|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
From The Zimbabwe Standard, 21 October
Mugabe back in the frying pan
Zimbabwe is set to bounce back into the international limelight, albeit for the wrong reasons, when the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), the internal disciplinary body of the Commonwealth, pays a visit to the country this week to assess the current political situation. The Commonwealth team, which includes British minister for African affairs, Baroness Amos, jets into the country on Wednesday to review the implementation of the Abuja agreement. Saudi-born terrorist, Osama bin Laden and his Taleban allies, for a while, stole the limelight from the Mugabe regime as the world focused its attention on the issue of international terrorism. But with the impending CMAG visit, sources told The Standard last week that the fact-finding mission would be unequivocal in its condemnation of the rampant lawlessness gripping the country. At Abuja, Zimbabwe agreed to end illegal farm seizures, stop attacks on the judiciary, restore the rule of law and return the country to a normal democratic state. For its part, the British government pledged to resume its funding of Zimbabwe’s land reform programme, on condition that Zimbabwe adhered to terms set down at Abuja.
However, since the signing of the Abuja agreement in September, government has intensified its terror campaign against members of the opposition and commercial farmers. The Commonwealth is convinced that the Zimbabwean authorities have failed to adhere to the agreement and the group’s fact finding mission is set to officialise that position. The Australian High Commissioner to Zimbabwe, John Brown, confirmed that the Commonwealth team would be in the country on Thursday and Friday, to review progress on the Abuja agreement. "The team will be here to discuss how they are going to implement the Abuja agreement. It is a commitment by Zimbabwe which they are honouring," said Brown. After it had earlier barred the team from entering Zimbabwe, the government made a U-turn at Abuja and agreed to scrutiny by the Commonwealth mission. A British Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman told The Standard on Friday that his office was finalising preparations for the visit. "I cannot say much at the moment, but we have been making preparations for the team’s visit possibly at the end of next week," he said. After the cancellation of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled for Brisbane earlier this month, the pressure on President Mugabe’s government to follow the rule of law, had eased. Mugabe survived censure and possible expulsion from the Commonwealth when the Brisbane summit was cancelled in the wake of the terrorist attacks on America.
"Mugabe cannot have his cake and eat it. So far, events on the ground point to the fact that Zimbabwe has failed to adhere to the agreement. Yet Zimbabwe still wants Britain to cough up funds for the land reform programme. The ministers are here to see for themselves that the government has no will to respect the agreement. The Abuja agreement is the only framework that we can use to sort out the Zimbabwean mess but the problem is that Mugabe has thrown the agreement into the bin," said a diplomatic source. Human rights lawyer, Brian Kagoro, on Friday said that the Abuja agreement’s main failing was that it was open to abuse by President Mugabe’s government. "It states that the British have to pay an unspecified amount of money to Zimbabwe without the dates of the payments being given. It asks Zimbabwe to do other things as well but no time frame is given. We don’t know who will wield the big stick if the parties breach the agreement," added Kagoro.
The onslaught on the agreement has continued unabated despite the assurances of government spin doctors that Zimbabwe was upholding the principles of the agreement. War veterans and Zanu PF supporters have continued to invade farms while justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, has intensified attacks and purges on the judiciary. Violence against opposition members has risen, especially in rural areas, while the siege on the independent and foreign press continues with foreign journalists being deported and the media, in general, being consistently harassed by state agents. The Commonwealth team will meet officials of the MDC, farmers organisations, the press, lawyers, government and other stakeholders. The Commonwealth mission’s visit coincides with a European tour by an MDC delegation aimed at sensitising the international community on the shortcomings of the Abuja agreement.
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 19 October
Donors, govt in new clash
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the agency expected to take a lead in mobilising resources for Zimbabwe’s land reform under the Abuja agreement, has once again proposed an alternative approach which in effect requires Harare to drop the internationally condemned fast-track policy. UNDP administrator Mark Malloch Brown last month wrote to the government laying out international expectations before multi-lateral donors will fund the land reform programme. The contents of Malloch Brown’s letter are not new but they have poured cold water on President Mugabe’s hopes that the Abuja agreement signalled international acceptance of his land policy and that donors would be coming on board waving large cheques.
