The two-edged sword of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) was wheeled out in Malawi where the Community's leaders met from 13-15 January to discuss Congo, Angola and Zimbabwe.
In the final communique, the SADC urged the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, to ensure that "every Zimbabwean participate in the [presidential] election [fixed for 9 & 10 March] in the spirit of democracy".
The SADC said Mugabe had assured his fellow leaders that he would "respect human rights, including the right to freedom of opinion, association and peaceful assembly".
In the same spirit of give-and-take, the communique also called on Western countries currently broadcasting "hostile propaganda" to Zimbabwe to "desist from such actions".
Britain is known to be one of those countries. It was reported in November that Britain had set up a "special radio station" inside Bush House (the central London HQ of the BBC World Service radio) that was broadcasting propaganda to Zimbabwe in English and Zimbabwean local languages.
As President Mugabe left for home after the Malawi summit, he told reporters: "All issues were well discussed. We are very, very happy. Come to Zimbabwe and see the election for yourselves."
In the run-up to the summit, Western governments had put pressure on the SADC leaders, particularly President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, to rein in Mugabe whom they accuse of muzzling the Zimbabwean opposition and the media.
But the Malawian president and current SADC chairman, Bakili Muluzi, appealing for peace, said sanctions against Zimbabwe (wanted by Western governments)...