President Cyril Ramaphosa’s attendance at the inauguration of Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa shows that African leaders will always protect each other in the face of questionable elections and instability in their own backyards.
This is according to African politics scholar Dr. Seshupo Mosala.
Mosala pointed out that even the Southern African Developmental Community (SADC) election observers’ own damning report on the disputed polls does not seem to hold sway among leaders in the region.
Ramaphosa flew to Harare on Monday for the inauguration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa following last week’s elections that were marred by arrests, irregularities and widespread intimidation by groups aligned to Zanu-PF.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced that Mnangagwa won 52.6% of the vote, while the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa got 44%.
Chamisa rejected the election outcome and has since abandoned a mooted legal challenge, citing the corrupted Zimbabwean judiciary, according to the Daily Maverick.
‘Quiet diplomacy continues’
“The ANC endorsed the Zanu-PF regime a long time ago, Ramaphosa is doing the same as Mbeki and [former president] Zuma, this is a modus operandi of African leaders and it is not only Ramaphosa but presidents throughout Africa.
“The Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan congratulated Mnangagwa despite the SADC observer mission report, and many others did too.
“This gives you an idea of what kind of a continent we find ourselves in, especially when it comes to those who lead us in SADC and the African Union (AU).”
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The AU, seen by many as toothless and its leaders failing to hold each other accountable, has a provision on illegal power grabbing but is mum on those who rig elections to stay at the helm, Mosala said.
“The AU and SADC leaders support each other no matter what. It is a club of incumbents.
“The Good Governance Africa team was kicked out of Zimbabwe before elections, and no leader in the continent said anything about that, which shows you the type of leaders we have.
“And this is why you have so much disillusion among citizens. We are seeing a comeback of coups d’etat because people see no recourse to get rid of these old guards, The only alternative is a coup and violence, which never achieves much,” he said.
‘Mnangagwa remains president’
Speaking to journalists in Soweto last week, Ramaphosa said Mnangagwa remains the winner until the elections are overturned.
He was widely criticised for congratulating the Zimbabwean government for organising and holding “harmonised elections”.
In a statement last week Monday, the Presidency said South Africa was conscious that the elections took place under a “difficult economic environment due to the burdening sanctions” that Zimbabweans continue to unjustly endure.
Are South Africa’s actions, however, going against the stances that other SADC nations have adopted?
The organisation has 16 member states.
According to Zimbabwean journalist and activist Hopewell Chin’ono, only Ramaphosa, Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi and their Mozambican counterpart Filipe Nyusi were present from the SADC.
Mosala said the African National Congress (ANC) government’s quiet diplomacy that was elevated by former president Thabo Mbeki is still much in practice when it comes to countries such as Zimbabwe.
For Ramaphosa and his party, the historical ties with another liberation movement remains crucial, he added.
SA ‘protecting own interests’
But University of Cape Town (UCT) political analyst Dr Nkosikhulule Nyembezi said Ramaphosa’s attendance of the inauguration is expected as he is protecting his country’s interests.
Nyembezi said the issue of the disputed elections would not go away even if Ramaphosa stayed away.
“This is politics and in politics, states have interests. So you go there to protect your interests. It’s not a question of whether you are going to legitimise the electoral results or not, it’s about your own interests.
“Yes, the elections were questionable, but what happens in the meantime?
“He has to go there to assess whether the situation will deteriorate or work in your favour because the more problems stemming out of elections the more one has to be hands-on in attending to problems.
“So staying away is not an option, we have interests to support.”
He criticised Ramaphosa’s indecisiveness in tackling the Zimbabwean immigration issue.
“We’ve been sitting with the Zimbabwean problem for many years. One might say he doesn’t have to say much because [Home Affairs] Minister [Aaron] Motsoaledi speaks on immigration matters emanating from the same cabinet Ramaphosa leads, but we want to see something decisive.
“My point is that as much as there might be questions about him attending the inauguration, he is such a docile leader. One must be seen taking an active role to make sure that you help stabilise Zimbabwe.”