The Inconvenient Truths About The West And Zimbabwe

THE year 2008 was a very difficult one for Zimbabwe. Since the inconclusive harmonised elections held on March 29, there has been a political impasse and no legitimate government.

 

The economy has virtually collapsed while disease and starvation are ravaging the people. Hopelessness, helplessness and despair characterise the national psyche. There has been complete leadership failure across the board — within Zimbabwe, in the region and in the international community.

As we exited 2008, there was a crescendo of demands for the departure of President Mugabe from the political stage. There is nothing new and creative in this “Mugabe must go” mantra. Incidentally, Western governments disagreed with us in 1988 when we turned against the Zanu PF regime.

Now they patronise us, as if they understand why Mugabe must go better than us. We have been fighting Mugabe for two decades; where have you been, America and Europe?

The December 2008 “Mugabe must go” chorus was as pathetic as it was both unimaginative and predictable. It started with Raila Odinga, Bishop John Sentamu and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in that order. Thereafter, David Miliband and Condi Rice came in to support the many voices of African leaders.

Then it was Gordon Brown, George Bush, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Angelika Merkel. Every European leader and their grandmother joined in. To crown it all, there was an incompetent dash to the UN Security Council, where everything came crumbling down. No one should have been surprised by this unmitigated failure.

There was never a method in the madness.

Soon after Raila Odinga spoke, he was contradicted by his own foreign minister. This means he was not speaking on behalf of Kenya or President Kibaki. Bishop Sentamu does not speak for any African country. Well, the same for Tutu; he is a good African who speaks for no African nation.

Interestingly enough, even Ian Khama was not part of the African voices. So which African leaders was the West backing in their utterances? What was to be the logical conclusion to the chorus? In a continent of 53 countries, the US and UK could not convince a single African president to be part of their elegant chorus.

Surely if, for example, Presidents Kgalema Motlanthe, Armando Geubuza, José Eduardo dos Santos, Jakaya Kikwete and Mwai Kibaki had been convinced to take a particular collective position on Zimbabwe, and the West had come in to support them, there would have been some traction.

There are three ways Mugabe can be removed from the presidency and leadership of Zimbabwe:

(1) use of violence or arms of war;

(2) peaceful mass uprising or demonstrations;

(3) and free and fair elections.

One way a violent overthrow can be envisaged is to have American and British troops invade Zimbabwe as they did in Iraq. However, Western forces will have to bleed on Zimbabwean soil in the process.

It will not be a walk in the park. After the US misadventure in Somalia, where American marines were slaughtered in the streets of Mogadishu, the debate in the US Senate was very instructive.

The key sentiment was quite unequivocal. “That entire country of Somalia is not worth a single American life. We should never allow American lives to be lost in defence of these worthless African countries.”
That was the attitude then. Has anything changed?

The other version of violence that can certainly topple Mugabe is an armed struggle waged by Zimbabweans themselves in the same way that Zanla and Zipra forces executed war against Ian Smith.

How feasible is this proposition at this point in time and within the Sadc geopolitical context? Is it even a desirable alternative? We believe there are no affirmative responses to either of these questions.

As for deposing Mugabe through peaceful mass uprisings or demonstrations, do we have the capacity as Zimbabweans to execute these? What do the gallant experiences of the National Constitutional Assembly and Woza teach us? How many Zimbabweans join these brave marchers? How many people joined the soldiers when they went on the rampage? It is clear that the appetite for an Orange Revolution in Zimbabwe has still to be developed.

This leaves us with the third and only avenue for the departure of Mugabe, that is through free and fair elections. The question then becomes how do we achieve a free and fair election? Certainly not through demanding harmonised elections today, which will be conducted under June 27 2008 conditions. Needless to say, in such a plebiscite Mugabe will capture the presidency and the current combined opposition majority in parliament will be completely reversed.

Let us be strategic. Our people and country are not election-ready at the moment. We need to go through a transitional period in which we resolve the humanitarian crisis afflicting our people, carry out national healing, begin economic recovery and more importantly adopt a new people-driven democratic constitution. After that we can then carry out free and fair elections.

If Mugabe participates in those elections, he will then be defeated. The Global Political Agreement (GPA) of September 15 2008 seeks to facilitate such a possibility. Folks, this is as good as it gets.

The election results from March 29 2008 produced no outright winner either in parliament or at the presidency. The June 27 re-run was an illegitimate farce, so we are stuck with the March inconclusive outcome.

As democrats we must accept that Mugabe and his party are as much a factor as Tsvangirai and his party are. Short of a new set of elections or change of leadership by their parties, it means neither Tsvangirai nor Mugabe can be negotiated away.

On what basis can we have a negotiated agreement that excludes Mugabe? He is a leader of a party which won 99 MPs against 100 for MDC-T, 30 senators vs 24 for MDC-T.

He came second to Tsvangirai in the March poll with 43,2% vs 47,9%. More importantly, Mugabe currently possesses the presidency of Zimbabwe. Well they say that possession is 90% of the law.

The fact that Mugabe has this power of incumbency is the reason why Mutambara is still on trial in the Supreme Court, Tendai Biti has treason charges around his neck and Morgan Tsvangirai, the Prime Minister-designate, had a torrid time getting a passport.

This means Mugabe is in charge of the Zimbabwean state. Given this reality on the ground and the electoral outcome of March 2008, it is unrealistic to expect us to negotiate Mugabe out of power.

Politics is the art of the possible. Unfortunately, the possibilities belong to both Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

They have to work together. We can debate the specific role that Mugabe should play. For now that debate was settled through the GPA. Are we saying this agreement is the only show in town? Absolutely not.

A lot of debates and thinking has gone into crafting alternatives to the agreement of September 15 2008. Unfortunately, it has been a comedy of errors and unsophisticated hallucinations.