The indications are that the UNDP would like the 1998 land donors conference resolutions dusted off and tried once more. UNDP resident representative Victor Angelo in an interview on Wednesday confirmed the world body had sent a letter to foreign minister Stan Mudenge as a follow-up to the loosely-worded Abuja accord. The government responded to the letter on Tuesday but Angelo was reluctant to furnish details of Zimbabwe’s response. "The letter (from Zimbabwe) is being discussed as we speak," said Angelo. "I cannot give you details about the contents but I can say that the government did not answer all the issues raised in the letter. It is a delicate matter at the moment," he said.
Yesterday, Angelo was locked in marathon meetings with diplomats from SADC, donor countries and G77 members to acquaint them with the latest diplomatic initiative to save the situation in Zimbabwe. The move is thought necessary as an air of mistrust between Harare and London has started to build up again with Zimbabwe saying Britain is not moving to implement the Abuja agreement. The UNDP, however, says the successful implementation of the agreement hinges on the willingness of Zimbabwe to be flexible and accept recommendations from the international community.
In its letter to government the UNDP said it wanted to send another technical team to Zimbabwe to assess the current agrarian reform under the fast-track exercise. Angelo said the international community was not really aware of what was happening on the ground, especially regarding the number of people who have been resettled and their productivity. "We have to come up with an assessment of the situation on the ground," said Angelo. "We have to find out what is happening on the farms...We hear 30 000 or 60 000 and some say 100 000 farmers have been resettled but these are just numbers - we have to ensure that there is accurate information," he said. Angelo said the UNDP had indicated in the letter that after the assessment stakeholders - the government, farmers and donors - had to agree on a general framework which would then be developed into a fully-fledged land reform programme with the support of multi-lateral financiers.
Observers said the strategy adopted by the UNDP mirrored the views of key Western donors, including the European Union and former colonial power Britain, which had all made it clear that they would not put their money into the current government land policy. The key donors want a structured exercise which would be implemented in stages with results evaluated. Before they could be involved, sources said, the donors would want a proper audit of the government’s fast-track scheme, hence the UNDP’s request to send a technical team. "The donors cannot just make a leap in the dark because they have taxpayers’ money to account for," said a Western diplomat.
From ZWNEWS, 21 October
Land: Out with the old
It had to happen. As of 14 October Zimbabwean ministers began to whisper to their tame media that the British were backing away from the Abuja agreement. This was provoked by the non-arrival of the large and indiscriminate cheques for land that some in Zanu PF had been anticipating. What, in fact, the British, and the other members of the Abuja Commonwealth team, have so far failed to do is offer financial support to a land acquisition process that is not just barbaric and destructive, not just wholly incompatible with the Abuja agreement, but also unconstitutional and illegal under Zimbabwean law and the Zimbabwean constitution and incompatible with the oft-repeated statements of the Zanu PF leadership. The only land acquisition programme that the Commonwealth, or anybody else, should pay for must be a wholly reformed one. It’s time to start again.
The vast majority of farms that have received preliminary notice of acquisition - that have been, in effect, listed (about 90% of all commercial farms) fall outside the criteria for acquisition, the ‘set criteria’ of the Abuja agreement. Those criteria are that a farm is one of two or more owned by a single owner, that the owner is an ‘absentee’ (i.e. living abroad) landlord, that the farm land is not being used productively, or that the farm is on the edge of a communal area. President Mugabe repeated these criteria on 3 May 2000 and promised that any farmer who wished to carry on farming, and whose farm was acquired by virtue of the communal land criterion, would be found a farm elsewhere. The criteria appeared again in the August 2000 Accelerated Resettlement Plan. Mugabe repeated them publicly the same month. Minister Goche repeated them to the EU/SADC conference in Gaborone in November 2000 and they were even written into the final memorandum. On 15 October this year government media reported that Mugabe had again promised that any white farmer who wanted to farm would be able to. Most of the farms listed and occupied (and currently in a state of enforced idleness) should be left alone not just according to the UNDP or to the Abuja committee but according to the Zimbabwean government and to Mugabe himself.
