MAJOR Richard Kachingwe is disgusted at the non-committal attitude of SADC Heads of State over the crackdown on citizens by Zimbabwean authorities and the political instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In an interview, Maj Kachingwe, who is Zambia’s former High Commissioner to Nigeria, complained that “SADC, like its godfather the African Union (AU), is a toothless bulldog!”
“It does not help the region in terms of matters that affect the people. People are being butchered in Zimbabwe and Congo DR and they (SADC Heads of State) even called an ‘urgent’ meeting [in Addis Ababa on Thursday last week]. But that is too little too late!” Maj Kachingwe said.
He asked why the Southern African Community Development (SADC) had remained quiet when “lives are being lost in Zimbabwe.”
Following an announcement of perplexingly high fuel prices by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on January 12, there have been widespread protests in the southern African country, especially in the capital Harare and the southern city of Bulawayo.
The fuel price hike saw a litre of petrol going to US$3.31 from US$1.24 and a litre of diesel rose to US $3.11 from US$1.36.
President Mnangagwa claimed that the price hikes were necessary to offset shortages of fuel caused by an increase in its use and “rampant” illegal trading.
Amid the onslaught, the Zimbabwean government has blocked social media platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook.
“SADC is watching a situation in Zimbabwe where people are being butchered! Yes, it’s true they are not supposed to interfere in the affairs of a sovereign State,” Maj Kachingwe observed, warning that the current protests in Zimbabwe would have a spill-over effect to that country’s neighbours.
“SADC is there to make sure that there is harmony in the southern African region [because] harmony in a country is harmony in the region. If there is no harmony in a country, the surrounding neighbours will be affected. So, whatever is happening in Zimbabwe will affect Zambia and South Africa.”
Maj Kachingwe, a onetime MMD national secretary, emphasised that SADC should “have gone in to stop the rot in Zimbabwe in good time, unlike just watching over when people are being butchered.”
“When it’s too late, that’s when they will call for a round-table conference!” he lamented.
Maj Kachingwe recalled that when president Levy Mwanawasa was chairman for SADC, “he stepped in at the right time and he was so brave to call Zimbabwe a sinking titanic.”
“He brought in all the SADC Heads of State in Zambia and made sure that they sat at Mulungushi International Conference Centre for 13 hours to find a solution for Zimbabwe that time,” Maj Kachingwe noted, stressing that a problem in Zimbabwe was a problem for “all of us.”
“SADC is moribund and not fit to continue. It was created for economic development [but] what economic development is there in the region? They have allowed trade imbalance in the region. It’s only South Africa that is benefiting in the region by putting their cheap malls everywhere and sending their goods everywhere. South Africa has actually become the new economic colonialist!”
He wondered why the actions of SADC, especially now, were “too little too late.”
Maj Kachingwe pointed out that it was always important to quickly get in and fix a situation before it got out of hand.
“What is SADC practically doing about the situation in Congo DR and Zimbabwe? Making statements in Addis Ababa is not good enough. ECOWAS (Economic Community for West African States) even sends in troops to sort out problems. But here all they (SADC Heads of State) know is drinking tea and flying around going to discuss things that don’t even materialise,” he said.
“When SADC was being put in place, we thought it would make sense. But it has not made any sense. At least Mwanawasa tried when he was the chairman for this SADC; he condemned a fellow President and said Zimbabwe was a sinking titanic. But these [current SADC Heads of State] fear each other. How can you allow what’s happening in Zimbabwe to go on where people are being killed? Soldiers are all the country!”
And Maj Kachingwe reiterated that SADC Heads of State wanted to only mobilise themselves when a situation got worse.
“Look at the instability in Congo DR! SADC monitors even said the December 30 elections in that country were calm – meaning SADC proclaimed free and fair elections there,” complained Maj Kachingwe.
“So, when I hear that they are trying to find a solution…. It will be difficult because the other guy (Felix Tshisekedi) has been declared [a] winner and his supporters are celebrating. So, whatever decision SADC will come up will just increase the tension in Congo DR.”