Even well respected international bodies like the International Crisis Group (ICG) have been found miserably wanting. There has been an astonishing lack of creativity and imagination.

The starting point in establishing an alternative path for Zimbabwe consists of grasping a clear understanding of why we are having challenges in implementing the current GPA.

The new formulation must then robustly illustrate how it will avoid these current challenges. Beyond this, the efficacy, process details, timelines and milestones of any new strategy must then be clearly articulated.

Among a number of obstacles to consummation, the major challenge we have is the inability to achieve sufficient buy-in from the two major protagonists, Zanu PF and MDC-T.

They are the critical players in any national transitional discussion, because any agreed arrangement will require legal effect through a constitutional amendment in parliament.

Such a change will require a two-thirds majority which can only be achieved by the participation of both Zanu PF and MDC-T. Thus, the challenge is simply how are you going to ensure that both MDC-T and Zanu PF embrace the new grand proposal? If one or both of them do not accept the framework, what are the next steps?

The reason we insist on fixing and then implementing the current flawed and imperfect agreement is because buy-in between the two key protagonists was achieved through the signatures of the Memorandum of Understanding  (MOU) and the GPA.

Let us be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water. If we adopt a completely new process, how and when are we going to convince the two key players to start working towards an MOU and then a new GPA?

Furthermore, while we embark on these new processes that require time and resources, what will be happening to the suffering people of Zimbabwe, the collapsed economy, and the destroyed industrial base?

One would expect someone of Jendayi Frazer’s stature to understand all this. How can the US say they support the negotiated power sharing while insisting on Mugabe’s non-involvement? By making these statements in defiance of consistent advice from South African, Sadc and AU leaders, the US is insulting the South African leadership at every level and humiliating both Sadc and the AU.

South Africa is the only country with leverage on Zimbabwe. To bring any kind of change in Zimbabwe you have to work with them, not undermine them.

Jendayi, I assume that you are supportive of Tsvangirai and you want him to succeed. Do you actually have any respect for him? He signed the GPA in which Mugabe is designated as the president. Is it that you think Tsvangirai does not know what is good for him?

By the way, it is not true that the US government supported the agreement when it was signed. For the record both the US and the UK have always been opposed to the GPA.

They did not like the fact that Mugabe was both Head of State and chairman of Cabinet, and they despised the GPA positions on land reform and sanctions. Everyone knows this.

The US and the UK are now taking advantage of the delay in implementation of the agreement to savage and destroy the same.

We are also very clear that the US position is as follows; “Tsvangirai is too weak and incompetent for us to allow him to be in an inclusive government with Mugabe. He will be completely outmanoeuvred. If only he was as strong as Odinga, we would have allowed him to get into the GNU.”

What all Africans must ask themselves is what does this message mean? Furthermore, with friends like these who needs enemies?

Why can’t the US see that they are ruining the opposition they seek to assist, and strengthening Mugabe that they seek to destroy? They are foolishly confirming everything that Mugabe has said about the opposition; that we are puppets.

Moreover, Mugabe’s strengths are Africa, Pan-Africanism and Anti-Imperialism. Any foreign policy that undermines African leaders, institutions and initiatives plays right into Mugabe’s game plan.

We seriously hope that incoming US President, Barack Obama, and his new team will depart from this ignorant, ruinous and ineffective foreign policy that effectively undermines its intended beneficiaries, strengthens the targeted villains while blighting the US standing in the World.

Things have to change in 2009. We are not naïve. We know that the general thrust of US foreign policy objectives is largely independent of both the individual who is US President and the party they belong to. However, we hope the policy execution, nuances and tactics will be different. Zimbabweans have great expectations.

It is clear that the Mugabe regime will not collapse because of economic decay, mass starvation or epidemics such as cholera. The regime survives on the informal sector and through rent-seeking behaviour.

Yes, ordinary people are perishing and will continue to do so, but the regime will not disintegrate.

The diamonds of Chiadzwa, the platinum mines and assistance from friendly nations such as DRC, Angola, China and Russia will see the regime pull through another five to 10 years. To the West, the loss of life in pursuit of the departure of Mugabe is a small price to pay. After all, the lives lost are black and not equivalent to white lives.

As Zimbabweans we cannot accept this. We must collectively take responsibility for the calamity afflicting our country. In particular, Mugabe and Tsvangirai are equally culpable for their failure to work together, and the consequences thereof. 

They are more concerned about a misguided power play executed at the expense of Zimbabwean lives. They both have blood on their hands.

While Mugabe is the author of the crisis, Tsvangirai has both the opportunity and means to help save the country. He is abusing this leverage.

The US and UK who are specifically undermining efforts to establish an inclusive government are complicit in this crime against humanity. In doing this, it is clear that the West is driven by racism and utter disrespect for African lives. Not a single life should be used as a stick to inflict pain on Mugabe. People’s lives are too important to be used as ineffective political tools and weapons.

In any case if Mugabe was to collapse, why are we assuming that such demise will lead to a democratic outcome? We saw what happened in Guinea when their dictator died. Did the opposition take over? Nope. If the Mugabe regime collapses, is it not most likely that some ambitious and gutsy colonel or general will step in?  Our democratisation processes will, resultantly, regress at least 10 years.

There is absolutely no way Tsvangirai will be the beneficiary of Mugabe’s collapse. That is an irresponsible hallucination.

Quite to the contrary, the Zanu PF regime will make sure they collapse together with Tsvangirai and MDC-T. Do the current abductions, confessions and trials of activists mean anything to anyone? MDC-T will not exist after the demise of Mugabe. I hope Tsvangirai understands this in no uncertain terms.

BY ARTHUR MUTAMBARA