The most important job of the Southern African Development Community summit scheduled for Lusaka, Zambia, this weekend would be to push the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to release the country’s election results, a senior South African official has told the Mail & Guardian.
“Without them we can’t do anything,” the official said. “On what basis do you intervene if the results are not there?
“People will tell you the process is still ongoing and we have to wait. They will say we have the right to query some of the things so you can’t come in and change that process.”
South African leader Thabo Mbeki and Zimbabwe’s embattled President Robert Mugabe are both expected to report to the SADC summit, called to debate the Zimbabwean election crisis.
Mbeki will report as the official mediator mandated by SADC to ensure a democratic outcome to the election.
Zimbabwe’s Information Minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, said Mugabe will use the SADC summit “to explain issues to our allies in the region”.
Mugabe, who will be accompanied by his newly reappointed Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, is expected to use a “cut and paste” strategy based on his traditional pitch to other regional leaders.
He will again tell them that he is under siege from Western powers bent on removing his government and reversing land reforms.
But even his most senior officials say privately they fear he might find few takers for his anti-imperialist mantra on this occasion.
Mbeki was also due to meet MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai ahead of a scheduled trip to Mozambique on Friday.
Tsvangirai has been on a tour of the region aimed at rallying support for the MDC, which has taken the ZEC to court to force the release of the results of the presidential election, which the MDC is convinced it has won.
Tsvangirai is telling leaders in South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique that he is the “president in waiting” and asking for support in forcing Mugabe to release his grip on the country.
“We want them to convince Mugabe to ensure a smooth transition of power,” says George Sibochiwe, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson.
Sibochiwe indicated that the MDC had now fully accepted the concept of a government of national unity in Zimbabwe, saying Tsvangirai would accept a summit outcome resulting in power-sharing and draw Zanu-PF leaders into his future Cabinet.
He said African leaders must also help Zanu-PF to “work out ways of working together with us”.
However, Mbeki is not expected to call for a tougher regional stance on Mugabe, as he only has the support of certain states in the region, including Botswana and Mauritius. Against him have historically been ranged heavy-hitters such as Namibia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A South African official told the M&G that South Africa will “continue to regard Zimbabwe as a sovereign state”.
“It’s not our job to tell Mugabe to step down, we can’t go in there and just do something like that. When we toppled the apartheid government we did it ourselves. America or some other country did not come in and do it for us.”