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Editor’s Memo

By Joram Nyathi

I shall not be the bearer of bad news. Let the celebrations roll on.

In our culture, the rains are always a happy event. They are a greater blessing when they accompany momentous events such as

the burial of a chief, or, as happened on Tuesday, when they clean dust in the air and erase the footprints of an acrimonious past which we would love to forget quickly.

The political combatants finally decided it was time to leave the trenches. Interestingly, all wars end in discussion, which is one of the things I have always advocated despite criticism that South African president Thabo Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy would never work. I said if the talks between Zanu PF and the MDC failed, it was because we love to celebrate failure, it had nothing to do with Mbeki. It was Zimbabwe which stood to lose out.

Armchair militants said Mbeki was trying to give President Mugabe a lifeline. The bishops who drafted the Zimbabwe We Want document were accused of the same sin. Mugabe was trying to buy time for his regime.

Well, I don’t know what Mbeki whispered to the MDC, but it must have been pretty scary if we consider the sudden convergence of views with Zanu PF. Whatever remains to be done between now and the elections next year, at least a beginning has been made, thanks to Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy.

One major blot to the mellow mood on Wednesday was the ill-conceived, ill-timed, ill-planned and ill-fated ZCTU stayaway. That is all I can say for now.

The real issue of substance which is still outstanding is the fate of the MDC itself. We were recently informed that talks between the two MDCs had irretrievably collapsed because of purportedly irreconcilable differences. There were nasty exchanges in the papers, and in addition to a plethora of complaints about an uneven electoral playing field engendered by the Zanu PF government Arthur Mutambara was seen as the latest impediment to the MDC’s march to victory.

Last week the two MDC leaders met Thabo Mbeki together in Pretoria. The secretary-generals of the two MDCs have been meeting Mbeki together. I understand they also meet Zanu PF negotiators together. It’s a circus.

We know there were deep-rooted differences before the October 12 2005 explosion over the senate. The senate became the figleaf. It was a huge waste, we heard. The money should have been used to feed the people and buy drugs. We all agreed that there was very little value in having a senate, which initially had been abolished by Zanu PF itself in 1987. But the hypocrisy is that the same people-driven opponents of the senate were not loath to avail themselves of cheap schemes proposed by the evil Zanu PF regime to buy expensive 4x4s.

More circus. Now the two MDCs have agreed on an even bigger senate after next year’s synchronised presidential and parliamentary elections. What has happened to the people and drugs? The country needs more resources to import food. Does this mark the last we are going to hear of protests against the Reserve Bank printing money now that the senate has ceased being “a Zanu PF project to consolidate Mugabe’s hold on power”?

Well, perhaps that is what it is. Mugabe wanted harmonised elections and got them. He wanted a bigger senate and he has got it. What is left is whether the MDC can get what it wants: it’s possible. Mugabe can rule forever so long as there is a chance for a few more MDC MPs and senators to get cheap 4x4s. It’s quite amazing how it took so long to get to where we began from.

The salutary thing about the latest development on the senate front is that it could finally bury that louse binary about pro-senate and anti-senate MDC. Now it’s all pro-senate MDC! What value is it going to add now? Or has the glitter of hope for spanking new vehicles blinded our politicians to the plight of the poor? Is this an example of unity of purpose?

Then of course if the purpose of the senate is to consolidate Mugabe’s hold on power, is that a way of telling us the MDC will lose next year’s elections? Because my understanding of that constitutional amendment is that should, for some reason, the president be unable to continue in office, as happened with Tony Blair in Britain, the senate and lower house will sit as an electoral college to elect a successor to complete his term. That is, any president of Zimbabwe, not President Mugabe. Which means an MDC president can do the same.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of national vision, we are unable to see beyond Mugabe.

Finally, it should help to temper our euphoria over the latest developments between Zanu PF and the MDC with realism. There are mammoth tasks ahead in the democratisation process. Yet I don’t doubt that if all the major political actors engage in the tasks in good faith we shall win.

The simpler task is to dismantle legal structures. What are more difficult to change are the institutions of repression. We have over the years, because of political polarisation, institutionalised violence, ethnic and racial hatred, impunity from prosecution for the most egregious crimes, also destroyed ethical journalism in the country. Still, it is the ghost of intitutionalised violence that will be the most difficult to exorcise.

By the way, is the MDC finally going to tell the truth that the March 11 meeting was a rally, not the blasphemy about a prayer meeting? History wants to move on.

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