South African President Thabo Mbeki is attending Saturday’s SADC summit on Zimbabwe. Mr. Mbeki was appointed by SADC to mediate the political crisis in Zimbabwe leading up to the recent elections. His efforts have been described as quiet diplomacy, and there’s much debate over whether it was effective.
Now there’s word that the ruling ANC Party disagrees with President Mbeki and believes quiet diplomacy has failed.
Susan Booysen is a political science professor at South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand. From Johannesburg, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about whether quiet diplomacy in Zimbabwe has worked.
“Whether he’s had success or not is certainly most open to debate. Most people would have said rather emphatically no,” she says.
Nevertheless, the mediation did achieve some things that affected the recent elections. Booysen says, “There were little spindles in those negotiations. In particular the posting of election results outside polling stations in Zimbabwe’s March 29th election…. And that certainly made a huge contribution, small as that particular step was…. So, it is very difficult to say there’s been no success in it.”
Responding to reports of a policy split on Zimbabwe between Mr. Mbeki and ANC leader Jacob Zuma, she says, “My first reaction when I saw the reports first that (MDC leader) Morgan Tsvangirai had met with Jacob Zuma as president of the ANC (ruling party) and then very soon after that followed the announcement that Tsvangirai was also scheduled to meet with Thabo Mbeki. And we know from many pieces of evidence that Tsvangirai and Mbeki do not sit around the same fire, in a manner of speaking. And Mbeki reported not to be getting along with Tsvangirai.”
Mr. Mbeki was out of the country when the Zimbabwean opposition leader visited South Africa this week.
Booysen says she was in Zimbabwe for the recent elections.
“Several MDC people had approached me there and asked who is the current powerhouse in South Africa on foreign policy? Is it Zuma? Is it Mbeki? And I can’t give any other analysis, but to say that it is Jacob Zuma. And Thabo Mbeki is a head of state…at the virtue of being appointed by the ANC…. Given this broader landscape I have very little doubt that Mbeki either was told by the ANC [to] step in line, retract or amend your statement of last week that the process was basically not flawed. Or either told to do something like that or simply said come up to scratch and do something more. Make sure we do not stand back and let this issue slip.”