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Mugabe stumbling block to negotiations

By Paul Taylor

BEFORE his final flight to exile in Saudi Arabia, the Ugandan despot Idi Amin Dada had amassed a dizzying array of honours. He gave them to himself of course.

ce=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>His full title was: His excellency, Field Marshall, Al-Hajji, Dr Idi Amin Dada, Life President of Uganda, Conqueror of the British Empire, Distinguished Service Order of the Military Cross, Victoria Cross and Professor of Geography.

In 1975 he became chairman of the Organisation of African Unity.

I thought of Amin, vanquisher of the great Archbishop Janani Luwum and the little Israeli lady Dora Bloch, when our own President Mugabe was elected one of the five vice-presidents of the OAU’s successor, the African Union.

Gushungo is probably annoyed that he achieved only second place to Amin in Pan-African esteem, but at least the honorary Knighthood bestowed on him in 1994 by Her Britannic Majesty is an authentic title. Like Amin, Gushungo can boast ties to Libya and he can reflect that he is every bit as feared in Zimbabwe today as Amin once was in Uganda.

Fear of Gushungo is the reason why the negotiation of a peaceful resolution to our national crisis is doomed as long as President Mugabe can prevent open debate on negotiations with the MDC within his party.

I know that my pessimism is not shared universally. Headlines declare that Gushungo will step down in a matter of months. An understandable desire for an end to madness encourages some people to accept highly questionable reports.

Will Gushungo really resign at the Zanu PF December conference when his AU position only expires in a year from now? Is it true that, in return for a peaceful exit of Mugabe from power, the Bush administration undertook to pump US$10 billion in reconstruction aid into our country? How would the interim Afghan government view the “undertaking”?

George Bush sent his legions into Afghanistan to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban, promising as he did, that the US would fund the reconstitution of Afghanistan as a viable state. I am not saying that Bush is a man who cannot think properly, but when he submitted a budget to the US Congress in March this year, not a single cent was pledged to Afghanistan.

Apparently this was an oversight. Congress allocated US$300 million. Next year Afghanistan will be hosting an aid conference at which it is hoped that pledges in the amount of US$4,5 billion will be forthcoming over the next three years.

If this central node in the grand geopolitical strategy of Bush has to beg for US$4,5 billion to halt a backward slide into Taliban rule, who seriously expects little Zimbabwe to qualify for more than double that amount in aid? The report constituted not merely nonsense, but nonsense on stilts.

In truth the sum total of US action against Zanu PF has been some strong words and a partially effective programme of selective sanctions. Despite inflated expectations, at the SA meeting with President Mbeki the US president beat around the bush. On the tacit understanding that Mbeki would lend his goodwill to the sourcing of US oil requirements on the African continent, Bush effectively condoned Mbeki’s continued collusion with Zanu PF. Civil society in Zimbabwe has been abandoned and talks remain a mirage.

So-called MDC extremists cannot be blamed for this. By any standard, they are simply democratic activists who understand that concepts such as accountability for human rights abuses, legitimacy and transparency have to be considered as essential components of any settlement.

Perhaps their supposedly non-partisan and moderate critics believe that to facilitate negotiations Gushungo should be carried through the streets of Harare just as fawning British expatriates carried Amin through Kampala. But that would avail nothing.

Gushungo is a frightened and ruthless man to whom the notion of negotiation is anathema. And because he rules his party with an iron hand, Zanu PF is institutionally incapable of participating in negotiations as a coherent entity, or even discussing that eventuality.

Not all Zanu PF cadre are fools: they know a storm is gathering and some wish to make their peace with the emerging new Zimbabwe. Secret overtures have been made by intermediaries from various factions to the MDC, but until its most senior executive gives the greenlight Zanu PF is officially paralysed.

And for anyone who still thinks negotiation is a possibility in the coming months, consider Mugabe’s response not just to growing national resistance to his violent rule but to his treatment of debate within his own party. He allows none.

Efforts to dismiss the turbulent lawyer Eddison Zvobgo from Zanu PF are highly instructive. Naturally I hold no brief for the man who memorably alluded to a notoriously undemocratic leader as a mental patient who had escaped from Ngomahuru mental hospital, and whose loyal supporter Dzikamai Mavhaire called in 1997 for Mugabe to resign, but even I am amazed by the passivity with which Zanu PF cadre accept that he deserves to be treated as a naughty child. Servility to the whims of Gushungo has infantilised Zanu PF.

A price will be paid. Gushungo may imitate Amin but Zimbabwe is not Uganda. When Gushungo goes his supine followers will face a crusade for justice. Can he indefinitely prevent them from coming to terms with the inevitability of democratic change in order to save themselves?

Words from Macbeth come to mind: “Now does he feel his secret murders sticking on his hands; now minutely revolts upbraid his faith-breach; those he commands move only in command, nothing in love: now does he feel his title hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe upon a dwarfish thief?”

Pity the leader who rules through fear. It breeds hate.

Paul Taylor writes on civic issues

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