Next the law. The Zimbabwean law has taken a hammering over the last 18 months, nowhere more so than over the land issue. The Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) regulations of May 2000 were illegal. The Land Acquisition Act Amendment Bill of November 2000 was passed illegally and unconstitutionally and is unconstitutional. The Rural Land Occupiers Bill of May 2001 is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has ruled the Fast Track programme illegal and it remains so, despite the enabling order of September this year handed down by the new Zanu PF-heavy Supreme Court. Not only the land occupations themselves but the legislation that now supports them drive a Mercedes Benz through the basic human rights to privacy and freedom of association enshrined in the Zimbabwean constitution. But the current land occupations are also, for the most part, illegal under existing Zimbabwean law, however skewed that law might be.
Any farmer whose farm is to be acquired must receive an acquisition order. Many have not. Once that order is acquired the farmer may contest it in the administrative court. Most farmers are still waiting in the queue. Even if the administrative court, or a higher court if the farmer wishes to appeal (either on the grounds that the acquisition is unnecessary or flawed, or that is farm does not meet the set criteria, or on valuation) finds against the farmer he must still receive a three month notice to quit and may continue farming during that period. Under Zimbabwean law interruption of farming activities is clearly illegal, every threat, or instruction outside the process described above, aimed at making a farmer leave a farm is illegal, even the vast majority of squatter occupations are illegal.
The Abuja agreement is by no means perfect – few such documents are. It does, through political necessity perhaps, blame the Zimbabwean crisis on the land issue rather than upon Mugabe’s reluctance to cede power. But on the land issue itself it is clear: land reform must be ‘just’, ‘sustainable’, ‘in the interest of all the people of Zimbabwe’, ‘within the law and constitution’, ‘meaningful’, ‘orderly’ and carried out with ‘due regard to human rights, rule of law, transparency and democratic principles.’ It would be difficult to come up with a set of adjectives and descriptions less easily applied to Zimbabwe’s current land fiasco. Furthermore the government of Zimbabwe, the international community and the UNDP are committed by Abuja to produce a land reform programme based on the UNDP proposals of December 2000. These proposals, it would appear, embrace all the things that Fast Track does not and, in so doing, take us back to the 1998 donors conference – the last beacon of good sense on the way before darkness covered the land.
The UNDP should seek to start the process with the 700,000 hectares of farmland already in government hands and, as yet, un–resettled. It may then resettle such farms as are offered up for purchase, ensuring that a fair price is promptly paid. Next it may target only those farms that meet the set criteria and will give all the corresponding farmers the right to a fair hearing. If the courts find against them, the farmers will receive either fair and timely compensation or another farm. The beneficiaries will be the genuinely landless and there will be help to get them started. All resettlement will be fair and transparent and orderly, and properly documented and will respect the basic human rights of all protagonists.
The piecemeal, corrupt, localised chaos of Fast Track is wholly incompatible with any sort of programme the UNDP could conceivably support. Many have suffered through Fast Track – many people have found themselves dumped on unsuitable land and urged to grow crops with little or no assistance and surrounded by an understandably resentful local population. Many productive farm workers have been driven from their homes. Fast Track has been a crime. The UNDP and its partners should not abandon these accidental settlers, indeed may even need to support them until a viable home can be found for them. But equally the UNDP should not be conned or bullied into signing up to a programme just because it is there. Ironically, a proper UNDP programme can and will produce results far more quickly that the absurdly named ‘Fast Track’.
An enduring mystery is that of why Mugabe and his gang were so dismissive of the 1998 offer. The donors were prepared to fund the transfer of millions of hectares of farmland from one group of Zimbabweans to another on the basis of the colour of their skin. They accepted that there might be some compulsory purchase. Funds were ready and waiting. Mugabe could now be electioneering through millions of hectares of resettled farmland with the international community picking up the bill. But it was not to be. Possibly Zanu PF grew weary of protests about the endless donations of farms to Zanu PF apparatchiks. Possibly the administrative will and expertise were lacking. Possibly Mugabe wanted to keep the land issue for a rainy day. Whatever the reason let us put the intervening years, with all their brutality and folly, to one side and hope that the Abuja signatories, and the UNDP have the courage and will to give Zimbabwe a fair, honourable and, above all, new land reform programme.
