Economic fallout is Mugabe’s nemesis

WITH the government advertising daily its sense of deep insecurity and the Mov

ement for Democratic Change confident that the nation looks to them for change it would seem we have reached a stalemate in our national affairs. The state has the power to coerce but it manifestly lacks popular legitimacy.

Despite the recent wave of arrests and assaults, the situation is becoming more precarious for the incumbents. They clearly have no solutions to a deteriorating economic situation which is arguably, more than the MDC, their nemesis. And last Friday’s cold shoulder from the IMF will only compound their sense of isolation.

Nobody in the international community is taking NERP seriously, nor does it deserve to be taken seriously at home. It has already missed several key targets and is much too closely bound up with Zanu PF’s damaging land seizures. In any case, donors have made it clear they will only be receptive when all parties in Zimbabwe agree on a national recovery plan. That excludes finance ministers presenting the plausible face of a regime committed to economic sabotage at every level.

There is a growing sense in South Africa, at last reaching into the inner levels of the ANC, that the ruling class in Harare is now beyond the pale. The brutal crushing of last week’s protests have helped that along.

And the welcome awakening of black Americans and West Indians to the reality of the Mugabe regime’s delinquency, as signalled in messages last week, can leave the government in no doubt as to its diminishing international support base.

Resorting to solidarity messages from fringe groups like Coltrane Chimurenga’s December 12 gang or the Rev Walter Fauntroy’s National Black Leadership Round Table only serves to emphasise how strained relations with the real world have become.

Tying up MDC leaders in legal red-tape on transparently vexatious charges will simply underline the problems of a government unable to offer solutions to pressing problems and instead lashing out at those who can.

We report this week on the tentative negotiations, mediated by the churches, going on behind the scenes. It must have been to this initiative that President Thabo Mbeki was alluding when he told parliament in Cape Town last week that the two sides were talking to each other.

Morgan Tsvangirai’s arrest is likely to scupper any progress there, and indeed could have been designed to do so by the hardliners around Mugabe who fear for their own survival.

Meanwhile, Tsvangirai’s plan to force through a presidential-poll rerun within the mandatory 90 days after Mugabe’s departure — his focus for any talks unveiled to G8 diplomats last month — is frankly unhelpful.

The talks should be designed to establish a democratic framework for elections and future governance. The restoration of professionalism in the army and police, the establishment of independent electoral mechanisms, a credible voters’ roll, the repeal of Posa and Aippa, and the establishment of a transitional authority, representing both sides and endorsed by parliament, should be the aim of any such negotiations, not the replacement of Mugabe by Tsvangirai.

The MDC leader’s assurance that all the other things will flow from his election is frankly as unconvincing as it is unacceptable.

Zanu PF needs to be locked into a process of democratisation that has the support of regional leaders and the international community. Sidelining Zanu PF will simply alienate the governing class and its military allies.

Let’s hope good sense prevails and that Tsvangirai thinks again. He appears to have been the victim of some ill-conceived advice. But he can be sure that whatever criticism civil society may have of his rapid-transition project, it will be nothing like the sympathy and support he will have garnered by the courage and determination he has shown this week and last.

It is a measure of the government’s crass stupidity that it has focused the nation’s and the world’s attention on the plight of a democratic fighter chained and dressed in prison garb when he has been convicted of nothing more than giving Zimbabwe’s brutal kleptocracy a much-needed reality check. It appears unable to understand that imprisoning freedom fighters has never in this country’s history prevented change.

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