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By Mutumwa D. Mawere

AS SOUTH Africa and indeed President Thabo Mbeki digests and reflects on Jacob Zuma’s victory as the president of Africa’s oldest political party, the African National Congress (ANC), there is no doubt that the political actors in Zimbabwe are also challenged by the implications of a Zuma presidency underpinned by strong support by President Mugabe’s strongest and most vocal critics i.e. COSATU and the SACP.

Many will recall that last year after the Zanu PF conference held at Goromonzi, there was a strongly held view that President Mugabe would not secure the support of his party due to factionalism to offer himself as a candidate in the 2008 elections.

Furthermore, it was argued that the harmonisation project mooted by President Mugabe as a mechanism of ensuring the continued hegemony of Zanu PF and no doubt himself would not see the light of day.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) also subscribed to the notion that Mugabe was under siege from his own party and the writing was on the wall that he was on his way out. Operating on this assumption, the MDC thought that Mugabe was so weak and beleaguered that he would not last 2007. The events of March 2007 then occurred, resulting in the police brutality and international outcry that then prompted SADC to intervene by appointing President Mbeki to be the mediator.

The appointment of President Mbeki as the mediator was not accidental. Since the dismissal of his Deputy President, Jacob Zuma, President Mbeki was facing a brewing political crisis of his own and his adversaries in the main i.e. COSATU and SACP, were also Mugabe’s nemesis. An objective analysis would have suggested that both President Mugabe and Mbeki were victims of counter-revolutionaries who were thin on liberation/revolutionary values and morality but strong on populism.

It is evident that prior to the SADC summit in Tanzania, President Mugabe may have doubted President Mbeki’s credentials as a revolutionary. What must have happened during the summit was that as President Mugabe briefed the heads of state; President Mbeki could not help but to accept that the same forces that wanted regime change in Zimbabwe appeared to have the same approach in respect of the ANC succession battle. Whereas President Mugabe’s adversaries were outside his own party, President Mbeki’s adversaries were in his party but not under his control.

For the first time, President Mugabe must have felt that he at last had gotten through to President Mbeki who hitherto had not fully appreciated the broader implications of the MDC onslaught on what he perceived to be the objectives of the national democratic revolution and the role of international forces in the struggle. In Mugabe, President Mbeki must have seen a convenient ally in his own struggle for control of ANC and the annihilation of Zuma and his allies.

Having forged an alliance between the two of them, it was therefore most appropriate that President Mbeki be the mediator between Zanu PF and MDC. President Mugabe was acutely aware of the ideological and political challenges facing his opposition and felt that the intervention of a fellow comrade like President Mbeki would help clarify issues with the MDC, with the ultimate aim of alienating the MDC from its purported Western benefactors. If President Mbeki could deliver MDC, then this surely would help expose Zuma’s political backers who are left wing inclined, and populist in approach.

What has unfolded is that President Mugabe has become the ultimate beneficiary and is now the undisputed leader of both Zanu PF and MDC as his stature and standing has not been shaken, unlike that of President Mbeki.

Whereas at the beginning of the year, MDC ruled out the harmonisation project, the constitutional amendment to allow Mugabe to extend his term was passed with the active and constructive support of the two factions of the MDC. The so-called Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions in Zanu PF are missing in action, and on the contrary, were the most visible of Mugabe’s supporters for term extension at the just ended special congress that unanimously endorsed Mugabe as the party’s candidate in the 2008 elections.

How did Mugabe outfox his adversaries and Mbeki fall victim of his own? What is evident is that if Mbeki had won the ANC elections, President Mugabe would have been assisted greatly in burying the regime change agenda. The victory of Zuma presents a problem for President Mugabe in that if President Mbeki can get the boot from his comrades, he also can get a boot from his citizens. The approach to governance and use of state power between President Mbeki and Mugabe may not be different but the difference is that Mbeki’s adversaries were more organised and focused than Mugabe’s adversaries.

It is clear that Zuma has emerged as a great strategist and tactician than many have given him credit for. Without Zuma’s leadership and ability to confront tyranny, the forces against Mbeki would not have executed their mandate with such precision and clarity. At the end of the day, Mbeki’s real adversary was not any third party or shadowy figure but his own deputy. Zuma did not shy away from being counted unlike the so-called Zanu PF faction leaders.

