As President Jacob Zuma prepares to head to Zimbabwe for meetings with the country’s top leadership, President Robert Mugabe’s senior allies are trying to undermine Zuma’s role, which they view as increasingly interventionist.
Last week, Zanu-PF and the ANC shared struggle slogans and songs at a meeting of former liberation war movements, but this masked growing tension between the two parties over a new bid by Zuma’s mediation team to speed up reform.
They arrived in Harare this week, but Nicholas Goche, one of Mugabe’s key negotiators, said they had arrived “too early” because the parties were yet to agree on a draft constitution. He added that they had arrived uninvited.
This cold reception came amid controversy over a weekend tirade by Jonathan Moyo, Mugabe’s chief agitator, who described Zuma’s team as a group of “regime change puppets”, and suggested that the mediation process be abandoned.
“Only God knows when this rubbish from President Zuma’s facilitation team will stop,” Moyo wrote in his weekly column in the state weekly, Sunday Mail.
Stalling the process
Mugabe’s top allies are planning to discredit Zuma’s team and stall the process. While Zuma is hoping his visit will push the process forwards, Zanu-PF plans to use it to press him to replace his team, according to officials involved in the process. Although Zuma is unlikely do so, the row will only frustrate him further.
Already, Zanu-PF has walked out of meetings on the drafting of the new constitution, a key reform demanded by regional leaders.
What has angered Zanu-PF is the new weight given to the team at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Luanda, where Mugabe’s plan to get elections held this year – without the agreed reforms – was rejected. Instead, the region’s leaders called on the Zimbabwean parties to speed up reforms and hold elections within 12 months.
Zanu-PF hardliners are especially angered by the insistence of Lindiwe Zulu, a member of Zuma’s team, that elections must only be held after what she called “security sector realignment”, or reforms in the security services.
Zulu was quoted as saying: “It must be implemented before elections. SADC was very clear that all reforms and processes should be fulfilled before Zimbabwe goes for elections.”
Any suggestion of reforms in the fiercely pro-Mugabe security services is usually met by strong resistance from Mugabe and his allies, and Zulu’s remarks immediately sparked off a new storm.
Used by the West
According to Moyo, Zuma was being used by the West to ease Mugabe out of power. He said the reforms Zuma’s team were pressing for were not necessary, “even [in] South Africa whose judiciary, media, military and economy are white-dominated”.
Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo has said Moyo speaks only for himself and not the party, but Moyo is seen as the mouthpiece for the hardliners surrounding Mugabe and trying to thwart Zuma’s efforts.
Zanu-PF is also angry that ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, who represented the ANC at the liberation parties’ meeting, refused to assure Mugabe that his party would block a probe into human rights abuses, following a court ruling in South Africa that could see Zimbabwean officials prosecuted in South Africa for rights violations.
Mugabe wants the ANC to “apply every means at their disposal” to make sure the ruling is never implemented, and called Judge Hans Fabricius, who handed down the judgment, a “Boer judge”.
“This is urgent as our revolutionary ideologies have come under sustained attack, nay, renewed attack from our erstwhile colonial masters who are determined to replace our revolutionary parties with malleable, neoliberal stooge parties deliberately formed and funded to reverse all the gains of the liberation struggle,” Mugabe said while opening the meeting last Friday.
But Mantashe said South Africa would respect the rule of law.
At the meeting, the parties agreed on what they called a “Harare declaration”, under which, according to some reports, the parties pledged to help each other “campaign when they are faced with elections in their countries”.
But the ANC would not want to be seen to be taking sides, one Zanu-PF official conceded, while Zuma still headed the mediation team.