A Coordinated Strategy.

Last week I wrote about Mugabe being under siege. Looking back at subsequent events I am beginning to wonder if we are not now seeing a carefully coordinated attack on the regime.

As I write this President Mugabe is in China with his begging bowl out in force. George Charamba - the Presidents spokesperson at home says they have approached several countries including India for urgent financial assistance. This is despite the fact that it would appear from reports that South Africa has already made an offer of a comprehensive "rescue package" to the Zimbabwe government.

If it is true that South Africa broached the subject when the Vice President visited Mugabe on the 12th July and that this was subsequently followed by detailed negotiations in Pretoria in the week that followed, then I can see little real sense in this sudden rush overseas to try and raise additional (or alternative) funding? In fact the actions of the Mugabe regime suggest real panic.

It would appear that the South Africans have made an offer with stringent conditions attached to it - negotiate with the MDC, restore the rule of law and press freedom and stop Murambatsvina. In addition a range of equally tough economic reforms could be listed as conditions for any funding - I can imagine what they are as well - exchange rate and interest rate alignment with the market, stringent controls over government borrowing and a lifting of price controls and a reduction in State subsidies to key parastatals.

When the Americans sorted out Ian Smith in September 1976, the exercise was preceded by a carefully managed series of consultations and consensus building by the major powers. On this occasion Henry Kissenger was "point man". When the South African government was brought to the negotiating table by the UK government in 1989, it followed a similar exercise and careful planning with Mrs. Thatcher as the "point man". On this occasion it looks increasingly as if the major powers are working with South Africa on the issue and with Mbeki as "point man'.

What we have seen over the period leading up to the G8 summit and its aftermath has been a coordinated attempt to ensure that Mugabe has nowhere to go but to Pretoria for the help he needs to avoid a total internal collapse of his regime. If this is true he will come away from China with little to show for his efforts except some flowery promises and token assistance in financial terms - probably tied. Their approach to India will receive little publicity or attention. Mugabe will be forced to come home and face Mbeki with nowhere else to go.

Charamba bravely or foolishly claims they will not accept aid that is tied to any conditions. He may be right, in which case we are in for a very rough time. But I do not think that this regime has the residual strength left to resist any serious offer of help - no matter what the conditions are, beggars cannot be choosers.

So we look forward, as we have so often in the past, to a week when our fortunes and futures will again be on the line and in other people's hands. That is what happens when you fail to manage your own affairs properly.

If we are in the midst of the skilful execution of a coordinated strategy by the major powers what might the outcome be? It looks pretty grim from a Zanu PF perspective. They are deeply divided with two main factions - both led by strong men who have little chance of ever winning a national election. Munangagwa who could not even win in his own backyard against a virtual unknown candidate from the MDC against whom he has now lost twice. Retired General Mujuru who has never run for public office and has a very small regional base and is now getting on in years.

Mugabe himself is clearly now identified as being the main obstacle to progress and with his declining authority in the Party and in the country, will be in no position to really defend his own position. His vice President could never hope to replace him and was probably appointed to block Munangagwa more than anything else.

South Africa found its own way back from the wilderness via a national all parties' constitutional process and Zanu PF would find it almost impossible to avoid such an outcome here. They are already committed to constitutional reform and can hardly oppose any agreement that simply puts this exercise into a national context rather than a parochial one based on Zanu PF's own interests.

If they have to agree to restore the rule of law and the freedoms of the press and association - they are dead anyway. The former will sweep away much of what they have been trying to do in the past 6 years and the latter would open the flood gates of public opposition and pressure.

They are trying desperately to split the MDC and to try and weaken its position in the country and the region, but with little success. I have seen some of the latest swipes at the MDC and quite frankly they are so absurd as to be funny. The charade taking place in the High Court in Harare where Mudede is still trying to hide the evidence of poll rigging in the 2002 Presidential elections is yet another symptom of panic.

The reforms required by the international community to our economic policies will derail the gravy train and the passengers thereon will abandon Zanu PF and then stand alongside the wreck with the rest of us and pretend they never supported that collection of sorry rogues!

The toughest question will be who can run the country while we work out a new constitution and try to get things here back to normal? To do the latter we would have to finance and source up to 2 million tonnes of food, stabilize domestic markets for everything else from liquid fuels to medicines, get the public media under some sort of non partisan and professional management and control. We would also have to replace much of the Bench in the Court system, the majority of senior Police Officers, the leadership of the army and the air force and bring the CIO out into the open and under control.

We would also have to rebuild the managements and leadership of all the major public institutions and parastatals and make efforts to stop the looting of State assets and the flight of capital. Restoring public confidence in the government and in the private sector would be essential to any sort of turn around. That is a tall order and it is certain that our present collection of failed Ministers and geriatrics are simply not up to it so we will need some sort of transitional authority - that may be the biggest hurdle.

Zanu may recognize that they have nowhere else to go and the end of their world is in sight and we may yet be surprised. But I would not bet on it, there will be a fight; hopefully they cannot win this one because at last the region may be on the "good guys side" for once.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 24th July 2005