24 March 2007, 11:56 GMT
By Martin Plaut
As Zimbabwe slides into chaos and repression, there are indications
President Robert Mugabe could be eased out of power by his own old guard.
Leading members of the ruling Zanu-PF party and the opposition are
reportedly mapping out an end to the Mugabe era.
Sources in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) say the former
security and army chiefs have held talks with the MDC leader, Morgan
Mr Tsvangirai was badly beaten in police custody earlier this month.
The MDC leader is said to have met the former security and army
chiefs, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Solomon Mujuru.
Their talks took place before Friday's meeting in Johannesburg between
the vice-president of Zimbabwe Joyce Mujuru, who is Solomon Mujuru's wife,
and her South African counterpart, Phumuzile Mlambo-Nguka.
The first indications that President Mugabe's iron grip on his party
was slipping came at the Zanu-PF congress in December last year.
He asked the party to endorse his proposal to extend his presidency
until 2010. The party, for the first time, turned him down.
Three major camps have emerged within Zanu-PF:
a.. Emmerson Mnangagwa's faction - he is a key Mugabe ally and one
of his closest confidantes. He was minister of state security from 1982 to
1988 and has important links to the security services
b.. Solomon Mujuru's faction - also known as Rex Nhongo, he is the
former army chief, and leading member of Robert Mugabe's guerrilla forces
during the independence war
c.. Mugabe loyalists' faction
Both Mr Mnangagwa and Mrs Mujuru have presidential ambitions.
Until very recently they were at daggers drawn, but the economic
collapse has driven them to talk.
Opposition sources report that they have met twice in the past 10
days, as well as holding meetings with Morgan Tsvangirai.
Together a plan has emerged. Essentially they are looking at the
a.. An interim period, leading up to free and fair presidential
elections in March 2008. Guarantees that there will be a level playing field
for all parties. The opposition would, in return, call for economic support
from the international community to stave off economic collapse
b.. A dignified exit for Mr Mugabe, who would not be prosecuted and
would be allowed to go into retirement, probably in South Africa after March
This plan has been discussed with South Africa, which is immensely
worried about the current state of affairs.
World Cup fears
There are already between two and three million Zimbabweans living in
South Africa and another two million are thought to be considering fleeing
from the economic chaos and hunger.
With the price of bread doubling in just one day, this exodus is
becoming a real possibility.
The South African deputy foreign minister, Aziz Pahad, has warned that
it is difficult to see how a total meltdown in Zimbabwe could be avoided,
with annual inflation at 1,700% and rising.
South Africa is also worried about the possible implications of
further chaos and crisis on its borders with the 2010 World Cup looming
President Thabo Mbeki made this point in no uncertain terms when he
met President Mugabe in Accra earlier this month during the celebrations of
50 years of Ghana's independence.
The plan is due to be put to a meeting of the Zanu-PF central
committee due to be held next week.
It could be the final showdown between the president and his
opponents. But he is an immensely powerful orator, and has dealt ruthlessly
with internal challenges in the past.
Josiah Tongogara, commander of the guerrilla army Zanla, was with
Robert Mugabe at the Lancaster House conference that led to Zimbabwe's
independence and the end of white minority rule.
Many expected him to play a leading role in his country's future. But
six days after the Lancaster House agreement was signed, Mr Mugabe announced
"an extremely sad message" to "all the fighting people of Zimbabwe".
Mr Tongogara was dead, killed in a car accident in Mozambique. Few in
his party accepted this version of events.
President Mugabe also cracked down hard on opposition in Matabeleland
in the early 1980s. His notorious North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade killed
around 20,000 Matabele in an effort to stamp out resistance.
But President Mugabe will be cautious about moving decisively against
his critics today.
Almost all the senior figures in the security services have links to
Solomon Mujuru or come from his home area - Chikomba. The next week could
not just be critical for the future of Zimbabwe, but for southern Africa as
International Herald Tribune
The Associated PressPublished: March 23, 2007
HARARE, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe's ruling party leaders are to consider abandoning
widely criticized proposals to delay presidential elections until 2010, the
official Herald newspaper reported Saturday.
