Comment: It’s not OK Mr Zuma

FOLLOWING the promulgation of the regulations around the Indigenisation Act, there can be no illusions about how the international community will respond. This is another own goal of far-reaching significance.

President Mugabe and his followers appear to think they can pass this off as an attempt to promote an equitable business environment. In fact it will be seen as yet another self-serving move that empowers the already powerful and damages the economy as a whole.

 

It is clientelism at its worst. Just like the so-called land reform programme, we shall see nationalisation of private assets by a greedy clique.

Investors will want no part in this free-for-all. They will not want to be told that they must give up 51% of their ownership of a company they have worked hard to build over the years and be presented with a list of suitable “partners” who all turn out to be members of the same party.

Prospective “partners” have reportedly already been descending on companies in Harare to check out new possibilities for plunder. Sadc’s reaction will be instructive.

Sadc’s intervention was designed to rescue Zimbabwe from political havoc that would damage not only this country but prove contagious to the region.  Sadc leaders gathered in Dar es Salaam were appalled by the pictures they saw of Morgan Tsvangirai after his “bashing”, as President Mugabe suitably called it, threatening more.

Zimbabwe was marching in the opposite direction from a region that was enjoying investment, stability and growth.

Despite appearing to buy Zanu PF’s phoney nationalist rhetoric, there was a clear understanding by regional leaders that Zimbabwe was scaring off investors and creating a zone of instability in their midst. The presidential run-off poll, they unanimously agreed in 2008, was anything but free and fair.

That is why after the poll they persuaded Mugabe to enter into a political pact with Tsvangirai. That arrangement, the GNU, is now in trouble because Zanu PF leaders have undermined the whole basis of the exercise. By leaving hardliners in place and refusing to accept the need for root-and-branch reforms, Zimbabwe is doing exactly what its friends feared.

But of all the clumsy attempts to block change, the promulgation of the regulations surrounding the Indigenisation and Empowerment Act are the most egregious. The former ruling party has by this move signalled its contempt for the GPA and for Tsvangirai as prime minister.

Both the GPA and Constitutional Amendment 19 define the powers of the prime minister. Not only have Mugabe’s supporters driven a coach and horses through these provisions and ridden roughshod over cabinet due-process, they have done precisely what Sadc sought to avoid –– threatened economic havoc and damaged the region’s reputation.

In the circumstances, getting Tsvangirai to lift sanctions is like sending him on a mission impossible. None of the countries imposing sanctions will be able to justify to their constituents a removal of measures when there has been no progress in the GNU talks.

How else do we explain the ongoing land seizures; the torture of political prisoners; the arrest of journalists, one bearing a letter of introduction from Minister Walter Mzembi, the other doing his job as a cameraman; and the continuing abuse of the prime minister in the official press?

US Congressional delegation leader Douglas Meeks described Mugabe as “a great man” after their meeting at State House last month. It is understood that compliments in diplomacy work better than brickbats. But he must be assuming that readers of the New York Times, which publishes in his constituency, are ignoring its stories on Zimbabwe.

They are not. All the disgraceful details are there. Meeks and his fellow legislators will have difficulty securing a change of policy in the current situation.

Barack Obama wasn’t fooled into believing there has been progress. Tsvangirai’s call for a relaxation of sanctions after Zanu PF unleashed youths into the city centre to threaten him will not have done much to sway opinion in the US and Europe!

Tsvangirai, the bravest of the brave in 2007, is increasingly looking like a jelly that bears the impression of the last person to have sat on it.

President Zuma in London this week will ask Gordon Brown to lift sanctions. But Brown is likely to ask what the GNU has achieved to warrant such a move?

Does this include the hardliners at Zanu PF headquarters who mobilised the youths who threatened Tsvangirai last week? Media houses are still unable to launch new titles. The state media  continues to be abused by 2008’s losers to justify Mugabe’s damaging policies.

Meanwhile, Saviour Kasukuwere is threatening more damage. He evidently doesn’t think he has done enough already. Like the AAG, he wants to reap where he did not sow elsewhere in the economy. And Jacob Zuma thinks all these things should be ignored; that the GNU negotiators should “park and proceed”.

How can he expect the MDC-T to park the glaring violations of Amendment 19 and the GPA where the PM’s powers are unambiguously defined but now widely ignored by the old gang of ministers, permanent secretaries, and generals?

If Zuma wants Zimbabweans to disregard the type of leadership that thinks it’s OK to plunder productive farms and businesses, he might find the same disease spreading, like cholera, across the border.

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