Mugabe Tantrum at SADC Comes to Light
Business Day (Johannesburg)
7 September 2007
Posted to the web 7 September 2007
ZIMBABWEAN President Robert Mugabe stormed out of the recent Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit after an explosive clash with Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa during a closed session, it has emerged.
Mugabe’s confrontation with Mwanawasa and his subsequent indignant departure from the meeting raised fears that the already divided regional bloc could be further weakened by further infighting and divisions.
The SADC is riddled with geo-political and personal rivalries among leaders which threaten to make it difficult to deal with internal conflicts and rein in rogue states. Mugabe’s fracas with Mwanawasa was reminiscent of his row with former South African president Nelson Mandela during a SADC meeting in Angola in 1997.
Diplomatic sources who attended the summit revealed this week that Mugabe walked out of the meeting after a row with Mwanawasa over Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis.
The sources said Mugabe went off in a huff after the unprecedented confrontation. Mwanawasa was chairing the meeting, which ended on a sour note.
The wrangle was caused by an attempt by Mwanawasa to table Zimbabwe for discussion, a move which enraged Mugabe.
Mugabe arrived home early looking glum after hurriedly leaving the summit. Upon his return, he said the meeting went well but made it clear his regime would continue with its own programmes, regardless of what the SADC leaders were saying.
The SADC said it was preparing an economic recovery package for Zimbabwe, but Mugabe’s spokesman, George Charamba, said in his anonymous column in the government-controlled daily Herald that Zimbabwe did not need help from the region because “no aid cent will come from SADC countries”, reflecting Mugabe’s attitude after the summit.
This was contrary to President Thabo Mbeki’s claims that there were no divisions over Zimbabwe at the summit and that the SADC was committed to helping Zimbabwe out of its crisis. He had described reports of division as “fictional” and said SADC leaders were not at odds over Zimbabwe.
But information gleaned from senior SADC diplomats indicates there were not just divisions, but a fierce clash between Mugabe and Mwanawasa that left the regional leaders shocked. They say the trouble started after Mbeki del-ivered his report on talks between the Zimbabwean ruling party Zanu (PF) and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Mbeki had earlier given the report to Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, the chairman of the SADC organ on politics, defence and security. Mbeki briefed the summit on Zimbabwe in his capacity as an SADC-appointed mediator .
Mbeki said in his briefing there was progress in the talks, although parties needed to intensify negotiations.
“After Mbeki delivered his report to the summit, Mwanawasa, as the chair of the meeting, said there was an urgent need to discuss Zimbabwe because the situation there had become ‘unacceptable’.
Kikwete said there was no need to discuss it because talks were in progress and Mbeki concurred,” a senior diplomat said. “Kikwete then suggested Mugabe should be asked what he thought about Mwanawasa’s proposal.
When Mugabe was given the platform to speak he launched an angry tirade, attacking Mwanawasa left, right and centre before walking out in protest.”
The diplomat said Mugabe angrily asked: “Who are you, Mwanawasa? Who are you? Who do you think you are?”
“Mugabe also said he was aware of Mwanawasa’s recent meetings with western intelligence agencies on Zimbabwe. He said he would ‘not allow Mwanawasa to sell out Zimbabwe as he has done to Zambia’,” the diplomat said.
“During the process Mwanawasa was shaken and he kept on saying: ‘Mr President I didn’t mean to say that; you misunderstood me. No, Mr President, that was not my intention’ .”
Sources said Mugabe, after blasting Mwanawasa, walked out and did not return.
Efforts by colleagues – including Kikwete and Mbeki – to persuade him to return to the meeting failed.