President Robert Mugabe, 83, now under an intense international spotlight
because of a brutal clampdown on opposition activists, had previously
suggested delaying the 2008 presidential elections to coincide with the 2010
parliamentary elections, which would effectively have extended his
presidential term by two years unchallenged. Even ruling party members
questioned the delay.
The Herald, a government mouthpiece, said Mugabe told a meeting of the
ruling ZANU-PF's Women's League on Friday that there was growing consensus
in the party to hold both elections next year and the issue would be
discussed at a meeting of the central committee next week.
"I think the view is that 2008 is preferable. Some of our lawyers are saying
this will not give problems," Mugabe was quoted as saying, in an apparent
concession to party members. "If we are going to have an election (next
year), we must start organizing and mobilizing support now, now, now."
The central committee meeting could be a key test of the support for Mugabe
amid growing signs of rifts within his party.
Rival factions supporting the former parliamentary speaker Emmerson
Mnangagwa or Vice President Joyce Muguru, whose husband is a powerful
ex-army commander, are confident they can prevent another Mugabe term,
according to University of Zimbabwe political analyst John Makumbe.
Muguru met with South Africa's Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ncguka at a
Johannesburg hotel on Friday, according to footage screened by South African
television. South Africa is spearheading the region's diplomatic efforts to
find a solution to the Zimbabwe crisis. It was unclear whether Mugabe was
aware of the meeting, which was described by the South African Foreign
Ministry as private.
Mugabe says bringing the parliamentary election forward would ease election
arrangements and save money, even if it means curtailing the five-year life
of the current parliament.
There was no immediate response Saturday to Mugabe's proposal for the
"harmonization" of the polls from Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for
Democratic Change, which had condemned the previous plan to delay the
elections until 2010.
The opposition holds 41 seats in the 150 seat parliament, where Mugabe
appoints 50 of the lawmakers.
In a further sign of apparent party rifts, the Herald said Mugabe "lashed
out at some party members who could not withstand criticisms by some Western
countries and the international media." It did not name names.
Zimbabwe has come in for international condemnation for attacks on
activists, including Tsvangirai, who was badly beaten after his arrest March
11. Several other leaders were also hospitalized.
Mugabe on Friday blamed the opposition for the recent violence and dismissed
claims that his rule was approaching an end.
He said a continued campaign of defiance or protests by opponents and civic
and church groups would be met "very vigorously" by security forces.
"We hope they have learned a lesson. If they have not, then they will get
similar treatment," he said.
Police reported a third gasoline attack on a police station in a month of
rising unrest, blaming it on suspected opposition activists, the Herald
No one was injured in the attack in the eastern provincial capital of Mutare
on Friday, police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena was quoted by the Herald as
The opposition has routinely denied involvement any such attacks.
Monsters and Critics
Mar 24, 2007, 17:43 GMT
Harare - Police in Zimbabwe have unexpectedly lifted a ban on political
rallies in a dormitory town of the capital Harare, a day before a rally
planned by a splinter opposition group, it was reported on Sunday.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena told state radio that while the ban still
stood in Harare it had been lifted in the town of Chitungwiza.
He said the regulating authority had reviewed the political situation in
Chitungwiza and decided to lift the ban on political gatherings there.
However, political parties would be restricted to the district.
The radio reports contradict earlier reports published by the official
Herald newspaper that the ban on rallies had been extended in both Harare
and Chitungwiza for another month.
A breakaway faction of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC), led by Arthur Mutambara, has scheduled a rally for the Chitungwiza on
Mutambara was arrested along with main MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai at a
prayer rally two weeks ago. Although Tsvangirai and several others were
badly beaten by police, Mutambara was not.
Political tensions have mounted in the ailing southern African country that
has sparked a new wave of international criticism for the regime of
President Robert Mugabe.
© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Sat 24 Mar 2007, 17:59 GMT
HARARE, March 24 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's government
has partially lifted a ban on political rallies and protests imposed on
Harare's volatile townships, a police spokesman said on Saturday.
But a rally planned for Sunday by opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangrai in Harare's Mbare township remained
prohibited, making fresh clashes between police and activists possible
despite the easing of the ban.
