So the SADC summit has come and gone, and once more there is nothing but platitudes coming from the SADC leadership. After veering from one false dawn to another, one has to come to two conclusions; firstly, that the SADC leadership will not intervene, whatever the humanitarian cost, in the affairs of Zimbabwe, and secondly, that Robert Mugabe has played his SADC neighbours like the proverbial fiddle over the past five years.
In concluding the conference, Zambian President and SADC chairperson Levy Mwanawasa commented: “We feel that the problems in Zimbabwe have been exaggerated. We feel they will solve their economic problems.” This is symptomatic of a wider issue, a distinct lack of constructive ideas as to how to solve the Zimbabwean conundrum, as well as a distinct lack of responsibility on the part of the SADC leadership.
The SADC is incredibly wary of interfering in what they declare as a sovereign state, and it is unwilling to place public pressure on Mugabe for fear that he will dig his heels in further. The so-called “smart sanctions” have had little impact, as there are many governments still willing to let Mugabe travel and willing to take his money, most notably China.
The bigger picture in this scenario, though, is the perception of “Africa solving Africa’s problems”. Much has been discussed under the auspices of Nepad about Africa looking internally for solutions to political and socio-economic collapses, and the Western world has given Africa the breathing room to do so. Nepad triumphs a democratic, reinvigorated Africa using peer review mechanisms and internal influence to guide neighbours to improved governance. Zimbabwe offers a glaring beacon of the defeat of these words.
The question ultimately asked is: Whose responsibility is Zimbabwe? The collective inaction of African states thus far illustrates that it does not lie with them. We then have little to question if, or indeed when, Western governments begin to feel forcibly involved. There is much riding on Africa, most especially when more geopolitically secure strategic resources are being developed within Southern and West Africa. Africa must solve its problems, otherwise larger power brokers will. Nepad and the African renaissance depends on it.