Every day that passes Zimbabwe itches closer and closer to a cliff of a man-made tragedy.
A few weeks ago Robert Mugabe announced that he will be contesting the elections of that country due next year.
His party responded by giving him a long drawn standing ovation.
“There is still no replacement,” a spokesperson muttered out what has become a boilerplate mantra.
Except for ham-fisted outbursts from Botswana’s Ian Khama, the silence from SADC has been predictably deafening.
From many in the SADC, the Zimbabwe circus is best left by itself to play on and on.
Since the late 1990s when Mugabe became explicitly belligerent and explicitly grew violent towards his own people, SADC has manifestly shrunk away from engaging him.
Since that time, the problems in Zimbabwe have largely been left to resolve themselves ÔÇô kind of.
For its part the Zimbabwean Government has remained unwilling to resolve its country’s problems.
To be fair to SADC leaders, many of them have remained helpless in the face of Zimbabwe’s strongman.
They still refer to him as a liberation hero.
All in all everything has been left to divine intervention.
And looking at the frailty of President Mugabe in the recent public appearances, especially at a birthday party hosted in his honour when he turned 93 – he spent more than half the time of the party asleep – Zimbabwe is headed for a crisis.
SADC has had too many problems confronting it. But none has been as enduring, as shiftless and as glaring as Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has for years remained an indelible blight on SADC.
Mugabe’s passing could easily prove to be a lightning of all sorts of troubles currently besieging that country.
And with his death, Zimbabwe can go up in smoke.
The country might spiral into a meltdown precipitating a civil war.
Inside Zimbabwe conditions are ripe for a political veldt fire.
The economy is in disarray.
There is no clear successor to Mugabe. And the political elite are deeply distrustful of each other.
The ruling party, never a beacon of unity has descended into mutual mistrust and internecine factions that render political conflict a forgone conclusion.
The armed forces have become irreparably politicized, making the scope for civil unrest virtually guaranteed.
Since the late 1990s, Mugabe has cultivated a private army of blood curdling thugs who call themselves war veterans.
Many of them were only born well after 1980 when the war had officially come to an end and Mugabe had become president.
He has used these thugs to terrorise opposition. And also to intimidate opponents inside his Zanu-PF.
But increasingly they have been growing estranged, even publicly calling on him to quit.
They will no doubt be a problem after Mugabe leaves the scene.
And the opposition, rather than presenting itself as alternative is hopelessly fragmented.
Add to all those, the long simmering but unresolved tribal differences, and you get a Zimbabwe that is ripe for a civil war.
A civil war in Zimbabwe will bring about human catastrophe. For SADC that will become a geopolitical disaster of the magnitude that the block has never had to grapple with in recent times.
Even if he were to die in office, it is important that Mugabe anoints a successor before then.
Mugabe has tarnished all his liberation credentials.
He is now spending his last years ensuring that Zimbabwe does not survive for long after his own demise.
No leader in the region has taken longer resisting a decision he knows would save a country that he fought so hard to liberate.
This two VPs thing, a fad that unfortunately seems to be permeating Botswana’s opposition ranks can be very untidy especially when the line of seniority is left vague as preferred by some this side.
A few weeks ago, Zanu-PF announced that Mugabe will be the candidate in the next General Elections.
Mugabe responded by stumbling to the podium to say he felt as strong as a small boy.
He said for as long the party felt there was nobody else to take from him he would stand.
His wife added that even if Mugabe died before the elections, due next year, his corpse could continue to contest and even win those elections.
The entire game plan is for Mugabe to die in office ÔÇô with no preparations of what happens the following day after his death.
Mugabe’s express dream is to live up to 100 and die in office. If all those came to pass, and Mugabe had his way, Zimbabwe would be lumbered with the senile dictator for the next seven years.
His wife has also said she is prepared to push him in a wheelchair all that time so that nobody else runs Zimbabwe.
SADC would do itself a horrendous disservice if it continues to feel and act helplessly.
Surely something can be done to help avert the coming tragedy.
SADC could start by bringing the opposing factions of Mugabe’s party and also the fragmented opposition to hammer out a deal in preparation for a life after Mugabe.
This might sound heartless and crude.
But it is Mugabe, his family and to a lesser extent his Zanu-PF who have been chief authors of this madness.
A powder keg is ready for explosion in Zimbabwe.
And when that happens, the number of Zimbabwean refugees that will swamp SADC countries will by far eclipse all that we have seen during Mugabe’s misrule.