Police banned political rallies and protests across the capital in February
and last month armed riot squads clashed with MDC activists, including
Tsvangrai, as they tried to attend a prayer meeting.
Tsvangirai said he and party colleagues were brutally assaulted in police
custody following their March 11 arrests over the foiled meeting in
Highfield township called to protest against a deepening crisis blamed on
On Saturday police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said police had lifted the ban
for all districts in the capital, except Harare South -- which includes
mostly poor and politically charged townships like Mbare -- and Harare
Areas no longer affected by the ban include Chitungwiza, south of the
capital, where a smaller MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara has called a
rally for Sunday.
The ban on political gatherings has been condemned by the opposition and
rights groups, who charge that Mugabe's government has imposed a virtual
state of emergency.
Images of a cut and bruised Tsvangirai after this month's police crackdown
have drawn sharp criticism of Mugabe's rule from the international
community, including rare voices of concern from some African leaders.
On Saturday South African media said Mugabe's deputy, Joyce Mujuru, had met
her South African counterpart Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in the commercial
capital Johannesburg, but officials said the meeting was private.
Tensions are high in Zimbabwe over skyrocketing inflation, the highest in
the world at over 1,700 percent, shortages of foreign currency, fuel and
food and surging unemployment, which critics blame on nearly 27 years of
Mugabe in turn blames western countries led by former colonial ruler Britain
which he says want to dislodge him from power over his seizure of
white-owned commercial farms for landless blacks.
New Zealand Herald
5:00AM Sunday March 25, 2007
An increasingly defiant Robert Mugabe has vowed to "defeat" what he calls a
Western agenda to remove him from power and to never allow the opposition to
rule Zimbabwe as long as he lives.
Mugabe spoke as his security forces and youth militia continue unprecedented
violence on Zimbabwe's civilians. The orgy of violence has seen attacks on
opposition activists in every township around the capital, Harare, since the
latest crisis erupted almost a fortnight ago. The technique used by the
ruling Zanu-PF party's thugs and security forces is to beat the feet and
legs of their targets until they are unable to walk. After carrying out
brutal attacks on the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and other senior
officials, the squads have been turning their attention to political
Doctors, who must operate "underground" when treating members of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change, revealed the scale of the
beatings. One said they had treated more than 100 activists in two-days last
Despite continued international criticism, he said he would survive despite
the machinations from within his party, and efforts by the West and
opposition to dislodge him.
"You think if I say I am 83 years you can push me ... It's solid 83 years of
the struggle, of experience, of resilience and I know the tactics [to
survive]," he said.
"Nothing frightens me, not even little fellows like Bush and Blair. I have
seen it all, I don't fear any suffering or a struggle of any kind.
"I make a stand and stand on principle here where I was born, here where I
grew up, here where I fought and here where I shall die."
He also said opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai would "never rule Zimbabwe
for as long as I live".
That means he is determined to keep rigging elections which are run by his
Dear Family and Friends,
An air of quiet anger has settled over Zimbabwe in the past week as people
have come to terms with the reality of what happened to opposition and
civic society leaders at the hands of police. Those beatings followed by
the refusal to allow two victims to leave the country for specialist
medical treatment and then the assault with iron bars of an opposition
spokesman just increased the anger and disgust. Ordinary people are bitter,
they say they shop in the same stores as the police, they live in the same
neighbourhoods and streets as the police and find it incomprehensible that
the upholders of law and order could have done such things. For the last
seven years police have largely turned a bind eye to war veterans and
government supporters inflicting bodily harm. They excused their inaction
by saying: "it is political." That was one thing but this now is a
different matter altogether. There is a distinct feeling of tension in the
streets but also an air of expectation. People are waiting for something to
happen knowing that things are very close to coming to a head.
Yesterday Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube, clutching a brown bible,
passionately about what has to happen next in Zimbabwe. "We must be ready to
stand, even in front of blazing guns," he said, ''I am ready to stand in
The Archbishop described himself and the people of Zimbabwe as cowards and
'if we gather a crowd of 20,000, the government will not use its guns.'' No
in their right minds would describe Archbishop Ncube as a coward - for seven
years he has not been silenced and has stood as a bright light in the
for believers and non believers, for mothers and children, for the beaten
brutalized and for the poor, desperate and hungry people who are dying out
sight of the cameras and world headlines.
