Robert Mugabe was sworn in at a ceremony on Sunday at which he promised talks with the opposition; talks which the MDC seem willing to participate in but sound less than optimistic about:“Mr Mugabe has a sweet tongue but sour actions,” Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the MDC, told the BBC. But when all is said and done, there has to be dialogue about a transitional period that would lead to a free and fair election. The politicians of this country need to set aside their egos and think of the future of this country. We need to put a full stop on our people’s suffering,” he said.
Mugabe himself has gone to the meeting of the Africa Union, whose monitors condemned the election, as did the Southern African Development Communitys. A number of possible scenarios have been postulated.
The actions of the South African government are critical and the very likely new South African president Jacob Zuma seems to be willing to adopt a harder line than Thabo Mbeki.
SADC whose chief mediator is Mbeki has its origins in the anti apartheid struggle. There is of course another historic parallel between South Africas role now and its role in the end of Rhodesia. The end of Ian Smiths Rhodesian regime was largely brought about by, if not economic sanctions, economic unhelpfulness masterminded by South African PM Voster and his withdrawal of South African ground troops and military aircraft, which up until that time had helped the Rhodesians. Smith was extremely popular amongst white South Africans and Voster of course ran a more racist and discriminatory regime than Smith. As such continuing to assist Smith would have seemed more likely. However, Voster felt that pressurising Smith would reduce pressure on him from other African states and also please the Western powers.
It will be interesting to see whether the South African government will play the same part with Mugabe as Apartheid South Africa did with Rhodesia.