Mugabe vision a mirage

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe in his State-of-the-Nation address this week once again plumbed the depths of delusion by suggesting that a “new era” was dawning in Zimbabwe. Mugabe, generally seen as the bulwark against

change, opined that talks between his Zanu PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change heralded the “dawn of a new era” in Zimbabwe’s polity.

Mugabe said the dialogue represents constructive engagement across the political divide and a narrowing of differences between his Zanu PF government and the opposition. Negotiations under the mediation of President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa have continued for six months.

In his address he also saw the dawning of a new political epoch in his relations with the West for the simple reason that he had been given an invitation to attend the EU-Africa Summit in Portugal this weekend despite loud protests from Britain and this week Spain. Mugabe thanked the Portuguese government for the invitation despite remarks by that country’s foreign minister last week that he would rather Mugabe didn’t come!

Also in the same realm of delusion was his claim that Zimbabwe was putting in place policies to move the country towards “sustained economic recovery notwithstanding the suffering endured by many of our people”.

Put together, the three issues raised by Mugabe in his speech on Tuesday represent what he feels would culminate in the dawning of an era of constructive engagement, the end of Zimbabwe’s pariah-state status and economic recovery.

This is exactly what is required at the moment to lift this country out of the current low. It is not going to happen however as long as it continues to be business as usual for Mugabe and his government. Today the Zanu PF government stands in the way of all three ideals because of its failure to do basic things right. There is a world of difference between Mugabe’s political rhetoric of social integration and narrowing of political differences, and activities of his foot soldiers on the ground.

Just listening to Mugabe’s speech four days earlier at Zimbabwe Grounds during the so-called “million man” march, one is left in no doubt that he still harbours a pathological hatred of the MDC. He sees the party as a violent Western construct designed to deliver the country to the former colonists. He believes in political subjugation of opponents — that is having a weak MDC that cannot challenge his political space. It is not a coincidence that Mugabe at this juncture wants to sound conciliatory and accommodating. This is simply because the MDC is at its weakest since its formation because of internal fissures.

To illustrate that he is being sincere on this subject of accommodation, Mugabe’s government should have no problem in allowing the MDC to carry out its own march through Harare and allowing other civic groups to hold demonstrations and assembling for political purposes.

This would be a good start. Tsvangirai’s faction of the MDC has already started to attack Zanu PF’s insincerity in the talks. So where is the narrowing of differences Mr President?

Also in the same realm of delusion is government’s reading too much into Mugabe’s invitation to the EU-Africa Summit. Of great significance is the fact that the presence of Mugabe in Europe will not change the EU’s position on Zimbabwe with regards to issues of human rights and governance. In Lisbon Mugabe will be regarded as a violator of human rights who applauded the beating of opposition leaders by police in March.

So Mugabe will return from Portugal next week boasting of his ability to visit Europe despite the targeted sanctions on him and his lieutenants. He will return to preside over an economy saddled by the highest inflation rate in the world and record unemployment.

Despite all the evidence of collapse around him and overwhelming evidence of failure to right the situation Mugabe said his government was working with stakeholders to come up with policies to ensure sustained economic growth.

We would like to ask which policies? Price controls? Printing of money? Price discrepancies of fuel and finance? Endless farm invasions? The same poisonous policies are still being implemented in a bid to revive this economy with very predictable results of dislocation.

Mugabe’s vision of the dawning of a new era will remain a mirage on the distant horizon as long as he fails to situate himself as part of the problem. A president for life basking in the comfort of power alone is not of much use to a country in crisis as long as political rhetoric is not reinforced with practical action. We wait for the package from Lisbon.

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