Even as we Zimbabweans wait for the unknown, we pray that whatever happens
it will lead to an election and not to bullets, bombs and bodies. We have
begun asking the questions that so desperately need answering. How do we go
to a truly free and fair election? What happens to the hundreds of
thousands of Zimbabweans who have been stripped of their right to vote
because, not them, but their parents were born outside of Zimbabwe? What
happens to the three or four million Zimbabweans in political or economic
exile in a score of countries around the world - how do they exercise their
right to vote? With 80% of the population unemployed and hungry, how do we
stop vote buying, with sugar, cooking oil, maize meal or just dirty bank
notes? What happens to the utterly shambolic state of the voters roll, to
the government control over every aspect of elections? What about the
hundreds of thousands of people who do not have identity documents or
passports because the Registrar General stopped work some months ago saying
there was no money? What about the estimated 300 000 people displaced
during farm seizures and the 700 000 people internally displaced after
Operation Murambatsvina - most are no longer in their home and voting
constituencies? How do we stop the intimidation, threats and violence that
invariably shadows the campaign rallies. And, even if all these issues
could be satisfactorily resolved - who gets to count the votes, I mean to
really, honestly, truthfully count the votes?
There are only eleven months until the scheduled March 2008 Presidential
elections. Zimbabweans at home and abroad should already be working night
day for the path that will lead us to a truly free and fair election. Out
in the dusty villages, the Zanu PF meetings at which attendance is
have already started. Propaganda and rhetoric aside, the clock is ticking.
next week, thanks for reading, love cathy. Copyright cathy buckle 24 March
March 24, 2007, 18:00
The United States government says it will continue to support opposition
parties in Zimbabwe, with or without Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe president's
A senior state department official said during Congressional hearings on the
political situation in Zimbabwe, that what he called the repressive regime
of President Mugabe is now intimidating diplomats and journalists.
The government recently threatened to expel diplomats who support opposition
and foreign journalists. Doctors who treated Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC
leader, and other opposition activists, say the government is now using
thugs to torture its opponents. They brought evidence before the United
States' congress. The doctors, like Douglas Gwatidzo, now also fear for
their own lives.
Douglas Gwatidzo, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights,
says: "As I was preparing to come here, everybody was concerned about my
life, 'what was going to happen? why I choose to do that? did I have to do
i? are you going to succeed?' All these questions were thrown at me and I
said look whatever the outcome I'll continue to do it and from here I'm
going home to Zimbabwe".
Allegations of hit squads were first made by Tsvangirai last week. But the
government denies this. The US congress called for immediate intervention
and supported added sunctions against the Zimbabwean leadership. Members of
the congress described the situation in Zimbabwe as a human rights crisis.
Next week they will draft a resolution to condemn the actions of the
24/03/2007 19:59 - (SA)
Harare - Five people were injured when a passenger train was petrol-bombed
in a Harare suburb, Zimbabwe police said on Saturday.
Unknown assailants threw a tear-gas canister and then a petrol bomb onto the
train, which was carrying 750 passengers on Friday night, police
spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena told state radio.
The train was passing through the high-density suburb of Mufakose on its way
to the second city of Bulawayo when the incident happened. Police then
escorted the train to Bulawayo, according to state radio.
The five injured were taken to Harare Central Hospital. A 34-year-old woman
who was two months pregnant is believed to have miscarried as a result of
Political tensions are high in Zimbabwe following the arrest and beating of
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and a number of his colleagues a
There have been at least three revenge attacks on police stations, including
one on Friday in the eastern city of Mutare.
The police spokesperson warned that security forces would use firearms
against perpetrators of political violence.