He provided the intelligence and strategic direction to his forces right from the day he was dismissed by Mbeki. Zuma has shown that state power cannot substitute the power of the people to choose their destiny. Without the support of the state, Zuma has demonstrated that change is possible and the only power people who are denied power have is the power to organise.

Equally, Mugabe has shown that he is much smarter than his adversaries notwithstanding the fact that his continued political hegemony may be detrimental to the progress of the nation. What Zuma has shown is that through democratic means, people can endure vilification and intimidation and yet emerge as victors through effective mobilisation.

The Zuma prescription may ultimately be the medicine that the continent needs to unshackle itself from the stranglehold of its tyrannical leaders. If Zuma can do it, there is no doubt that Africa will produce many Zumas like it has done in the past struggles against colonialism.

What will happen to the Zimbabwe conflict resolution efforts of President Mbeki? It is clear that Mbeki has already delivered the MDC to Mugabe but what he may need himself is a mediator. The clean sweep by Zuma and the relegation of Mbeki to a lame duck President must surely be a lesson to many African heads of state that two terms in government is more than enough.

The arguments that have been advanced that without people like President Mugabe at the helm, Zimbabwe cannot protect its sovereignty can now easily be challenged using the Zuma/Mbeki example. In as much as South Africa managed to see the transition from apartheid to democracy with President Mbeki and Zuma playing a critical role, there is no doubt that Zuma working with Mbeki may surprise many people about what is possible.

Time has the tendency of blurring or even erasing important historical events. Some may forget that in order for democracy to be a negotiated deal, contesting political actors had to bury their differences and focus on what South Africa needed. At the time, which is only 14 years ago, South Africa needed a new dispensation and a regime change. To achieve this, it was necessary for reconciliation to take centre stage and construct a post-apartheid state based on new values while at the same time accepting that apartheid was the most race-based corrupt system.

As part of the package, apartheid crimes were forgiven in the interests of giving birth to a new reality. If President Mbeki could accept that those who had committed crimes against humanity could be free people in the interests of nation building, there is no doubt that he will be persuaded that his policies of using the state machinery to pursue Zuma for what has now been confirmed to be politically motivated crimes were misplaced and counterproductive.

The fact that President Mbeki offered himself for election confirms that the root cause of Zuma’s problems with the law may not be far from his confidence to dream that one day he would step into Mbeki’s shoes. It is evident that when Mbeki looked at himself in the mirror in terms of succession, he could only see his face. Now that the branch delegates of ANC have spoken, even President Mbeki would not argue that the same people who elected him could be so wrong in electing Zuma as his natural successor.

If President Mbeki were to be aggressive against Zuma and yet accept that apartheid crimes can be forgiven and forgotten, a danger exists that he may end up being the seed for undermining the very organisation that has given him an address in the state and empowered him with experience that is invaluable in transforming Africa. If Zuma is guilty of receiving money from Shaik, then surely more jails should be built to accommodate all BEE beneficiaries whose claim to fame may not be any different.

The colonial state was built around institutionalised state corruption and yet no attempt has been made by the intellectual giants of Africa like Mbeki to study the nature of the colonial state and how it interfaced with business. A project like this would establish that what Zuma is accused of could hardly be classified as corruption. What is even more disturbing is that Zuma is accused of graft in a procurement project that President Mbeki and his cabinet have defended as above board. Surely, if Zuma abused state power, then it would be the state advancing its case and by now all the tainted contracts would have been cancelled.

For Zimbabwe, what is clear is that Zuma has provided the most potent pill against anyone who wants to cling to power indefinitely. If the ailing Castro has come to the inescapable conclusion that he cannot continue to cling to power, there is no doubt that President Mugabe would read the Zuma victory in its proper perspective. Equally, Zimbabwe needs its own Zuma to lead the revolution with precision and clarity. The followers of Zuma were confident that history will judge them right and they never wavered in their determination to get to the mountain top.

With Zuma at the helm, President Mugabe will have natural disability in communicating with him what President Mbeki failed to communicate to him in his quest to cling to power after a distinguished service to ANC and the nation.

Finally, after Zuma’s victory, a question needs to be posed to Zimbabweans on what time it is. It surely cannot be the time for no change because this runs against the wind of change blowing from both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

Mutumwa Mawere's weekly column is published on New every Monday. You can contact him at:

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