Did Mugabe alienate his oldest international ally? Today, for the first time in a very long while, the situation in Zimbabwe is set to be discussed in the Security Council. The opposition MDC, which won last month’s elections, will address the council to air their grievances. The Council will likely recommend the Secretary General appoint a Special Representative to monitor the harassment of Mugabe’s political opponents and, eventually, help mediate a transition of power. Why is this so significant? South Africa, traditionally Mugabe’s strongest international supporter, is presiding over the Security Council this month. As Council president, South Africa has a leading role in setting the schedule of the Council–and in the past has strongly resisted bringing the situation in Zimbabwe before the Council.
According to South Africa based-writer Geoff Hill, South Africa’s shifting attitude on Mugabe can be partly explained by the fact that SA President Thabo Mbeki is a lame duck and that incoming President Jacob Zuma is calling the shots. More broadly, though, there seems to be a recognition that Mugabe’s time is up. As Hill notes, African states recognize that Mugabe has been mortally wounded and are treating MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai as if he is the next president of Zimbabwe — hence the MDC’s invitation to address the Council today.