Robert Mugabe will find out this weekend whether his latest bid to win regional backing to hold elections this year will be successful.
Desperate for regional support, Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe last week dispatched top aides to court support for his poll plan from allies in the regional bloc, the Southern African Development Community.
The community’s heads of state and government were scheduled to meet in Luanda, Angola, on June 1 for an extraordinary summit.
Zimbabwe had not been on the summit agenda, according to the organisation’s executive secretary, Tomaz Salomão, but a meeting of the troika on politics and security decided this week it would debate the impasse in Zimbabwe.
The troika will meet all the leaders of the coalition government in Zimbabwe: Mugabe, Movement for Democratic Change leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and MDC faction leader Welshman Ncube.
Off the agenda
A report will then be presented to the heads of state, according to diplomats.
Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF party had hoped the country would be kept off the agenda, unless it was only to endorse its election plans.
But the MDC wants the summit to debate the slow pace of political reform and to bar elections until reforms are completed.
Meanwhile, Mugabe dispatched Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Vice-President John Nkomo and Zanu-PF national chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo to Mozambique, Angola, Zambia, Tanzania and Botswana.
The MDC embarked on a similar offensive last month when it dispatcthed Jameson Timba, the party’s international relations secretary, to the SADC countries.
The race has intensified between Zanu-PF and the MDC to win SADC’s support following the regional bloc’s stinging rebuke of Mugabe in March last year at the bloc’s summit in Livingstone, Zambia.
Ahead of the extraordinary summit, Mugabe’s emissaries have been delivering a “private message” to SADC leaders.
Mnangagwa met Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, Sekeramayi met Zambia’s President Michael Sata and Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete, Nkomo reportedly met with Botswana’s Ian Khama and Moyo met Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba.
But Rugare Gumbo, Zanu-PF spokesperson, insisted that Mugabe’s emissaries had gone on “government business”, a claim dismissed by informed political insiders who said the “private message” from Mugabe was aimed at canvassing support for his plan for elections this year.
Mugabe’s election plan
Observers say SADC remains the bulwark against Mugabe’s election plan and, if he is to succeed, he needs to divide the regional bloc over the timing of elections. This would provide the opening Mugabe needs to take the risk of unilaterally calling for elections.
SADC’s appointed mediator, President Jacob Zuma, has maintained that Zimbabwe will only hold elections after political reforms are implemented.
Meanwhile, Zambia in recent months has emerged as Mugabe’s strongest ally, with President Sata declaring his support for Mugabe. Sata has been critical of Tsvangirai and has described him as “a puppet of the West”.
This will be the first SADC summit this year to be held without former Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, who was a staunch Mugabe ally.