(This article was originally published in Mmegi newspaper (Gaborone, Botswana) edition of February 16, 2011)
I am afraid that much of Don Martin Ropafadzo’s tirade (“SA, Zim fermenting trouble in West Africa”) shows lamentable ignorance about the matters he discusses.
For the benefit of your readers, I would like to cite some examples of this ignorance.
The Zimbabwe Global Political Agreement (GPA) of 2008 was proposed, negotiated and agreed from the beginning to the end by the three Zimbabwe political parties elected to parliament in the 2008 general elections. These parliamentary results were accepted by all Zimbabweans as truly reflecting the will of the people.
Accordingly, the GPA was neither drafted nor imposed on the Zimbabweans by former President Thabo Mbeki.
The provisions in the GPA, relating to President Robert Mugabe were agreed unanimously by the Zimbabwe parties. Ropafadzo cannot produce one solitary fact to prove his wild allegation that President Mbeki was guilty of “taking sides with losing dictator Robert Mugabe.”
What President Jacob Zuma has been doing as the SADC facilitator is to assist the Zimbabwe parties to implement their own Agreement. Nothing I know of has happened, in terms of what is contained in the GPA, which suggests that he has failed in his efforts, resulting, for instance, in the abrogation of the GPA.
With regard to Côte d’Ivoire, the South African Navy has four corvettes, not frigates. Contrary to what Messrs Ropafadzo and Victor Gbeho of ECOWAS say, the SAS Drakensberg is not one of these.
Corvettes are military combat vessels. The SAS Drakensberg is a service ship which is not armed for and does not engage in combat.
I presume that if the South African government had wanted to deploy its naval forces for purposes of military combat, with regard to the Ivorian crisis it would have sent its corvettes and perhaps the submarines as well, not a service ship.
Ropafadzo owes your readers an explanation as to why he has converted a service vessel into a frigate!
The AU sent former President Thabo Mbeki to Côte d’Ivoire early last December not as a mediator but to make proposals on how the Union should handle the Ivorian crisis.
On his return from Abidjan he submitted his report and proposals to the AU. These were also made available to both Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara.
The AU could not have appointed President Mbeki as its mediator for Côte d’Ivoire because it has deployed him, and two other former African Heads of State, to mediate the various conflicts in Sudan.
Again Ropafadzo should explain to your readers where he got the information that President Mbeki had been appointed as mediator for Côte d’Ivoire, and that “he was fired for taking sides with the loser, Laurent Gbagbo.”
The dispute about who won during the second round of the Ivorian presidential elections is one of the central elements of the Ivorian political crisis. Like ECOWAS, the AU, the UN and many countries, Ropafadzo takes it as given that Ouattara was elected President, which may be correct.
However, here are some facts which relate to this electoral dispute.
In fact there are three different vote counts which have been provided. The institutions concerned are the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the Constitutional Council (CC) and the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative (SRSG), each of which provided its own and different vote count.
When ECOWAS decided that Mr Ouattara had won, followed by the UN and the AU, it had not checked which of these three vote counts was correct. This has still not been done by anybody.
Rather, for reasons it has not explained, ECOWAS based its determination on the outcome announced by the IEC, which was endorsed by the SRSG.
However, the Ivorian Constitution stipulates that only and only the CC is authorised to determine who has won in any Presidential election. The law requires that the IEC should forward what are specifically described as “provisional results” to the CC for its consideration and confirmation or rejection, which the IEC did. Respect for the rule of law, which presumably Mr Ropafadzo shares as a militant democrat, demands that everybody should accept the determination made by the sole legally authorised CC, which declared Mr Gbagbo the winner.
Mr Ropafadzo will have to explain why such respect for the rule of law should be ignored in the case of the Ivorian elections, ostensibly in the interest of promoting democracy in Côte d’Ivoire and Africa!
Another matter to bear in mind in this context is that the SRSG had no mandate to pronounce on who had won the Presidential election.
His only mandate, given by the UN Security Council, was that he should verify not the results, but whether the election process had been free and fair. In this regard he was asked to work with and support the IEC and the CC, not separate from and above these Ivorian institutions. Thus when he announced who had won the elections, he deliberately and dangerously exceeded his mandate for reasons that have not been explained, and thus fundamentally compromised the neutrality of ONUCI, the UN peacekeeping forces in Côte d’Ivoire.
The agreements negotiated by the Ivorian parties and endorsed by ECOWAS, the AU and the UN, specified that the Presidential elections should not take place before the process of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) had been completed, following the 2002 rebellion which resulted in the division of the country into two parts, with the North controlled by the rebel Forces Nouvelles.
This was not done. The elections therefore took place while half the country, the North, remained under the control of the rebel Forces Nouvelles, which situation persists to this day.
Ropafadzo says absolutely nothing about any of these important factors, which relate to the Ivorian elections. I can only presume that he is completely ignorant of these and is therefore quite happy to base his conclusions on virtually no knowledge of or distorted information about the Ivorian situation.
I notice that in this regard Ropafadzo makes no reference whatsoever to the contents of the Resolution of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) which established the Five-Nation Panel and includes President Zuma.
If he had taken the trouble to study this Resolution, he would have seen that it prescribes that the Panel must provide a comprehensive resolution of the Ivorian crisis.
In this context it directs the Five-Nation Panel to negotiate a binding agreement with the Ivorian parties which would address such matters as the outstanding DDR process, the reunification of Côte d’Ivoire, the restoration of government authority to all parts of the country, and the achievement of national reconciliation.
Ropafadzo quotes the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Gbeho, as having said that ECOWAS is focused on “finding a lasting solution to the problems in Ivory Coast…to get the country back on its feet”.
Presumably as part of this, ECOWAS decided that it should use force to install Mr Ouattara as President of Côte d’Ivoire. The AU, which takes precedence over all African regional organisations, disagreed with this approach, knowing that such military intervention would spark a costly and disastrous civil war in Côte d’Ivoire, which would spread into the rest of the West African neighbourhood.
For this same reason many member states of ECOWAS have distanced themselves from the decision to use military force to resolve the Ivorian crisis.
The AU PSC Resolution is directed specifically at “finding a lasting solution to the problems in Ivory Coast…to get the country back on its feet”, which, hopefully, Ropafadzo would appreciate if he took the trouble to study the Resolution and understand the true nature of the Ivorian crisis.
If he did this he would understand why President Zuma can and will play an important role in helping to resolve the Ivorian crisis. President Zuma will bring into this African effort his own, and our country’s, experience in terms of overcoming deeply entrenched divisions in favour of peace, stability, democracy and national reconciliation.
The problem with Ropafadzo is that he seems determined to pursue a particular ideological agenda about Africa’s future, with absolutely no interest to resolve the problems confronting our Continent.
For this reason he is even prepared to treat the truth as an inconvenience which must be ignored and perverted if it stands in the way of the realisation of his agenda. In this context he also finds rude and coarse language acceptable, as when he insults President Zuma by describing him as “stupid”.
We are fortunate that the African Union and the peoples of Africa are sufficiently mature not to be distracted by the likes of Ropafadzo, choosing to focus on the difficult challenge to find lasting African solutions to Africa’s problems.
*Mukoni Ratshitanga is one of former President Mbeki’s assistants. He writes here in his personal capacity.