South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) has described as out of control the political and economic crisis in neighboring Zimbabwe ahead of Friday’s controversial election run-off. ANC leader Jacob Zuma reportedly accused President Robert Mugabe’s administration of violating what he described as the hard-won democratic rights of ordinary Zimbabweans. Zuma also called for international intervention to help end continuing violence, which has resulted in a loss of lives and property. Political observers say Zuma’s pronouncement sharply contrasts with the “quiet diplomacy” employed by South African President Thabo Mbeki, who is mediating the Zimbabwe crisis for the Southern African Community (SADC). From Pretoria, South African political analyst Rok Ajulu tells reporter Peter Clottey that Zuma’s stance has been consistent in condemning the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe.
“I think that the president of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, has been very consistent on the Zimbabwe question. He has consistently condemned what was going on in Zimbabwe prior to the March 29 election. With the fracas over the run-off resulting in deepening crisis, he again came out strongly against what was going on in Zimbabwe. So, it is not surprising at all that he has once again, particularly with the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, raised his concerns about that,” Ajulu noted.
He said the newly elected executive of South Africa’s ruling party has taken a strong stance against the Zimbabwe situation.
“I think newly elected ANC executive has taken a position, which has tended to move away from the so-called quiet diplomacy. And I think a number of people here (in South Africa) will support that position, from the youth movement to the trade union movement, and even from the business sectors. They are very much in support of the position that has been taken by Jacob Zuma,” he said.
Ajulu denied speculation that the ANC leader is being tough on the Zimbabwe crisis to raise his profile ahead of South Africa’s general elections.
“I think it’s not quite the case because it is not something new. It is quite clear that that faction of the ANC has always taken that position with regards to Zimbabwe. If you look at the position of South Africa’s Communist Party (SACP), it has been entirely been consistent about Zimbabwe throughout the last two elections. If you look at the position of COSATU (the Congress of South African Trade Unions), they have also similarly been consistent about the position to Mugabe’s misrule, and how Mugabe has treated the opposition and dissidents,” Ajulu pointed out.
He said the ANC leader’s stance has not only been consistent, but also impartial and unselfish.
“I don’t think that Zuma is pursuing out of an opportunistic stance. I think it is a consistent position, which has been reflected in a broad based approach, which shot Zuma to the presidency of the ANC,” he said.
Ajulu dismissed as reckless calls by a former British minister that South Africa should cut the exporting of electrical power supply to Zimbabwe to send a strong signal to the Mugabe regime.
“That is a very irresponsible way of sending a strong signal because if you cut off the electricity, you are actually going to deepen the chaos in Zimbabwe. And what South Africa has been concerned about is that disintegrating Zimbabwe is not in its interest, so if you do that and the economy, which is already approaching meltdown, melted, what has South Africa to gain from that? Because Zimbabweans are a very rational people, if the economy is down on its knees as it is, they wouldn’t run northwards to DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) or run to Malawi. They run down to South Africa. So, I think it is in South Africa’s interest not to do that,” Ajulu pointed out.
He said there are several options that could be used to pressure the Harare government to end the crisis.
“There are other leverages which can be used to pressure Zimbabwe. I think more importantly SADC must take responsibility and make it clear to Zimbabwe that the kind of thing that he is doing is not done. Quite frankly my opinion is that the man Mugabe has gone bananas,” he noted.