The Zimbabwe Independent, 17 May, 2002: Nepad's Zim quarantine a false start
Remarks by the Canadian High Commissioner to South Africa and shuttle diplomacy this week by South Africa's Thabo Mbeki reveal a worrying trend:
The G8 countries are preparing to swallow the deception that African leaders have the Zimbabwe crisis "in hand" and thereby qualify for the US$64 billion on offer for trade and investment under the Nepad plan.
Canada will host the G8 summit in Kananaskis, Alberta, at the end of next month. Nepad is on the agenda. Canada's High Commissioner in Pretoria, Lucie Edwards, said on Monday that the Commonwealth troika's decision in March to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth re-assured the international community that the sponsors of Nepad were serious about developing and implementing a peer review mechanism for the plan.
She described Mbeki and Obasanjo's leadership role in the Commonwealth decision to suspend Zimbabwe as "Nepad passing its first test". "The decision of the Commonwealth troika, two of whose members were prominent African leaders and Nepad leaders (Mbeki and Obasanjo), to suspend Zimbabwe was seen as a sign of real political will to apply the principles of good governance within the region," she pronounced with breathtaking disregard for the facts on the ground.
Mbeki fought long and hard against having Zimbabwe suspended at the troika's London meeting. He was in the end persuaded that the Commonwealth and Nepad's survival depended on him doing the right thing, although he had difficulty seeing what that was. His government endorsed the presidential poll outcome. Since then neither he nor Obasanjo have said a word about the lawlessness and deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe. This week the Amani Trust, which has proved a reliable barometer of human rights abuses, cited youth brigades and state agencies as involved in rights violations. Organised violence and torture had persisted since the election, Amani Trust said, and had if anything intensified. Press freedom has also been under attack as the government arrests and prosecutes journalists, ostensibly for errors of fact, but in reality for exposing the regime's trail of violence and misrule.
On the land there has been arbitrary seizure of farms and property by politically powerful individuals in open violation of the Abuja accord. Again, neither Mbeki nor Obasanjo have said anything. They argue that their diplomacy has harnessed the two main political parties in Harare to a national dialogue. This claim has silenced other Commonwealth members who participated at Abuja and enables the G8 powers to avert their gaze from the growing crisis of governance in Zimbabwe on the grounds that Mbeki and Obasanjo have everything under control. We know that to be a fiction. Mosiuoa Lekota admitted as much last week. Ms Edwards excused the lack of progress on Zimbabwe by disingenuously suggesting that peer review as a mechanism had not been developed at the time of the presidential election. It is new so give it a chance was the subtext. It would be interesting to know what all those SADC ministerial visits last year and this year were about, not to mention the visits by Mbeki and Obasanjo. And how do we explain Sadc's endorsement of the election outcome? If that was not peer review, what was it?
The Canadian statement this week signalled that collective self-deception about peer review has become the official line. Zimbabwe as a topic will be quarantined so its contagion does not infect the Nepad process even though the Zimbabwe crisis itself is demonstrably infecting the region. Statements following Mbeki's visits to Oslo and London this week confirm that nothing will be allowed to get in the way of the Nepad juggernaut. The West wants an African success story and Nepad, they hope, is it. Zimbabwe's crisis meanwhile cannot be so easily swept under the G8 carpet. It is the elephant in the living room. It cannot be ignored. The humanitarian disaster that is already unfolding across the land is the direct product of bad governance, not drought. And this tragedy has been allowed to develop precisely because African leaders indulged President Mugabe by recognising his flawed victory in the presidential poll.
If G8 leaders cannot see the contradiction between that act of political dishonesty and Nepad's proclaimed commitment to good governance, the project is doomed from the outset. There will be no African recovery, no renaissance until leaders like Mbeki and Obasanjo get to grips with rogue rulers in their midst. That means speaking out on human rights abuses, lawlessness and economic sabotage. The G8 should make this clear. Looking the other way in Canada is no basis for future relations between the developed world and Africa.