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Comment: Still In Denial

AS negotiations for an inclusive national government lurch inexorably towards some sort of conclusion, it is clear the outcome is likely to be fatally flawed.


The whole purpose of an agreement is to give effect to the clearly expressed national wish for change. That desire is not reflected in either the ministerial composition or attitude of the erstwhile ruling party. The dead wood can be seen floating on the surface of the new government.

President Mugabe doesn’t recognise the significance of his defeat in March, or if he does, seeks to wish it away. His followers are evidently of the view that the people made a mistake and require reeducation.

The beating they got at the hands of Zanu PF militias ahead of the June run-off was an introductory course. Since then Mugabe has been steadily clawing back power.

Vice-President Joice Mujuru made the party’s attitude clear in Mazowe last week when she told Bindura voters that “many of you were not aware of and did not understand the developments that were taking place in our country”.

These were caused by sanctions, she claimed.

In other words, the electorate was mistaken in believing bad policy decisions had led to food shortages, price distortions, and hardship. These were externally-induced, she would have us believe.

This is the sort of breathtaking dishonesty politicians get away with when there is inadequate media scrutiny. As Grace Mugabe pointed out at the same event in Mazowe: “Some people are taking advantage of the fact that you have limited access to the media.”

Those “taking advantage” of a captive crowd included herself and Mujuru. Their audience was clearly not getting an accurate or honest picture of the national malaise from either woman handing out the elements of persuasion in the form of farm implements and hampers!

A media deficit where one party gets to abuse the state media for partisan publicity is dangerous to the health of any society.

Mugabe –– husband and wife –– will go on telling audiences that all their problems are the responsibility of Britain and the US so they don’t have to be accountable for their own home-made disasters.

So we will have a government where the majority of ministers, blindly following their leader, are in denial about their unpopularity, and a former opposition which will be thwarted at every turn in its efforts to engineer recovery. It will not be a power-sharing agreement because Zanu PF will exercise all the important levers of power and above all the instruments of persuasion.

Even a cursory reading of the state media suggests its editors are happy to be used by officials in the President’s Office to spin the view that Zanu PF did not really lose the March election and that all our problems are the fault of Western interventionists. The MDC’s Ministry of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion will thus be dead on arrival as nobody in the West will want to assist a recidivist regime that declines to acknowledge where it went wrong.

Mugabe has been slow to realise that what is required is change. The people voted for change and haven’t got it. That change –– economic reconstruction and international rehabilitation –– can only be effected if Mugabe and his ministers are prevented from thwarting their MDC colleagues in policy implementation. But every indication is that they propose to do just that.

For instance, Zanu PF demands that what it calls “pirate” radio stations are closed. But it continues to abuse ZBC for its own partisan purposes and blocks the return of dozens of journalists evicted from the country over the past eight years for telling inconvenient truths.

At the same time it refuses to allow the Daily News and other banned papers from operating.

Another significant indication of its insincerity is refusing Morgan Tsvangirai a passport and persisting with a pernicious prosecution of Arthur Mutambara and the Standard newspaper for criticising the state and the judiciary during the election campaign.

This is obviously not a foundation on which any national government can be built.

So whatever the outcome of the negotiations that President Mbeki has been presiding over this week, our hopes for change depend upon a recalcitrant regime wedded to power and unprepared to concede anything more than an illusion of partnership.

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