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Editor’s Memo: It’s Payback Time

WHAT goes around comes around! This old adage is currently haunting the embattled President Mugabe.

It is payback time for organisations and institutions which in the past he persecuted and harassed on the pretext that they were agents of the imperial West.

The saga surrounding the Chinese ship carrying weapons destined for Zimbabwe has brought to the fore the extent to which the regime of Mugabe is now isolated and is being made to pay back for its past sins.

Ships could not dock in Durban this week because the South African Transport Workers Union — an affiliate of Cosatu -— refused to unload the ship following loud protestations from civic society in that country.

This week outgoing Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa wondered why “there was all this hullabaloo about a lone ship”.

He said Zimbabwe as a sovereign state had every right to import weapons and defend itself.

But like his colleagues in Zanu PF, he appears blind to the fact that the sovereignty of any state is also dependent on how it treats its neighbours.

Zimbabwe has failed in this area.

The reaction of the region to the importation of the weapons is clear testimony that not many doubt the fact that the Zanu PF administration requires force to remain in power, even if it means fighting the citizenry.

Chinamasa should not be surprised by the “hullabaloo” surrounding the importation of the arms.

He should be alive to the fact that it is no longer business as usual for the Zanu PF administration.

The chickens are coming home to roost.

Zanu PF alienated itself from the powerful Cosatu after it barred labour leaders from visiting the country on fact finding missions.

Leaders of Cosatu were declared persona non grata in Zimbabwe.

In 2006, then Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi, together with a group of trade unionists, was barred from entering the country to attend a labour conference.

A year earlier, Cosatu had also been ejected from the country after the government claimed the labour body’s visit was an “attempt to stir up anti-Zimbabwe and anti-President Robert Mugabe sentiments”.

Among those ejected was Gwede Mantashe who is now ANC secretary-general.

It is little wonder that his statements on Mugabe’s government to date have not been terribly complimentary!

“The reality of the matter is that there is a crisis in Zimbabwe and that’s how we see it,” Mantashe said recently.

“It does not need a rocket scientist to see that. If in the ‘80s the Zimbabwean dollar was R1,50 and today it is less than a cent, you can’t quantify it. There is a crisis in that country.”

It was not surprising therefore that the transport union campaigned against the shipment of arms through South Africa.

The embarrassing incidents at Harare International Airport in February 2005 when the labour leaders were turned back have become key factors in shaping relations between Zanu PF and the ANC and ultimately between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

In 2005 Cosatu threatened to blockade Zimbabwe in retaliation for the expulsion of its officials.

This could be the beginning of a bitter fight and the arms shipment saga appears to have provided the labour body with a handy platform to hit back.

As Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said this week: “This is just the beginning of the campaign; the fight is however not yet over, as the ship heads in the direction of Angola.

“Cosatu is doing everything possible to alert African transport workers in both the maritime and road freight industries not to allow the vessel to dock nor to handle or transport its cargo.”

While Zimbabwe’s arms this week remained at sea as the Chinese ship sought a port to drop anchor and offload its foul cargo, Zambia was leading a diplomatic offensive to ensure that Sadc states do not allow the weaponry to reach Zimbabwe.

We all recall the government’s attack on Zambian leader Levy Mwanawasa last week on spurious allegations that in calling for a regional summit on Zimbabwe he was somehow pursuing the agenda of the West.

Mwanawasa’s position prevailed this week as Mozambique and Angola also said the ship had no authority to enter their respective ports.

The bold statement by the region is commendable and leaves Mugabe not only isolated but humiliated by comrades who only last week he thought supported his continued stranglehold on power.

Just like the arms shipment, he is completely at sea. His diplomacy is floating in the sub-region like a lost spirit looking for someone to possess.

But his peers appear steadfast in their determination to exorcise the spectre of such pernicious influence.

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