From The Star (SA), 20 October
Kinshasa pulls out of DRC peace talks
Addis Ababa- The government delegation of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Friday walked out of talks here about the future of the war-ravaged republic, complaining that the meeting was nothing but a "masquerade". A senior DRC team-member said his government had decided "to put an end to the masquerade taking place in Addis Ababa". A key feature of a DRC ceasefire agreement signed in 1999, the so-called inter-Congolese dialogue here is meant to pave the way for new political solutions following a civil war that has pitted troops of President Joseph Kabila's government against foreign-backed rebel forces. The Friday session was suspended after the Kinshasa team left the conference hall. DRC Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu could not immediately confirm whether his delegation's departure was definitive or whether it might return to the conference table. He said his team regretted that the required conditions for the conference had not been fulfilled, "particularly the basic question of participation". The Addis Ababa talks opened on Monday with just 80 participants instead of the planned 330.
Under the terms of the 1999 ceasefire accord the inter-Congolese dialogue is meant to deliver a "new political dispensation", an army integrating rebel fighters and to pave the way for democratic elections as well as a new constitution. The DRC war began in August 1998, when rebels rose up with the backing of Uganda and Rwanda. Later troops from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia were sent to help the government. Azerias Ruberoa, Secretary-General of the Rwanda-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), one of the two principal rebel movements, said on Friday: "Kinshasa has shut the door and it's a clear plan to resume the war." But Ruberoa said the armed opposition was "prepared to continue the work in Addis Ababa". Olivier Kamitatu of another opposition group, the Congo Liberation Movement (MLC), said of the DRC withdrawal: "This is a serious political matter." Hopes that the long-postponed and cash-strapped dialogue would move the DRC peace process forward faded even before Monday's opening ceremony, which was boycotted by President Kabila and subsequently by the leaders of the two rebel movements. The first week of talks in Addis Ababa was meant to be dedicated only to procedural issues but began on Tuesday with fierce arguments over whether to postpone the dialogue and change its venue.
Both rebel movements accuse Kinshasa of seeking to maintain the current nebulous state between war and peace and of doing all it could to prevent the dialogue making any real progress. On Wednesday, rebel delegates described the talks as deadlocked only a day after they began, and accused Kinshasa of stonewalling. "We have reached an impasse. Kinshasa is totally blocking all ways of moving forward," said Ruberoa. His opposite number in the Congolese Liberation Movement, which is backed by Uganda, called on the DRC government to deliver a "clear and firm" position on whether they want the talks to go ahead. On Thursday, the talks reached a third day of rows and confusion. A plenary session on procedural issues was cancelled after the government delegation failed to show up. There was general agreement among delegations from the government, the opposition, civil society and rebel groups that South Africa would be a better venue. But parties differed as to how long the talks should be interrupted. The rebels want issues such as an agenda, a timetable and representation settled as soon as possible.
From The Daily News, 20 October
Soldiers to remain in DRC, says Sekeramayi
Zimbabwe will not withdraw totally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where fresh fighting has been reported over the past few weeks, a government minister said on Thursday. Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi said the deployment of more United Nations peacekeeping forces will determine the time-frame for the total pull-out of Zimbabwean troops from the DRC. The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) deployed about 12 000 troops in the DRC in August 1998 to help prevent the government of the then president, Laurent Kabila, from being toppled by rebels supported by Rwanda and Uganda. About 4 000 Zimbabwean soldiers from three battalions have been pulled out since April, but the exercise has been halted to allow the deployment of a UN peace-keeping force. There have also been reports of new deployment but Sekeramayi said this was not true. He said fresh troops were relieving their colleagues in the DRC. Sources in the government say the government’s reluctance to withdraw the soldiers from the DRC was to ensure that private and public money-spinning ventures established in that country are protected. ZDF supremos, notably General Vitalis Zvinavashe, the Commander, are involved in billion-dollar deals in companies such as Sengamines, Oryx Diamonds Limited and Osleg Private Limited. The DRC conflict has been dubbed the new scramble for Africa with the ZDF last month getting into a $16 billion deal to fell trees in the Congo. The logging operation is expected to bring in profits of over $2 billion over the next two to three years.
