ON January 28 South Africaâ€™s e-TV showed pictures of emaciated Zimbabwean prisoners and rural families, many sick and dying from lack of food and medication.
The pictures and accompanying news story were stark reminders of the dire situation in Zimbabwe at the time that Southern African leaders had completed a meeting on finding a lasting solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe.
The e-TV story is particularly interesting as it shows in clearer terms the issues in Zimbabwe, that the crisis is about livelihoods and people.
While a lot has been written about how the crisis is man-made, and Mugabeâ€™s intransigence and his total disregard of any civilised political processes, the issue in my view remains that the people of Zimbabwe have reached the end of their tether and cannot hang on any longer.
While the Sadc summit was concluded in South Africa, reports were already emerging on how the MDC had not consented to the communiquÃ© and how the breakthrough is after all a false one.
This message of doom was conveyed mostly by the foreign media, with newspapers carrying opinions supporting the MDC not to join Mugabe in a unity government.
This kind of news has a chilling effect on the majority of Zimbabweans, locally or in the diaspora, for it sends only one message; that is more suffering and an increasingly dark future.
This brings back the question of what these talks are really about. Despite my misgivings about the leadership of South Africa in this process, I agree with Kgalema Motlanthe that we cannot afford to go on talking and talking, and that these talks should focus on simply saving the lives of the people of Zimbabwe first and everything else later.Â
No one is fooled that the MDC received a raw deal from Mugabe and Sadc. The questions that remains to be answered is what options the MDC has, what can the MDC do to overcome the support that Sadc openly shows for Mugabe?
My view is that the MDC right now has no choice but to join the unity government with its headlights on high beam. The MDC now needs to rise above Zanu PF both morally and in political strategy and define itself as a party of the future. I argue that the MDC now needs to join the government and simply help save lives and restore some sort of dignity and normality to the lives of Zimbabweans.Â Â
The MDC needs to go into the unity government to salvage the little of what is left of Zimbabwe, as well as work on a new constitution that reverses the damage of the past eight years, as well set a future course guaranteeing our rights and independent institutions for elections and other pressing issues.
This agenda does not need the MDC to have ambassadorial posts among other issues. The MDC needs to look at its role in the unity government as transitional and not permanent.
There is no way this process, flawed as it is, can be seen as the ultimate solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe but a process towards a final resolution that addresses issues of free and fair elections at some point.
The transition in Zimbabwe, the MDC should note, will be slow and painful but the journey has to be taken nevertheless.Â
The MDC needs to make full and effective utilisation of the social service and economic ministries it holds to stabilise Zimbabwe, gain experience in running a government and prepare for the future. Joining the unity government, however painful, gives the opposition a chance to carry out its political programmes in peace.
One thing is clear about Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe. Mugabe is and should not be seen as part of the future of Zimbabwe. He is unfortunately bestriding the door of transition and a way has to be found to sidestep him and move forward.
The success of the MDC in the unity government is dependent on what the party will do with that little power, and an acknowledgment that the unity government is part of and not the transition. The MDC still needs a robust political programme that guarantees its continued linkages with its grassroots support urban and rural.
An aspect that the MDC needs to remove from its psyche is that the unity agreement as a process will not succeed without monetary support from the West.
That in my view is neither true nor a sustainable proposition noting how the West is now burdened with its own economic challenges.
The future of Zimbabwe lies not in generous aid but normalisation of the economy, resuscitating agriculture, education, health, and more importantly, taming corruption. History and present international crises must counsel the MDC that the world is far less concerned about Zimbabwe in comparison, say, to Gaza.
The geo-political significance of Zimbabwe is such that we can all die and the world moves on as if nothing happened.
One million people died in Rwanda and the world moved on. Less that two thousand died in Gaza and the world almost came to standstill from the UN, Washington, London, Johannesburg, Lusaka and to Paris.
African governments, all quiet on Zimbabwe, had something to say about the deaths of the Palestinians.
Over 3 000 people have died in Zimbabwe and not many, except Raila Odinga and Botswana, said anything.
That is the painful reality of our own world. It is good to then evaluate how far we can rely on the outside world to help us get out of the malaise that Zanu PF has thrown us in. Diplomacy then is best placed to serve us and move us forward. The future belongs to us, not Mugabe.
Rashweat Mukundu is a programme specialist for Media Freedom Monitoring, Misa regional secretariat, Windhoek.
BY RASHWEAT MUKUNDU