"Police have a duty to protect life and property and when these are
threatened they will use any force necessary including firearms," he was
quoted as saying. - Sapa-dpa
From ZWNEWS, 24 March
The British government was yesterday asked to investigate allegations that
the South African government has been providing a financial guarantee
through a British-controlled bank to back fuel supplies to Zimbabwe. RAID, a
British NGO, has requested a probe into reports that South African bank ABSA
has been providing a credit line for the supply of up to 25 thousand metric
tonnes of fuel per month, including Jet A1 for the squadron of K-8 military
aircraft which Zimbabwe bought from China. RAID (Rights and Accountability
in Development) is an Oxford-based NGO that conducts research into corporate
ethics in third world development. The allegation is that there was
originally a deal whereby a South African Black Economic Empowerment (BEE)
company would supply the fuel. This company backed out of the deal when it
belatedly realised it had quoted too low a price, and it was at this point
that the South African government stepped in. The South Africans allegedly
guaranteed to the suppliers, based in the United Arab Emirates, that ABSA
would be able to provide a rolling credit line for up to US$35 million for
the one-year fuel deal. The EU, along with the US and other countries, has
imposed an embargo on armament sales to Zimbabwe. South Africa has no such
ban, and has openly supplied spare parts for Zimbabwe's ageing Allouette
military helicopters. ABSA, however, is majority owned by the British bank
Barclays, and its involvement in supplying fuel used by Zimbabwean military
aircraft may fall within the conditions of the EU arms embargo.
Published Date: 23 March 2007
THE Government's contempt for Parliament has been exposed still further by
Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett's inept response to the Zimbabwe crisis.
When Labour was in Opposition, Mrs Beckett was among those who frequently
demanded that Tory Ministers be summoned to the despatch box to be held
accountable for their decision-making on a huge range of issues, some of
which bordered upon the trivial.
Did Mrs Beckett respond to requests from Tory MPs for a statement after
Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsangirai, was tortured by Robert
Mugabe's henchmen? Not a bit of it.
Instead, Mrs Beckett wrote a mealy-mouthed letter to a national newspaper
pointing out that "a statement expressing my horror and calling for action
to ramp up pressure on the Zimbabwe government" had been posted on the
Foreign Office website.
Furthermore, she stated that Lord Triesman, her junior minister, had
undertaken a number of media interviews.
Lord Triesman? I didn't think you had heard of him. I certainly had not
until Mrs Beckett mentioned his name. For the record, he was a leading trade
unionist in the sphere of higher and further education before he was made an
unelected life peer, a background not ideally suited to his current role.
Yet what perturbs me is that very few backbench MPs, or Opposition
spokesmen, seem perturbed by the Government bypassing Parliament - and the
fact that Ministers, like Mrs Beckett, are no longer being held accountable
for their abject lack of decision-making and leadership. It's time that they
got their act together. Websites will never be an adequate substitute for
sustained, and probing, questioning on the floor of the House of Commons.
Mrs Beckett has much to answer for when she finally deigns to appear before
backbenchers on Monday, starting with whether she actually wants to be
Foreign Secretary or not.
My Joy Online, Ghana
Posted on: 24-Mar-2007
The Minority in Parliament has criticized President Kufuor for
his seemingly soft stance on the Zimbabwean government's use of brutal force
against the country's opposition members.
According to the Minority Leader Alban Bagbin the President as
African Union Chairman should be seen taking a tougher stance against the
He said this in Parliament on Friday after Foreign Affairs and
NEPAD Minister Nana Akufo-Addo delivered a statement on the upcoming AU
Summit to be held in Accra in July.
The Minority Leader's comments come in the wake of the physical
assault of opposition figures by police in Zimbabwe.
The country has received heavy criticism from the international
community after police beat up the leader of Zimbabwe's main opposition
leader, Morgan Tsvangirai and his supporters at a rally.
Foreign Affairs Minister Nana Akufo-Addo admitted that
unresolved conflicts on the continent remain major challenges that the AU
Chairman would have to deal with.
He said the July AU Summit would focus on the kind of governance
the continent would want to be governed by.
Protesters gathered in Bradford today to condemn Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe and planned deportations of Zimbabwean asylum seekers from the UK.
The rally in Centenary Square was supported by the West Yorkshire branch of the Movement for Democratic Change and members of Bradford Council.
Recent news headlines about alleged atrocities in Zimbabwe are only the tip of the iceberg, and footage beamed round the world of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangerai with a fractured skull after being beaten by police was just one incident among many, it was claimed.