Angola and Namibia - Zimbabwe's allies in the Congo - withdrew all their troops after three years of intense fighting that prevented the fall of Kinshasa to the rebels. An official from the Namibian Defence Ministry, Frans Nghitila, was last week quoted as saying his country would not send its troops back to the DRC despite renewed attacks by Rwandan-backed rebels there. But Sekeramayi dismissed the article saying this was part of "indirect British pressure" to put Zimbabwe in bad light by pushing articles that suggested that all the allies had pulled out of the DRC. He said: "There is a lot of disinformation that is going on at the moment. The Namibians have written to us and said they are prepared to send back their troops to the DRC if the situation deteriorated. What has been happening is that the British have been pushing these stories and exerting this indirect pressure with some British citizens who are on the UN mission going to the extent of provoking our soldiers in the DRC expecting them to retaliate."
He said the British wanted the soldiers to react and then "publish stories saying Zimbabweans in the Congo are in conflict with the UN and all this is calculated to damage our reputation". "Zimbabwean soldiers will remain in the DRC until enough UN peacekeepers have been deployed," said Sekeramayi. "We will comply with their timetable of withdrawal to the letter. It is the UN that is delaying our total withdrawal." Sekeramayi said the DRC peace accord was holding at the moment because of the presence of Zimbabwean soldiers who could not afford to lose the ground gained so far. But Nghitila told The Namibian newspaper on Wednesday last week that Namibia had accomplished its mission in the DRC by successfully preventing the rebels from taking over the government. He said all Namibian troops and equipment had now been withdrawn under the Lusaka ceasefire agreement. Namibian President Sam Nujoma had earlier told Joseph Kabila, the DRC president, that though the withdrawal had started, Namibia was ready to continue to assist if the international community failed to ensure the successful deployment of UN forces. There have been incidents of heavy clashes between rebels and government-backed forces in areas like Fizi on the shores of Lake Tanganyika dealing a blow to the fragile Lusaka ceasefire agreement. "Our involvement was to create a conducive environment for elections. That we have achieved and I don’t see us going back. The rebels must come to their senses," Nghitila said. Sekeramayi was tight-lipped on how much Zimbabwe had spent on the DRC war so far. At one stage the military intervention was estimated to cost US$2 million a day
Mugabe back in the frying pan
To the Point—Zimbabwe’s history of political intolerance
SINCE February 2000, Zimbabwe has been sliding into a state of anarchy. The sheer scale of the violence and the often questionable response of normally disciplined and helpful members of the uniformed services suggests that many peace-loving and rational citizens find themselves actually committing or implicated in activities they would normally shun.
The most disturbing aspect is that some people actually believe that the violence has to do with liberating their country, preventing it from being recolonised by former colonial forces with the assistance of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, or simply reclaiming their land. The MDC dismisses the accusations as hogwash, but there are many Zimbabweans who have swallowed state propaganda hook, line and sinker.
Many feel justified in doing anything to save their fatherland from foreign domination. They are not all illiterate. Some are normally very rational people. What could be happening to them?
This is the second time this siege mentality has been evoked to destabilise a new and promising party in Zimbabwe. In 1963, a group of banned Zapu executives led by Ndabaningi Sithole, Leopold Takawira and Robert Mugabe decided to rejuvenate the nationalist leadership and form a new political party called Zanu. Still immensely popular, their former leader, Joshua Nkomo, launched the People’s Caretaker Council (PCC) specifically to prevent the formation of any other nationalist party. The PCC declared him ‘Life President of the Struggle’. To ensure that Zanu would not get to the grassroots, Nkomo formed a youth brigade called Zhanda, to brutally descend on anyone suspected of sympa-
thising with Zanu, which Nkomo claimed to have ‘banned'.
