Mugabe’s Blair illusions worsen crisis

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe this week made it categorically clear he would not be forced into talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) but declared he was willing to engage with British Prime Minister Tony


His rationale — or rather his pretence — is that the MDC is a front organisation for the British and therefore there is no use in talking to a puppet when he can deal with its master.

This is Grandmother’s logic, especially for someone who wants to posture as a serious statesman. Why should Blair indulge Mugabe’s self-serving illusions about the MDC? More to the point, why should Mugabe reject national dialogue with Zimbabweans and prefer to talk to Blair when as recently as March he was campaigning against the British leader in what he comically called an “Anti-Blair” election?

Did his party “win” the “Anti-Blair” election only to beg Blair for talks and hypocritically engage a man he has called all sorts of childish names?

Blair has nothing to gain whatsoever from a dialogue of the deaf with Mugabe and everything to lose from being seen to indulge a discredited dictator. So where does this leave Mugabe?

The clear message which came out of the president’s plea for talks with Blair is that he does not trust Zimbabweans — the MDC and all its voters as well as other citizens. It is now crystal clear that Mugabe would rather engage former colonial masters, who by the way gave him an honorary knighthood when he was still playing ball, than his own compatriots who have genuine grievances against his failed leadership.

This further confirms Mugabe’s detachment from the real world.

Will his desperate political manoeuvres to drag the British into what is essentially a national question promote sovereignty and patriotism?

It is clear Mugabe’s anti-British rhetoric was contrived to generate a false fight between Harare and London while cultivating his persecution complex as a victim of a former colonial power.

Now that the British have rejected his antics, he still wants to rope them into his web of deceit and save face by agreeing to a truce with Blair. The British, with their vast experience in diplomacy around the world, would be unlikely to fall for such clumsy tactics. Blair will be keeping Mugabe at the end of a very long barge-pole.

Certain issues are now beyond Mugabe’s real control. The Zimbabwean crisis has become a regional and international emergency. The international community, including the UN, AU and Sadc, and leaders such as South African President Thabo Mbeki and Nigerian ruler Olusegun Obasanjo, are now firmly involved in the issue whether Mugabe likes it or not.

The appointment of former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano as the AU envoy to the Zimbabwe crisis confirms this. South African efforts to provide Zimbabwe with a financial bail-out to avoid the country’s expulsion from the IMF confirms firstly that Mugabe has damaged the economy beyond his capacity to repair it, and secondly the crisis has reached such alarming proportions that it can only be contained through multilateral diplomacy.

This explains why Mugabe’s rule is now a cause for international concern. It also explains why the president is showing increased signs of irritation. His country is being treated like a failed state which endangers its neighbours.

South Africa is trying to tackle the humanitarian crisis created by Mugabe’s criminal urban demolition blitz — Operation Murambatsvina.

These efforts put Zimbabwe’s crisis at the heart of international diplomacy and Mugabe may not wriggle off the hook unless African leaders elect to rescue him again, hoping he will listen to their “quiet diplomacy” overtures for him to make a peaceful exit from power.

Mugabe’s remarks that he would rather talk to Blair than Zimbabweans exposed his double standards. He will happily talk to the “imperialists” when it suits him but it is not acceptable for anybody else to do so!

Mugabe must understand there is a time to play to the gallery and a time to be serious. The issue is not for him or Zanu PF to talk to the MDC. This simplistic dichotomy which pretends Zimbabwe is divided into Zanu PF and the MDC is totally unhelpful. What is required is a solution to the crisis Mugabe’s bankrupt rule has spawned and a restoration of democracy.

What is needed as a matter of urgency is national dialogue to find a way out of this man-made disaster, characterised by hyperinflation, and shortages of foreign currency, food, fuel, power, and water.

Mugabe alone self-evidently has no solution to this. Every time he opens his mouth the crisis grows worse. It is not Blair’s crisis, it is his own that has brought the UN, the AU and the South Africans onto the national scene. That is the sovereignty he has bequeathed us. He must now accept his incapacity to govern and let others offer their solutions — before it is too late.

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