Vultures on a Carcass

Zanu PF has put on a spectacular display this past few weeks. They have fought each other, gathered in large numbers and feasted on the carcass of what was once a proud, liberation movement engaged in the process of securing freedom for the people they represented.

We were visiting a large cattle farm in the midlands for a weekend. The previous night a cow had died giving birth to a calf and the carcass was lying out in a vlei some distance from the homestead. The farmer said he would leave it there to see what the vultures did. The first bird appeared about 11.00 hrs. We saw it high in the sky, just a small dot amongst the clouds. By 15.00 hrs there were close to 300 birds on the carcass and by evening there was little left except a bit of skin and the larger bones.

I was told that the vultures have very acute eyesight and that when a single bird sees a possible prey, its behavior is immediately communicated to others in the vicinity. The 300 birds we saw probably came from an area covering hundreds of square kilometers.

They are a spectacular bird in flight - there are few who can compare, but on the ground they are ugly, savage creatures with little regard for each other and no respect for the animals they feed on - and anything is fair game to them.

The leadership of Zanu has an uncanny resemblance to these predators in the veldt. They can see that the present leadership is on its last legs and will soon go - so they fly down and sit in trees near the dying animal, waiting for their time to come. When the animal dies - or is nearly dead, they gather in their hundreds to feed on the carcass. The fact that there will be nothing left after they have finished is of little consequence to them - it is the feast that counts while it lasts. Then when it is over, they will rest for a while with full bellies before flying to distance places to hunt again.

The old Zanu is dead - has been for years. Zimbabwe is dying and all we have to show for life is a collection of vultures who seek to reap what they can before flying away to distant lands where they can enjoy the fruits of their savagery. These vultures are also splendid in flight - Gucci shoes and handbags, luxury cars and Saville Row suits. But think for a while about the carcass; once proud and committed, now simply a pile of rotting meat and bones.

This has not been a good week for Africa. At the UN the African block prevented the General Assembly from debating human and political rights in Zimbabwe and Sudan. The EU tabled the Zimbabwe resolution and this was blocked by South Africa on behalf of the African group at the UN. The same strategy was followed on the Sudan resolution - much more difficult to understand because of the genocide aspects of the situation in the Darfur region.

To say that the international community was angry at this display of African tolerance of the blatant disregard by African States such as Zimbabwe and Sudan for the rights of their people is to put it mildly. Mbeki needs to be careful in such matters, as there are limits to his "diplomatic and political capital" as a consequence of his status as the President of the most important African State and regional superpower.

It now looks unlikely that Zimbabwe will comply with the SADC rules for free and fair elections. Certainly, compliance in the three months that remain before we are supposed to go to the polls is now impossible. So the MDC has a tough decision to make - do we contest the elections? Go through the trauma of a violent electoral process with many people being beaten, traumatized, imprisoned and even killed for their political views. Do we allow the State to starve our supporters into submission and to use the threat of expulsion from their communities and homes if they support the MDC?

Go thorough all of that again - for the third time in 4 years, just to see the electoral process completely subverted and a false result emerge which Zanu will crow was a victory for the "people" and to hear many other African States welcome the outcome and demand that the rest of the world "respect the outcome". To argue that if we were then unhappy with the process we can do what the people of the Ukraine have done is just patent nonsense. Mugabe would never allow mass demonstrations in support of democracy in Zimbabwe. The Courts are simply a sick joke - we have been waiting for 4 years for the results of the cases we launched after the 2000 elections and for nearly three years for the presidential election challenge to be heard.

Then to have our tiny group of elected Members of Parliament insulted, abused, poisoned and beaten or imprisoned, and simply swamped in Parliament by the votes of the majority appointed by Mugabe under the present constitution. We cannot stop or even influence legislation and in any new Parliament, Zanu is almost certain to have a clear two-thirds majority with which to change the constitution.

Once again an African country is faced with the choice - use violence and illegal means to overthrow a government that cannot be removed democratically because the whole system is so completely subverted or simply continue to suffer under a regime that looks increasingly like the Burmese Junta or the North Korean autocracy. Most will simply choose to slip away and go to live in other countries where they do not have to face such choices. Perhaps we are on our way to a country where "we have 6 million rural people left who support Zanu PF." (D Mutasa in 2002).

South Africa alone has the power and the legitimate right to insist on a free and fair election in Zimbabwe. They are not going to deliver and will, like us, have to live with the consequences. No matter how they dress this decision up, no one who supported the struggle in South Africa for justice and change will be able to accept this blatant subversion, like the vote on Sudan, of the most fundamental principles and values that the new South Africa stands for in the world.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 7th December 2004.