Priscilla Shiri, 42, left Zimbabwe in 2001 and has lived in Bradford since then. She, her husband and small daughter share a cramped flat in the Green Lane area.
She said that Zimbabweans were being dehumanised here, just as surely as in their homeland under the Mugabe regime.
"I phone home to Zimbabwe to try and find out what is happening," she said. "Prices are doubling every day and wages are decreasing, people there are destitute, homeless, but the Government doesn't care. Those who support Zanu-PF (Mugabe's ruling party) receive food rations, but they still get very little, the rest get nothing.
"When I phone home people are too scared to talk because the phones seem to be tapped. There is so much suffering there."
The British Government has called for renewed sanctions against Zimbabwe but this is a double-edged sword, said Mrs Shiri.
"Britain is pressing for more sanctions, and they are right to want to get rid of Mugabe, but who suffers? Not him and his Government, it is the ordinary people who suffer."
And the situation for Zimbabwean immigrants to Britain was just as uncertain.
"The Home Office is deporting people saying Zimbabwe is safe," said Mrs Shiri, an information and publicity officer for Cadafretz, the campaign for the defence of Africans returned to Zimbabwe.
"The judges tell them it isn't safe but John Reid ignores them, there are many of us here facing deportation.
"We have no security here, we are made to live in poverty. We can't get proper jobs and many people who have escaped Zimbabwe are very sick, many have mental illness which is made worse with the way they have to live here, never knowing if they will be sent back again.
"The Government must help those who are here as it is they who send money back to help their families in Zimbabwe, it is they who fund the MDC, they who give the money and support that will get rid of Mugabe. But the British Government treats us like this."
March 24 2007 at 03:58PM
The SA Students Congress (Sasco) on Saturday condemned the arrest of
the Zimbabwe National Students Union president (ZINASU) Promise Mkhwanazi.
"We condemn the brutality of police on Zimbabwe students who continue
to raise genuine grievances of education. We condemn the arrest of the
President of ZINASU (comrade) Promise Mkhwanazi," a Sasco statement said.
"We believe the current low intensity political conflict ensuing in
Zimbabwe is precipitated by many years of socio-economic decline resulting
from the impact of colonialism and the developmental path taken by the new
independent state in that country.
"We respect the sovereignty of Zimbabwe. We condemn human rights
abuses and call for political freedoms for all. We urgently call for the
fair dialogue process to be resumed as soon as possible."
According to the ZINASU website, Mkhwanazi and 40 students from the
Harare Polytechnic College were arrested on February 13 while meeting to
discuss education standards and tuition fee hikes and socio economic and
political problems in the country.
He was arrested again with a group of others on March 13 at a protest
outside a court in Harare.
They were released the following day, according to the website.
Regarding Swaziland, Sasco said political and student organisations
must be given space to operate freely.
It said it is lobbying the governing African National Congress on the
need for a special financial aid scheme for refugee students resident in
South Africa and is initiating discussions on easing Department of Home
Affairs regulations regarding study permits. - Sapa
The Record, Canada
(Mar 24, 2007)
An era of increased democratization and political accountability is sweeping
across the African continent.
With deteriorating economic conditions, growing external support, and
international pressure from Western governments and donors for political
reform, Zimbabweans are following suit in finally heeding the call for
democratic change in their beleaguered country.
There are unprecedented signs of civil discontent and increasing agitation
and frustration with the 27-year autocratic rule of Zimbabwe's President
In Harare, Zimbabwe's beleaguered capital, the country's opposition leader
Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement of Democratic Change (MDC) was taken to
hospital following his appearance in court with multiple injuries to his
body. Last week he had been arrested with a number of his colleagues while
attempting to hold an opposition rally.
Meanwhile, scores of doctors, nurses, teachers and university lecturers have
gone on strike across the country since last month to protest against
deteriorating living conditions and appalling working conditions.
These events, among many other events of the past few weeks, must be seen
against the backdrop of increasing civil discontent with the country's
humanitarian crisis, which threatens to have detrimental repercussions for
the rest of the southern African region.
