Tuesday, February 07, 2006

"Quiet Diplomacy" Disquietly Unravels

After insisting for months that he was working via "quiet diplomacy" to quell Zimbabwe's debilitating crisis, South Africa's Thabo Mbeki finally admitted Sunday that he's failed to normalize relations between Zimbabwe's feuding political parties. In an interview televised nationally in South Africa, a distraught Mbeki said,
"But then, as I say, new problems arose among themselves. So we watch the situation and to the extent that we can help in future, we will,"
referring to his failure and clearly withdrawing any prospects current involvement in mediating his northern neighbors ongoing stalemate.

In the interview Mbeki also speculates that ZANU-PF and MDC had come up with a new constitution, a claim both factions of the MDC have united to deny;
The leaders of the two rival factions of the MDC, who spoke to ZimOnline separately, strongly denied ever agreeing with ZANU PF on a new constitution for Zimbabwe, let alone submitting such a document to Mbeki.

"As a party we are not aware of what he (Mbeki) was talking about. We are in shock," said MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai.

MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube, who together with party vice-president Gibson Sibanda is battling to wrestle control of the party from Tsvangirai, admitted leading an MDC delegation that held "informal talks" with ZANU PF officials over a new constitution.
Months ago, I doubted the effectiveness of Mbeki's highly tauted "quiet diplomacy" here, here, and here.

The timing of Mbeki's admission of failure comes at a rather curious juncture given that rumors are rife that South Africa's government has ordered an immediate embargo on fuel and electricity exports to Zimbabwe. See this and this too.

What does all this mean for bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and South Africa? South Africa has up till now been Zimbabwe's largest trade partner. I wonder if that's about to change....

  • << Home