Will Zuma get tough with Mugabe?
Expectations for a shift in the relationship between the two nations are high as the South African president makes his first official trip to Zimbabwe today.
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But while Zuma is expected to divert from the "softly, softly" style of his predecessor, former President Thabo Mbeki, toward Mugabe, Zuma will maintain much of the pragmatism of Mr. Mbeki's foreign policy. "Even if you held Mugabe to account," says Mr. Friedman, "you still have this small matter of about 150 military men who are behind him. Which brings us to this notion that one individual, Mugabe, is the problem and if you bring that individual to heel, democracy will return. That's nonsense."Skip to next paragraph
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MDC's list of gripes
Even so, expectations are high for this visit, Zuma's first since his election as president. This week, MDC leaders presented Zuma with a list of their own gripes with their coalition partners, Mugabe's long-ruling ZANU-PF party. Among these are demands for the removal of Mugabe's Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, the man chiefly responsible for the mismanagement of Zimbabwe's money supply, which led to a staggering 230 million percent inflation rate.
MDC advocates also demand that Mugabe's police forces desist from arresting MDC parliamentarians, which they say is a bid to take back control of Parliament through attrition, and to drop criminal cases against top MDC leaders, such as Deputy Agriculture Minister Roy Bennett.
At a press conference with foreign correspondents, ANC spokesman Gwede Mantashe fed rumors that Zuma would be "more vocal in terms of what we see as deviant behavior by our neighbors." But Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, insists the Zuma visit will just be about agriculture. Rumors that Zuma would get tough with ZANU-PF were just a fiction created by "foreign media houses," he said.
As distasteful as Mugabe's behavior may be to the new leadership of the ANC, Mr. Mabona says that leaders like Zuma believe the only solution is to do what the ANC itself did in the final days of apartheid.
"We were the most abused people in the continent, governed by a so-called legitimate apartheid government," says Mabona, "but we had to sit down with them, accommodate them, so we can show them that we are not like them."
To read more on how Mugabe is using the police to harass MDC politicians, click here.