The Southern African Development Community (SADC) will not be distracted from democratic reforms in Zimbabwe by regional upheavals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, South Africa and Madagascar, says SADC executive secretary, Tomaz Salomao.
However, groups like the Brussels-based International Crisis Group are already complaining that SADC, the guarantor of Zimbabwe’s Global Political Agreement, is failing to enforce implementation of the power-sharing deal it brokered in 2008.
Human rights groups fear that President Robert Mugabe may take advantage of the conflict in DRC and other regional issues to stall democratic reforms.
Mozambique, the current chair of SADC, is facing its own challenges as the opposition RENAMO is threatening civil war, and SADC appointed mediator to Harare, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, is facing labour unrest and a tough re-election bid.
Mr. Salomao, who pledged to help Zimbabwe prepare for elections next year, said SADC will push for reforms in Harare and denied that Mozambique is a cause for concern.
Meanwhile, pressure may be mounting on Zimbabwe to join other regional powers and intervene in the DRC.
A high-level source said President Mugabe, who is in Kampala for the 16th Common Market for Southern Africa (COMESA) summit, will meet other regional leaders on the sidelines to discuss possible intervention.
However, regional security expert, retired Zimbabwe army colonel Martin Rupiya of the Institute of Security Studies, said it’s too soon to tell if intervention is likely.
He said because South Africa has boots on the ground in the DRC and SADC seems to support intervention, it’s possible that Harare might join a regional force as it did in 1998.
Rupiya also said a regional conflict could escalate from fighting over resources.
In a similar development, Zimbabwean truckers ferrying goods to the DRC say traders could lose billions of dollars in potential revenue if the conflict in the Congo spreads.
That seems a very real possibility, following the fall of the eastern town of Goma earlier this week to M23 rebels, who said they would next march toward Kinshasa.
Despite rebel threats, the DRC government insists that peace will prevail in the country.
Truckers said though the situation is tense but calm in the nation’s Lubumbashi border area, they fear that if the Congolese economy is further disrupted, their livelihoods may be in jeopardy.
One trucker, who asked to be identified as Baba vaNacio, said the political situation in DRC is uncertain.
More than 1,000 trucks, mostly from Zimbabwe and South Africa, reportedly go through the Lubumbashi border post every day, ferrying goods such as mining equipment, unprocessed minerals, beef and chicken.