Blair and Mbeki hold the master keys

By Peter Lovemore

THERE have been two elections in the world this year that have had and are having a deep impact on the hapless citizens of Zimbabwe.



vetica, sans-serif”>In the first of these elections, the great anti-Blair poll held on March 31 in Zimbabwe, Zanu PF, the architect of our unfolding disaster these past six years, was “swept” back into power. Six weeks later, Zanu PF’s arch-enemy on the global stage, Tony Blair, led his equally dubious party to an unprecedented third term at the helm of Britain’s affairs.


Blair’s majority was pruned quite considerably, while Zanu PF purported to have won a substantially increased majority, though both results, it will emerge in time, will yield little for the citizens of these two countries to cheer about, even if it is fair to state that the average Briton is almost certainly better off than his Zimbabwean counterpart.


Whereas in Britain it will take a little longer for the negative impact of a third new Labour term to be felt, the crunch has come a lot sooner in Zimbabwe. Two months after their election, Zimbabweans, particularly those suspected of having voted for the “traitorous” Movement for Democratic Change, are truly counting the cost of the liberation party’s latest electoral triumph.


And the only two countries that can do anything to relieve the desperate plight of the majority here, Britain and South Africa, are doing precisely nothing. The British government, as British governments have been wont to do down the ages, moralises feebly and ineffectually about the Mugabe government’s “lack of democracy, transparency and accountability”, while the South African government wrings its wretched hands and remains almost equally supine in the face of its neighbour’s disastrous decline.


On the one hand, Blair and company pursue their largely ineffectual regime of soft, targeted sanctions, while on the other South African President Thabo Mbeki and his compliant ministers insist on pursuing the illusion that “quiet diplomacy”, a euphemism for looking the other way while Zimbabwe rots, will produce the desired effect.


These observations are neither new nor original, nor are they of the slightest help or comfort to the greater generality of Zimbabweans struggling to keep body and soul together, not to mention their daily battle to source life’s basic necessities and then pay for those commodities.


But a ray of comfort was offered in the Zimbabwe Independent of May 20 by Richard Dowden (“We must talk to Mugabe now”). Dowden states, quite correctly in my opinion, that the Blair government must swallow its pride and initiate some sort of meaningful dialogue with President Robert Mugabe, and the sooner the better.


It was the ultra-conservative Tory, Margaret Thatcher, who shifted the logjam in the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian impasse of the late 70s. Now it is Blair’s turn to step forward and perform at least one act of international statesmanship before he is usurped at number 10 Downing Street by the dour Scot, Gordon Brown.


Twenty-five years after Independence, and 42 years after the advent of Ian Smith’s foolhardy and myopic regime, the people of this small country are still waiting for the first genuine rays of hope that accompany development, prosperity, jobs, the return from abroad of their loved ones and, above all, freedom. Of false dawns we have had an elegant sufficiency.


Blair holds the master keys to this process. It’s Lancaster House time all over again. Mbeki, given a positive lead, must, and almost certainly will, follow suit.


Everybody, inclusive of, I am willing to bet, many in the hierarchy of the Zimbabwean government has had a bellyful of oppression, inflation, crisis administration, threats, the criminalisation of the innocent and the poverty that now sweeps the land. We are on the edge of an extremely perilous situation in Zimbabwe and the clock is ticking.


Passive as most Zimbabweans appear to be, even they will soon cry “enough”! The events of the past few weeks have already produced acts of violence on both sides of the divide. Before this develops into the general conflagration that we all dread action must be taken.


Blair, reach for your diplomatic telephone. This little country was your country’s colony and, like it or not, your responsibility for its wellbeing has still to be discharged.


Mbeki, clear your desk and make Zimbabwe your prime external priority. If freedom and democracy were what your people deserved, then the same applies to us, the people of Zimbabwe. We are, and always have been, your closest relations on the African continent of which you are now the undoubted leader.


Do it, both of you, for posterity and for the preservation of your own reputations as world statesmen.


*Peter Lovemore is a freelance writer based in Harare.

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