Zhanda dancers would sing in a threatening manner: “ChiZanu tabhana, chizano chemari, itai kuti pwee, muchiona, makachitarisa muchiona”. (We have banned Zanu. A mere idea (zano) for making money. Right to your face, while you look. Dare you say a word?) PCC leaders deliberately misled Zimbabweans into believing that Zanu were a bunch of ‘sellouts’ funded by Americans to disrupt the liberation struggle. Through violence and forced defections, Zhanda nearly succeeded in destroying Zanu in its first two years by measures such as stone throwing and physical assault against its members. During all night parties called madiro (Zapu’s will), young thugs would help themselves to frightened girls in the presence of helpless parents in African townships. The African Daily News was forced to publish daily defections “back to” the PCC. Eventually, Zanu only survived the violence by going underground, thus escaping both Joshua Nkomo’s Zhanda thugs and Ian Smith’s police. Smith banned both Zanu and PCC in 1965.
In 1980, after winning the first popular election in independent Zimbabwe, Mugabe asked Nkomo to join Zanu PF in a government of ‘national unity’. Reason seemed to prevail. When a bloody skirmish between Zanla and Zipra guerrilla forces erupted at Entumbane in Bulawayo, it was, ironically, the former Rhodesian soldiers who separated them before restoring peace. Order was restored. Again reason seemed to prevail.
Within a few months, the truce broke down again. Nkomo and his Zapu colleagues were fired from cabinet. Could they survive as a loyal opposition? Some Zipra guerrillas went back into the bush and carried out sporadic attacks. This time, a resurgent Zanu PF used the state military machine to subdue a resilient Zapu.
Some Zanu PF partisans thought it was their turn to teach their once intolerant rivals a lesson. Hoping to eliminate Zapu once and for all, Zanu PF went for overkill. Horrendous atrocities were visited upon innocent Zimbabweans in Matabeleland and Midlands during that campaign. It was sheer madness again.
After that orgy of bloodshed, Mugabe and Nkomo joined their ‘sellout’ parties into one big patriotic front, perhaps too ‘patriotic’ for democracy to prevail. For Nkomo, coming second best to his former information aide, Mugabe, was a bitter pill to swallow. He really needed a ‘big heart’ to become second to another Zimbabwean. After doing so much to ensure that Zimbabweans were scared of joining Zanu, Nkomo died second only to one man in the hierarchy of that very ‘sellout’ party he had ‘banned’ in 1963.
For Mugabe, having no other party to compete with for the hearts and minds of Zimbabweans, was the crowning moment in his history. After that, Mugabe, like Nkomo in 1963, would not tolerate the formation of any other new parties. With all those painful memories of Zapu violence on Zanu in the early 1960s, and Zanu PF violence on Zapu in the 1980s, Zimbabwe’s current leadership must surely have learned something about political tolerance. The return of anti-new party violence 20 years after independence raises questions about the veteran nationalist’s ability to become mature, to handle self-determination and to uphold democratic rights.
For Zanu supporters, rejoining forces with Zapu had its costs. The 1987 ‘Unity Accord’ marked a return to the “father of the nation” syndrome, personified by:
1 The fanatical Zhanda (Zapu) party cadre, the Hunzvi type, whose trade mark is the uncritical adoration of the dear leader and father of the nation;
2 the foul-mouthed senior official, the Msika type, brought up on a political diet of senseless denigration of opponents as ‘sellouts’ and migodhoyi, with reference to Sithole and Mugabe in 1963 and Tsvangirai in 2001, just for forming a new party, and l a culture of suspicion and violence towards anyone capable of independent thought.
It marked a return to the politics of witch and head hunting. In that culture, our politicians become so afraid of innovation that they always identify the ‘colonial master’—Britain, whites, commercial farmers—in any new political development. In the formation of every new party, our current leadership—Nkomo in 1963, Mugabe in 2000—encourages us to see nothing but a towering white ghost rolling out endless reams of dollars and pounds to selfish black puppets. Why is our leadership afraid of being sold out? Is it because somewhere down the line they also fell for those dollars and pounds and sold their fatherland to the highest bidder?
The presidential election campaign has just started. Both Zanu and Zapu veterans know that the mere arrival of another party is not the end of their world, unless of course their exit is overdue. However, it is amazing how Zanu PF leaders from both old parties still hysterically try to sell the crazy idea that all new parties are formed by ‘sellouts’ funded by foreigners, implicitly suggesting that Zimbabweans cannot form their own political parties and contest elections peacefully.
