the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, has been tellingly silent over the Mugabe issue. But it is the ruling African National Congress (ANC) that will continue to call the shots on Zimbabwe. For the moment, it is resolute that Mugabe has to go willingly. If he does not, and instead faces an attempt to remove him from power, the Zimbabwean Defense Force is likely to assert its authority and continue its support for the president. The generals are all Mugabe appointees.
At the same time, the ANC is not convinced that Morgan Tsvangirai -- leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) -- is a credible alternative to Mugabe. Despite Tsvangirai's former trade-union involvement, his "liberation" credentials are considered thin at best.
South Africa's Mbeki seems committed to a gradual resolution to the Zimbabwe crisis.
While Mbeki needs Bush, preferably at a distance, the southern African neighborhood seems in trouble if Mbeki does not facilitate a speedy resolution to the Mugabe question.
A regime change seems unlikely in the near future. Mbeki's strategy of creating conditions for a reform of the Zimbabwean state and its power arrangements could well founder if he continues to leave the economic and financial decision-making exclusively to the dictates of a leader who has been in power for 23 years.
Mugabe may well have embraced socialist ideals in the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, but they seem now to be a thing of the past.
Mbeki may well have to face, sooner or later, the choice of either dumping his cautious position on Mugabe, or prepare South Africans, Mozambicans, Angolans, Namibians, Zambians and Botswanans, for the eventuality of absorbing the spillover into their countries of refugees and the possibility of a civil war.
July 24, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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