By all accounts, Zimbabwe is now finding itself on the fringes of near total
state collapse, where it was once regarded as the breadbasket of the region,
boasting an economy that was envied by the majority of governments on the
continent at the time of the end of white minority rule in 1980.
With spiralling inflation of nearly 1,700 per cent in February, foreign
reserves depleted, an unemployment rate of over 80 per cent, more than 3,300
AIDS-related deaths per week and chronic poverty affecting more than 76 per
cent of the population, the economic prospects for this southern African
state look exceptionally bleak for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, the country faces a food deficit of about 850,000 tons of maize,
the national staple food, which constitutes roughly one third of its normal
Critics have often blamed the seizure of white-owned farms since 2000 for
much of the economic ills of the country. However, many other factors, as
well as government policies dating back to the mid-1990s, could offer a more
accurate and comprehensive assessment of how the country has fallen prey to
the precarious situation that it finds itself in today. The economic crisis,
starting in 1996, has been characterized by the lack of comprehensive
support for the land reform program which offered compensation to white
farmers for the loss of their farms to landless peasants. Contributing to
the crisis, in addition to the dismal failure of the Structural Adjustment
Programs (SAPs), are an ever-increasing defence expenditure in the absence
of war, the unbridled, huge government deficits caused by unbudgeted
payments to the 1970s war veterans, the controversial government involvement
in the war in Congo, as well as by rampant corruption.
The government's decision to forcibly remove Zimbabwe's 4,500 white farmers
from 85 per cent of the most fertile land in the country, only served to
exacerbate the already deteriorating economic situation.
The resettlement of government cronies -- war veterans who had fought in the
country's liberation struggle against white British colonial and white
minority rule, all in the name of addressing the injustices of the past --
has resulted in the collapse of the agriculture sector, which constituted
the backbone of the country's economy and was a major source of hard
currency for the government.
The International Monetary Fund's withdrawal of crucial balance of payments
support following Mugabe defaulting on loan obligations -- and the
imposition of sanctions by the United States and the European Union because
of Harare's illegal removal of white farmers -- were the last nails in the
coffin for the economy. The government furthermore resorted to printing more
money, which it really did not have in the first place while, and at the
same time devalued the country's currency.
Government's mismanagement of the economy did not go down well with the
country's increasingly impatient citizens, whose frustrations often fall on
deaf ears where government is concerned.
The MDC, the country's only credible opposition group, consistently failed
to effectively challenge Mugabe's leadership which, in part, was due to the
regime's relentless crushing of opposition groups and the mass arrests of
opposition leaders. In addition, the seriously flawed presidential and
parliamentary elections of the past, as well as deepening divisions and
infighting that have plagued the MDC since October 2005, have caused the
situation to deteriorate even further. The current division within the MDC
began over differences in strategy regarding the party's participation in
the November 2005 senate elections.
With a sick economy, repressive governance and a fractured opposition, there
is growing concern that the tension could escalate to uncontrollable
proportions in the coming weeks.
Mugabe's recent announcement that he has no intention of stepping down is an
unfortunate development that calls for fundamental questions to be answered
by the international community, if it hopes to avoid looming political
instability in the region.
Amid the political impasse and Mugabe's attempts to manipulate the electoral
process and prolong his party's grip on power well after 2010, the
international community and the MDC are finding themselves having to answer
some fundamental questions that could have a lasting impact on the future of
the country. There are a growing number of party cadres who would like to
see the MDC adopt a more confrontational and extra-parliamentary opposition,
which would represent a shift in tactics away from its peaceful engagement
with the government in the past.
Eventually, a stalemate situation in Zimbabwe is not likely to be resolved
by domestic resistance in some form or another. In the event of a national
revolt, such as the 1998 food riots, the MDC would have to reunite in order
to play the role of a responsive and stabilizing force, capable of managing
and containing the subsequent violence.
A parallel response, aimed at securing a retirement plan for Mugabe, while
engaging the moderate forces in the top leadership structures aimed at the
drafting of a new constitution and the holding of free and fair presidential
elections in 2008, would go a long way to ushering in a new era of democracy
and civil liberties, while setting the stage for that long-awaited economic
Hany Besada is senior researcher on fragile states at the Centre for
International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo.