Zim Meeting Disappoints: Mugabe Endures
The SADC emergency meeting on the Zimbabwe crisis is winding up, and Robert Mugabe is pleased with the results. Although he reportedly received a behind the scenes scalding over his mismanagement of Zimbabwe's economy and the latest wave of human rights abuses, the dictator came out better than many had hoped and predicted:
Leaders of 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) have called on the West to lift sanctions on the Zimbabwean government and urged negotiations between Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Having passed what many thought would be a trial by fire, Mugabe today faces critics back home in a politburo meeting. He goes to the meeting not with the backing of the SADC members, but still with their qualified support and no firmly backed regional time lines for change. But what appears as a mild degree of criticism from SADC is still a slight deviation from the usual compliments and unqualified support that Mugabe has received in the past. Mbeki has tried to intervene in the Zimbabwe crisis before, to little avail. Much depends on his effectiveness now, but it is hard to see what will make this time different, other than the SADC endorsement, the power of which is now strictly rhetorical.
Mugabe is a past master at political survival, and now he has all the time he needs to bring his party into line. His critics in ZANU-PF would do well to be wary. This would not be the first time Mugabe has escaped from a corner.