HomeCommentEditor's Memo: Mugabe Always Hard-nosed

Editor’s Memo: Mugabe Always Hard-nosed

WITHOUT a doubt President Robert Mugabe has not been amply cooperative with the MDC since the signing of the power-sharing agreement last month. He was bound to act like that once he had recovered from the March 29 shock defeat and there was a let-up on pressure at home and abroad.

Off the hook, at least for now, Mugabe has predictably become somewhat obstreperous and hard-nosed. That is his unwholesome trademark. He was like that even during the Lancaster House talks. Mugabe was only forced to accept a compromise agreement by Lord Carrington’s ruthless bargaining strategy and irresistible pressure from Julius Nyerere, Samora Machel and Kenneth Kaunda.
He was also uncompromising during the 1987 Unity Accord talks. Taking advantage of the situation, characterised by grisly massacres in the western region, he arm-twisted Zapu into a hopeless agreement which only served to destroy a viable opposition party and put the country on a fast track to a one-party state and eventual near-destruction.
Joshua Nkomo, after surviving an assassination attempt and fleeing the country, capitulated to stop genocide and ensure peace and stability.
Compared to Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, Nkomo had no room to manoeuvre and that resultantly ensured Mugabe secured almost everything he wanted: the dissolution of Zapu and elimination of serious opposition, a de facto one-party state and near-absolute power.
At Lancaster House he was forced into a compromise because he had no serious leverage.
However, in the current negotiations Mugabe’s leverage has diminished but is still substantial and that’s why he acts intransigently.
In the process he has got negotiations stuck fast in pointless haggling and trivialities. Every rational person, except his unrepentant and unreformed apologists and hangers-on of the obsequious variety, can clearly see his formula of distributing ministries is simply illogical.
By endorsing Mugabe’s unilateral allocation of ministries Thabo Mbeki has proved he is not an honest broker. How can Mugabe seize all important ministries and the mediator endorse that?  
For someone who to all intents and purposes was defeated in the substantially free and fair March election, albeit inconclusively, before he unleashed a vicious campaign of violence and intimidation, to act as if he won a credible and legitimate election is asking for too much.
Mugabe and his party have always won elections, except when not under serious threat, through violence and fear. Violence and intimidation were the decisive factors in 1980, 1985, 1990, 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008.
That is why it is a partisan and unhelpful falsification of history to claim Mugabe was a good leader in the first 10 or 20 years of Independence. That’s simply untrue.
Admittedly, he did well in many areas, especially during the first decade of self-rule but overall his record is dismal. The killings, brutalities and disappearances that have continued since the 1980s, the crackdown on opposition parties, civil society and media, trampling on the constitution, breakdown of the rule of law, the impunity, the lashing out at everyone and everything suspected of dissent, and the scandalous ruining of the economy all ensure Mugabe’s place in the hall of tyrants is secure.  
Mugabe’s biography by David Smith and Colin Simpson reveals in detail how Zanu PF won in 1980. Even though it was very popular, Zanu PF won largely through intimidation. Mugabe and his party were uncertain they would win, his biographers say, but they turned the tide in their favour and secured victory through “violence and intimidation”.
The last Rhodesian governor Lord Soames told Mugabe at Government House just before the 1980 election that “you will win, but I will never forget that’s through a campaign of violence and intimidation”.
Soames said whereas other parties like Zapu and the UANC ran political campaigns, “you are running a para-military campaign”. Mugabe used the same method before June 27.
So what’s new under the sun?
Against this backdrop, how can Mugabe expect to retain almost exclusive executive power as he has done and all important ministries as well when everybody –– including himself -–– knows only too well that he lost the first round of the election and only managed to stage a comeback in the second round via a wave of terror?   
How does Mugabe and Zanu PF expect the people and the international community to buy into this obvious deception?
If Mugabe is allowed to get away with it again, then there would be no deal to talk about.  Already this  deal preserves Mugabe’s rule and the status quo even though it offers an opportunity for the MDC, particularly in such a state of flux and shifting field of struggle.
Why would the MDC, even if some of its power-hungry officials can’t wait to get into their plush offices and Mercs and join the gravy train, accept such a raw deal?    
The agreement, bad as it is, may be the only viable option on the table but it must not be used to perpetuate failed policies, repression and poverty by the authors of this national tragedy.


By Dumisani Muleya 

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