THE scene is in a luxury hotel, somewhere in Harare, not far from the two major hospitals where people are dying of the most curable diseases; where nurses and doctors are helpless.
All they can do is stare at their professions being rubbished. What is a doctor or nurse without medicine to give to save a life? He or she is like a cow without an udder.
As far as I can see, it seems the elder gentleman is no longer able to make decisions which will be respected by his lieutenants. They donâ€™t trust him. Age has taken its toll on him. And wealth has taken its toll on them. They have no time to recognise that they, indeed, lost the election and are now a minority in a Parliament they had always taken as their preserve.
With power in their hands for 28 years, the imagination tends to shrink also. Most of them are career ministers, not because of effective performance, but simply because they are endowed with the power to worship President Mugabe. They no longer know anything about their original professions. There are medical doctors in there who no longer know how to prescribe simple medicines. There are engineers who have no idea how a bridge looks like structurally. There are lawyers whom you cannot even trust to defend you after you steal a chicken. There are many without the imagination to think that the country is not a democracy where the will of the people prevails.
The ruling party has a history of swallowing. They swallow the economy while everyone starves. They swallow public posts while the qualified of the nation escape to other countries where their talents are respected. They swallow power and think that since they are the only ones with throats, no one else should be allowed to swallow.
Their last political swallowing was when Jongwe swallowed the Bull, Joshua Nkomo, humiliating him to the whole nation and making him look like he was never Robert Mugabeâ€™s political mentor. Ndabaningi Sithole, another Mugabe mentor, was treated like a destitute, and died like one.
Their only reason for swallowing everybody â€“â€“ we liberated you and we have the right to rule you and do what we want with you until donkeys grow horns. Mugabe once said, â€œI will rule until I am 100 years old.â€
People sitting near me laughed. I did not. It was not a joke. He meant it. That is where the negotiations are now. He loses an election, and then demands to take the whole loaf while the winners get a mere slice.
The old men and women who have been his hangers-on do not know if their ill-acquired wealth will be safe in other hands. For they have looted and plundered our country for 28 years and Mugabe never asked them to account for that wealth.
Mugabe and his clique are not interested in this power-sharing deal. All they plan to do is to ensure that they drag these talks out for as long as possible so as to frustrate the MDC parties. If the MDC walks out of the talks, there will be huge parties of celebration in Zanu PF centres. Panofa mujoni, matsotsi anoita mabiko.(When the chief policeman dies, thieves and crooks throw a big party). This is the tool which Zanu PF is trying to use.
So, the MDC, being young generally, might get into the excitement of leaving the talks. This would be butter on Mugabe and his croniesâ€™ bread. The Zimbabwean economy has collapsed, but African economies do not collapse until there is no food in State House. Everyone else can die, but as long as His Excellency the President and First Secretary of the Party, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the Cockerel of the Nation, is alive, the nation is healthy, according tothe Zanu PF doctrine.
Zanu PF has vowed not to give away the Home Affairs ministry at all cost. They have turned the police into a party instrument for winning elections through torture, intimidation, imprisonment and murder.
On one occasion my technical equipment for writing books was stolen. The police did not have any transport to come over, so I sent a driver to collect the three policemen. As they started their work, one policeman looked at me in the light of dawn and asked: â€œAre you the writer?â€ And when I said, â€œYesâ€, you should have seen how they all dropped their pens and paper.
â€œIt is political,â€ said the chief of the group. Case closed.
A once effective and respectable police force was reduced by Zanu PF to a sloganeering force which addresses rallies and tells the citizens who they should vote for. Soldiers too have stopped being defenders of the nation. They are defenders of Mugabeâ€™s party. As for the secret police, they are reportedly paid according to how many victims they have decimated in defence of Mugabeâ€™s party.
The militia are another tragic story. Youngsters are paid to perform the most brutal and vulgar acts which I suspect will end a lot of them in psychiatric hospitals.
The security ministries are not for the security of the state. They are for the security of Mugabeâ€™s party. The party leaders must continue to get fat as the people get thinner and thinner before death. They enjoy it, looking at once-proud citizens reduced to beggars and paupers. Despite being professed socialists, their philosophy is simple: â€œWhat is the meaning of wealth if everyone has it? Some have to be poor so we can enjoy the plenty when others have nothing.â€
I donâ€™t know how to describe it, but I think Zanu PF rule should be called arrogantocracy â€“â€“ rule through arrogance. This has turned their eyes from the suffering around them: children dying, the sick without medicines in hospitals, schools without any education taking place there, workers walking long distances to work on empty bellies. And most of Zanu PF have higher university degrees!
The power-sharing deal was signed in haste. The MDC ran, and forgot that the important thing is to arrive at the finishing point. Meanwhile, the old foxes of power had taken away the finishing point markers.Thabo Mbeki, being an experienced politician, I am not sure about his negotiating skills, should have make it mandatory that the three parties sit down one afternoon and divide the ministries into categories:
* category 1 security ministries
* category 2 legal/law ministries
* category 3 administrative ministries
* category 4 social services ministries
* category 5 technical ministries.
And then as wise men and women are supposed to do, he would have said: okay, 50/50 in each category, step by step. The logjam we are in would not have occurred. And Mbeki, poor man after being ousted by his own, would have come out clean on these issues without giving Mugabe a blank cheque in that poorly crafted so-called agreement.
In the end, we have to understand Mugabeâ€™s psychology. He is simply the old-fashioned school-teacher who whipped students for asking questions and punished them by making them memorise the whole Alfred Bestâ€™s Student Companion. Those teachers were more qualified in flogging students than in teaching them anything. The Mugabe generation of teachers of the 1950s never imagined there were some students more brilliant than them in their class.
I remember in the mid-1960s, my old teacher asking me a hygiene question:
â€˜When should you take a bath,â€™ he said.
â€˜Whenever I am dirty,â€™ I said. Then I was subjected to a thorough public flogging in front of the whole class. The old English hygiene book said, â€˜take a bath every day,â€™ and the teacher felt insulted that I had not read and respected the book.
The teacher was a master, and the masterâ€™s knowledge was never to be disputed. That is Mugabe, a man who thinks that he is the most brilliant person Zimbabwe has ever produced.
I do not put much faith in this political experiment of power-sharing. Most experiments fail, but if this one succeeds, I will have cause to celebrate and restore my hope in my countryâ€™s political system with all its strengths and weaknesses.
But for now, I think there are more weaknesses than strengths, more greed for power and wealth than compassion for the patient people who are willing to die and afraid to throw even a little pebble at those who cause them to die unnecessary deaths.
*Chenjerai Hove is an award-winning Zimbabwean writer living in exile.