The Future of Zimbabwe
To celebrate 5 years since we founded the MDC in September 1999, MDC
held a series of rallies in major cities. In each case the
stadium/venue was packed with MDC people - the majority being poor
working class. The main topic discussed was the decision by the MDC
to suspend participation in the electoral process until the Mugabe
regime has implemented their recent commitments to the SADC in full.
Morgan Tsvangirai expressed confidence that the regime would
eventually comply. But that they would only do so at the very last
minute in the hope that this will not give the MDC enough time to
overcome the combined effects of years of propaganda, violence and
intimidation plus the use of food shortages as a means of coercion.
Morgan said that even if they did this -
MDC would be ready and would fight every constituency in the country.
For this reason the MDC was completing its plans for the elections,
selecting candidates and starting its election campaign.
Mugabe has already committed himself to "implementing reforms
designed to meet the SADC requirements". Initial evidence of this
willingness is scant - their first round of reforms actually change
very little. The same collection of goons remains in charge of the
electoral process and they are pressing ahead with gerrymandering the
constituencies and the electoral roll. If this is the full extent of
their so-called "compliance" then a free and fair election is
absolutely impossible and the MDC will maintain its suspension.
So we have two possible scenarios ahead of us: -
1. Little or no significant reforms of the electoral system and a
rigged election which the opposition boycotts in March 2005.
2. Comprehensive reforms initiated a few weeks before the election
date with the MDC participating.
Clearly, if the first is allowed to happen (I say allowed, because it
is quite within the power of the SADC States to force Zimbabwe to
comply with its obligations), then what we face is a crisis that will
become a calamity.
The international isolation of Zimbabwe will intensify, the economic
decline will also continue - now into its 7th year of continuous
decline in GDP.
The regime will have to intensify its repression of human and
political rights, human flight will accelerate. We can expect all the
features of a humanitarian crisis to intensify - hunger,
malnutrition, higher levels of mortality and the continued
deterioration in all social services.
So far we have been able to prevent the total collapse of Zimbabwe
into the category of another failed African State. I do not think we
can hold the line much longer if there are no significant changes to
our status as a pariah state.
For the region, the impact of such an outcome would be equally
devastating -capital flight from the region will again intensify,
social pressures brought about by the arrival of hundreds of
thousands of economic and political migrants will also intensify.
International governments will rightly see this as a failure by the
AU and the SADC to remedy a situation that is clearly within the
ambit of their responsibilities. Aid flows to
the region will continue to fall and international support for
measures to address the wider needs of the region will decline.
If the second scenario is achieved (as a result of regional pressure
on Mugabe) then the situation is much more hopeful. I would assume
that the MDC would be given several weeks of access to the State
controlled media, thatthe laws that restrict political activity will
be suspended for the election period and that all forms of violence
and intimidation are also curbed. It would also be a requirement that
food be in free supply at market prices and that aid agencies be
allowed to address the serious food deficit, which now
prevails in many areas of the country.
Under these conditions, the MDC would enter the fray - seriously
hampered by the years of activity by the State against all forms of
opposition. Zanu would hope that the few weeks of free political
activity will not be enough to turn the tide and they will be able to
hang onto their majority.
If then the elections themselves are conducted properly - under
regional and international supervision so that the process itself can
be assessed as being free and fair, then we might just be able to end
up with a government that has some standing - both in the region and
internationally. Under such conditions there is a chance that we will
be able to climb out of the hole we have dug for ourselves.
These are a lot of ifs and buts - at the rallies I saw lots of
evidence that the ordinary people of the country are in support of
the MDC leadership's views and current stance. But I also witnessed a
lot of anger and frustration.
Democracy may have its flaws, but at least it allows a people to
change their leaders if they come to the conclusion that are no
longer acting in their interests. That is the essence of the
situation in Zimbabwe. It's the question of our freedom to choose
those who lead us and control our destiny.
Mugabe would like to see this crisis through the perspective of a
global conflict between rich western States and poor African States.
Its nothing of the sort - this is a 100 per cent domestic matter and
is rightly left to those of us who live and work in Zimbabwe.
But to be able to do so we must have normal conditions for elections.
The past decade has been characterised by continuous politically
motivated violence and oppression. By the use of the legal system as
a weapon of control and intimidation, theft and pillage and selective
The activities of the opposition have been crowded out and virtually
all the basic freedoms enshrined in the United Nation Universal
Declaration on Human Rights denied. If we are not permitted our
democratic rights, then how do we remove this failed and dictatorial
regime? You and I know the answer to that and it is not a very
pleasant thought. It could become inevitable if the region fails us
Eddie Cross Bulawayo
14th September 2004