The past few weeks have had a funny feel about them. Nothing you can
your finger on, just a sense that something is about to happen and we
know quite what. Human senses can be like that. I recall a warm
evening on a farm on the edge of the Matopo hills when a group of us
walking back to the farmhouse from a small dam. We had several small
with us and there were both adults and children. I had a feeling then
we were being followed. I turned and looked back to see if there was
anything - nothing that I could see. But when we finally got to the
leopard came out of the grass at the side of the road, picked up one of
dogs and slipped away into the bush. So fast we were left wondering,
that really happen?"
Mugabe has just completed one of his forays onto the world stage -
three-day State visit to Cuba and then his annual holiday in New York
courtesy of the UN World Assembly. I am puzzled by the almost total
of any sort of news about the Cuba visit. I saw a bit of television
coverage - no sign of Fidel, just the Cuban Prime Minister looking very
uncomfortable at a joint press conference. Silence means either
significant happened, or that nothing happened. I have a feeling that
time it was the latter. Mugabe has no friends left to whom he can turn
This was clearly demonstrated in the China/Malaysia visit where he came
empty handed, we learn now that in fact the Chinese leadership told
that "so long as we are your only friends in the world, we will find it
difficult to help you." In other words - "repair your relations with
other major players and then we will help". The Indians were even less
accommodating - not willing even to entertain Mugabe and his entourage.
So we have the Mugabe regime about as isolated as any in the world - we
not have a nuclear programme to force others attentions and with which
threaten our region and play the "bad boy or else" game. But
isolation into a democratic process of political change that will
the kind of transformation that we need to save the country is another
As I write the opposition in Myanmar (Burma) is considering what they
do after 17 years of resistance and campaigning for change. Their
still under house arrest and a military Junta still in power and
the connivance and support of its neighboring countries like Thailand
Malaysia. Are we destined for a similar fate? Our neighbors tolerating
state of affairs here simply because the effort to effect real change
just too much trouble?
But Mugabe is very vulnerable - he is 83 years old, has not set up a
succession plan which might work, his ship is sinking fast - GDP will
decline by up to 10 per cent this year - now down by 50 per cent in 7
export earnings continue to fall and the final nails are being driven
the coffin of agriculture so that farm output this coming summer will
provide only about 20 per cent of our needs. Unless Mugabe is prepared
accept that up to half the population will either die or flee the
he is simply running out of freeboard and the sea looks very cold and
The issue is what will trigger the required changes? If we look at the
brokers in Zanu PF - Munangagwa and Mujuru (the husband not the wife),
are desperately looking for a way out of this dead end alley. They have
canvassed this with the MDC seeking assurances that they cannot expect
the safety of their persons, freedom and assets (ill gotten gains).
have looked long and hard at fighting their way back to the shore - a
strategy that requires further manipulation of the constitution to give
more time (extending the term of the President to 2010 or making it
to appoint a successor for two years until fresh elections are held in
They are considering who might be in the team at that stage - Simba
as a fresh face with a decent smile as President, Munangagwa as a tough
street fighter as Prime Minister (more constitutional gerrymandering).
Nkomo and Mai Mujuru as Vice Presidents to give the team ethnic
Their problem is that even while they consider what to do and what
changes to make in the captains cabin, the boat they are all riding in
actually sinking rather fast. Survival depends on millions of its
bailing out - weakening the opposition and reducing the cargo in the
Even this may not be enough and unless they can stop the crazy antics
those who are drilling holes in the bottom of the boat - like
Mutasa and Chombo, this tub is still going to the bottom and then we
in the drink - whatever our allegiances and position today.
The suggestions that the MDC abandon ship and set up an alternative
government in another boat a safe distance away from this sinking ship,
not workable. Talk about us leading a charge on the Bridge and taking
control is also not a workable strategy - workable, I said, it may be
tempting but in fact in today's environment unlikely to work. So we are
with pressure on those on the Bridge - from those who will be most
by the final sinking of this particular ship. From those who can offer
safety to those who fear the worst from the sea.
The signs are all there that such approaches are taking place - South
remains steadfast - "we are here, right next door, you can see us from
Bridge, we can help - but first you must agree to certain conditions".
Captain of this sinking ship may splutter and explode with anger at the
stated conditions, but he is no longer in any position to bargain. Even
Anan has offered to come and look at the situation - from the safety of
helicopter - but he too has stated that if we want that to happen then
must concede the conditions the South Africans have laid down. No less.
This morning the BBC covered a story about the UN granting emergency
worth US$30 million to help the victims of Murambatsvina. While they
the story they showed footage shot secretly by local volunteers of the
conditions in Zimbabwe. The pictures were disturbing to say the least.
is now no doubt that thousands are dying away from the reach of the
television cameras, but those on the Bridge know this as do those next
offering help. The question is how much longer before a warning shot is
fired across their bow?
Bulawayo, 28th September 2005