The nationalist old guard and its young rocket spinners blissfully live with the contradiction between explicitly asserting and implicitly undermining our sovereignty. If no Zimbabwean can independently form a political party and contest elections without risking life and limb, then what ‘sovereignty’ is there to talk about?
Most observers of Zimbabwe’s current crisis tend to personalise it by focusing on Mugabe’s continued pursuit of political office. Is it not possible that the man himself might be tired and eager to go at the earliest opportunity? If that were to happen, would his young lieutenants be any more tolerant towards the opposition? Some of these are educated people who should be more rational in their approach to life than the nationalist old guard brought up on the violence of colonial political jails.
Yet the new generation in Zanu PF does not seem to be any more enlightened. In fact, Zanu PF’s new generation shows even more irrational and pathological hatred for law and order, opposition and aliens than the old chaps ever could muster on their own.
With Chinhoyi MP Philip Chiyangwa uttering, “Kana uri MDC, shaikwa!” (If you happen to be MDC, disappear!) at the launching of the Mugabe 2002 campaign in Mashonaland West, indications are that irrational appeals to hatred and violence will be the main course in the incumbent’s campaign.
Why though? Why does a party of so much historical experience, grassroots appeal and education prefer to engage opponents in personal attacks than in rational analysis and debate of real issues? Claiming that ‘land’ is Zimbabwe’s sole issue, amounts to abrogation of all rational political deliberation. How can African nationalism become so irrational? Why has a movement that made so much sense in the late 20th Century become so irrational at this point in time?
Back Into the Lost Decade
Financial Gazette (Harare)
October 19, 2001
Posted to the web October 19, 2001
A combative President Robert Mugabe this week plunged Zimbabwe back into the lost decade of his command-style economics of 1980-1990, dramatically reversing market reforms which promised to heal and lift a shattered land.
In ditching the reforms which could have succeeded but for half-hearted implementation by his government, Mugabe firmly returned to his roots just as he prepared for a possible exit in a landmark presidential ballot due next year.
In many ways, he appears to want to have his end-game the way he started it, and his latest action merely confirms that deep inside him he had never changed.
In re-imposing price controls and threatening to nationalise loss-making companies that close down, he has come clean and signalled the re-introduction of his cherished socialist dream which collapsed in his face as a new brave world marched on.
But then and now, he faces the same insurmountable roadblocks which killed off his dream simply because his policies are not workable.
The President's action and several others taken this week by members of his governing ZANU PF party show a determined leader who will do all to hang on to power, whatever the cost to a country already on its bended knees.
Mugabe's announcement capped a week in which more private farms were seized by ZANU PF mobs in a stark challenge to the much-trumpeted Abuja accord on Zimbabwe's land crisis; when three ZANU PF legislators publicly chastised business leaders over their conduct in the full glare of state television cameras and when teachers going about their work had to flee their schools in Gokwe North.
Thus, the scrapping of the market reforms was not an isolated action but part of a synchronised campaign in support of Mugabe's last-ditch effort to retain power by any means.
Whether these acts will indeed deliver him the victory he so badly needs remains to be seen. What is clear though is that in one stroke, Mugabe could have sealed his own political demise.
When Zimbabwe's already battered commerce and industry start closing down and retrenching workers, on top of the 60 percent joblessness that exists, all will know who is fully culpable.
Never mind the food shortages that were looming and whose advent has now been hastened.
No government anywhere in the world, however much financial muscle it has, can miraculously take over all these firms and ensure the instant re-employment of the jobless, and this is where Mugabe's problems just begin.
With Abuja all but dead because of the continuing and widening lawlessness, it does look as if Zimbabwe's presidential ballot will indeed be held - if it is held at all - under the most testing of times.
Whether Zimbabweans and the international community will accept the verdict of elections held under chaos remains to be seen - and this is another mountain Mugabe must climb if he is indeed declared the victor.
Meanwhile hard-pressed Zimbabweans must surely brace themselves for harsher and bitter times ahead, both on the economic and political fronts.
Zimbabwe is already shun-ned by much of the world and, with Mugabe's latest step, the nation looks a very long way off from ever getting any meaningful international aid or investment.
It must be a foreboding thought to the army of the jobless already on the streets who, early next year, will be called upon to join others in making their most momentous decision since uhuru in 1980.