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Tsvangirai Should Take Up The Challenge

PEOPLE say the opposition is holding out on the Global Political Agreement, not agreeing to anything more, “waiting for government to collapse”, so that they can take over.

Apart from the fact that the 18 km-long diamond fields of Chiadzwa provide unimaginable riches permitting the regime to retain its control for many, many years to come, my question is –– at what point exactly does a government collapse?  

I submit that when its currency is no longer generally accepted within its borders, it has collapsed.  When basic service infrastructure no longer functions –– water, electricity, telephone, sewerage –– it has collapsed. 

When its banking system is paralysed, it has collapsed.  When its health and education systems no longer function, it has collapsed.  When a large portion of its population is dependent on food provided from outside the country, it has collapsed. 

When its people are suffering a massive health epidemic as a result of its total neglect of infrastructure and service provision, it has collapsed.

When one of the three arms of government, parliament, is not functioning, it has collapsed –– or mutated into an undemocratic state.  When another of its arms, the judiciary, cannot or will not respond to lawyers’ demands to protect and enforce human rights, it has indeed mutated into a dictator state, whose stay in power will end the instant its people regain their control over the government they supposedly elected into power.  

Indeed, when its claim on power is a generally unrecognised presidential election result following massive intimidation, violence, murder and displacement of whole villages so they could not vote, and the withdrawal of the only other candidate for these very reasons, such a “government” cannot be a legitimate government at all –– so it does not even need to collapse to lose its legitimacy.

The fact is that government’s collapse is evident all around us.  What we need is a leader who recognises this, and takes up the reins of power to guide the floundering state onto a better course to safety, recovery and prosperity.  

Imagine for a moment that even Zanu-PF recognises that they have collapsed.  What is the process for this official collapse, and at what point can a new leader take over?  Will they announce in the Government Gazette: “We have collapsed” and call for a new government?   In democratic countries, the governing party is forced, by its sense of shame if nothing else, to resign. 

In some dispensations, the president or head of state would flee the country, leaving a public vacuum to be filled.   But where you have a head of state refusing to see reality, there is no such vacuum.  We cannot imagine Robert Mugabe knocking on Morgan Tsvangirai’s door and saying: “Sorry, shamwari, I’ve messed up, so now I’m handing over to you.”

What we should be able to imagine, and what should in fact be happening –– it should have happened long ago! –– is Morgan Tsvangirai knocking on Robert Mugabe’s door and saying: “Sorry, shamwari, you’ve messed up, so now I’m taking over from you.” 

Indeed, the Sadc leaders anointed him Prime Minister on  September 15, in accordance with the Global Political Agreement.  He should have taken that as a cue and proceeded to act the part, as far as he was able.  There is much he could have done, and could still do, before being officially sworn in.  

Surely, it is patently obvious to everyone that this government has collapsed?  There is no need to wait any longer –– what we need is leadership and action.  Not action in the sense of getting people onto the streets or a general strike or whatever, but action in the sense of taking control of the situation and stopping the slide into total chaos, to save the nation of Zimbabwe.

Tsvangirai has the goodwill of practically the entire world on his side.  He does not need to wait even another day for this government to collapse –– it has already collapsed.  The danger is that, in waiting, the riches of Chiadzwa will embolden the regime without solving any of our problems.  We are waiting for Tsvangirai, or maybe someone else, to put on his or her leader’s shoes and lead our nation out of the collapse we are in.

Stevenson writes from Harare.


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