"There is no crisis in Zimbabwe," President Mbeke told journalists in Harare after holding talks with President Robert Mugabe on the way to Lusaka, to the despair of the liberal elites , more effective in observing wars of colonialist overthrow than undertaking them.
In this they betray their apparent and common inability to understand that not only is Mbeke is virtually powerless, his own hold on power is remarkably tenuous.
As chronicled here endlessly, the lights are going out all over Africa - more so in the rainbow state as the rolling power cuts from struggling ESKOM fails to power what was a booming economy - now suddenly jammed into reverse.
Decades of political indecision, benign neglect, unwillingness to listen, have finally hit, coinciding with a public eruption of the swelling crime, corruption and factional ANC strife. Outside political circles the the national police chief faces trial for corruption with charges of deals with a local mafiakingpin and dealer in hard drugs.
Inside the tent, the freshly elected African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma who waits to adopt Mbeke's mantle just escaped jail for raping an HIV-positive woman last year. This year he faces trial - unless a deal can be done - in connection with South Africa's very murky multi-billion-pound arms dealings with British, German and French arms manufacturers.
The new / old ANC leaders today are still framed by the jargon of their exiled years in the eastern bloc - yet they and their families splurge in excesses of consumerism of must have Mercedes 4x4s. Overseas hideaways fed from fraud, strutting wives and mistresses with Marc Jacobs bags bought in the shopping malls of Europe , shod by Jimmy Choo and supported by a claque of seedy Europeans hidden away in Cape mansions who watch as the bag of gold at the end of this rainbow is rapidly disappearing.
Crime soars in the neglected townships, swollen with refugees from Zimbabwe, food costs soasr and shortages mount against this desperate background of lawlessness.
Only now is the power shortfall, long predicted, throttling the returns of years of foreign investment . Result. Stocks sold off and the rand slides and the big boys start looking elsewhere, the world now being their global oyster.
In a post Westphalian world where the sovereign state - which was never very sovereign in this this region - has collapsed , the money moves and the market moves on.
Power cuts have hit the country's platinum, gold, manganese and high-quality export coal mines with a hammer blow, with no production on some days and only 40% to 60% on others, exports decline, employees lose pay ...... health services - with over 6 million HIV positive patients, under the under his eccentric , alcoholic health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who recently jumped the public queue for a liver transplant, wither as cash dries up.
In December Mbeki and Zuma stood for the leadership of the ANC at the party's five-yearly electoral congress in what must increasingly be seen as a watershed in post Mandela politics. Pithily put by one blogiste as "from rascist hellhole to 3rd world shithole in 3 Presidents"
Thabo Mbeki, gained an M.A. degree in economics in 1966 from the University of Sussex at Brighton and after working for three years until 1970 for the ANC - often seen as sitting out the war . Although he subsequently underwent military training in the Soviet Union.
Mbeki, prevented from standing again as state president beyond next year's parliamentary and presidential elections, wanted to remain the power behind the throne of a new state president of his choosing.
Zuma, a Zulu populist with some 20 children by various wives and mistresses, hoped to prove that last year's rapecase, and the trial he faces this year for corruption and other charges, were part of a plot by Mbeki to use state institutions to discredit him. A former detainee on Robben Island and leader of the ANC’s military wing, Mr Zuma has long been one of the most popular leaders among the party’s militants.
Mbeki and the old warfighters assumed that the notion of corrupt Zuma , taking on Nelson Mandela's role thought the election was a formality.
Mbeki was blind to his unpopularity - a wicked combination of his arrogance , his failures in solving health and crime problems, and above all his failure to deliver to the poor , made him a loser. He lost. The defeat was humiliating by 2,329 votes to 1,505 and pro-Zuma candidates took a clean sweep of the top six positions on the party’s National Executive Committee. .
Now Zuma insists that he is the leader of the country and the ANC , Ruthlessly he expects (and largely gets) MPs in parliament to take its orders from him.
An elderly and failing Mbeki soldiers on until next year as state president, asking MPs to toe his line.
Without authority at home he has none to wield abroad - and soon FIFA will withdraw the 2010 World Cup.
Meanwhile in Zimbabwe , Mugabe ignores what he can and resists what he must. This week he secured the endorsement of his party to stand in next year's presidential elections, when he will be 84 years old.
He has't the slightest intention of leaving and will do anything to remain in power - he murdered tens of thousands of Matabele , has forcibly and happily exiled anywhere between 2-4 Mn to surrounding states and has a large corrupt and fiercely loyal clique who will cling to his power.
Surrounded by nations wallowing in the failings of the African Energy Pool, who will increasingly find it difficult to feed their people, calls for Mugabe to maintain and observe the Constitional niceties is pointless.
Mbeki says there is no crisis. 2 weeks after elections , Zimbabweans are being denied the results. Mbeki says there is no crisis, but the people are living under martial law. Mbeki says there is no crisis but Opposition MDC lawyers have been harassed, brutalised.Mbeki says there is no crisis yet South African equipment and property has been seized. Mbeki says there is no crisis and thousands of soldiers, police and members of youth militias are roaming the streets.
Mbeki says there is no crisis.