The Political Crisis in Zimbabwe
Last week President George Bush widened the net of "smart sanctions"
the principal elements of the Zanu PF administration in Zimbabwe. In so
doing he reiterated his view that the crisis in Zimbabwe was no nearer
solution than it had been in 2000. He again alluded to the crisis here
essentially one of political leadership and corruption.
That this tiny central African state should command such attention when
Bush is dealing with major problems in dozens of other spheres is a
testimony to his commitment to see real democracy upheld throughout the
world in conjunction with respect for human and political rights.
But the question remains - what are the origins of this crisis, what is
essential character and how can it be resolved? It's origins lie in the
foundations of our political establishment. The white settlers who
controlled the country until 1980 did not do a great deal to prepare
black majority for power. They repressed the main political movements,
detained their leaders for many years and then drove them into exile
into the arms of those who offered them military help to overthrow the
The external supporters of the different nationalist movements during
time are just as responsible for the present shambles as they did
prepare the future leadership of the country for their new
Instead the exiled leadership found themselves living in luxury hotels
Europe while they directed a savage, low intensity guerilla insurgency
remote control in Zimbabwe. Their political education came not from the
democrats of Europe and America but from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia
Maoists in China and the ideologues in Russia and East Germany. They
have to account for the money they spent and they were feted by the
the only hope for a new dawn in Africa. How to bring that about when
were actually in power and had responsibility was not considered.
When came the actual day on which power came into their hands they were
really in control at all. That responsibility vested with the former
colonial power and those who had engineered the final solution for
When finally they took over, they had, for a short time, the benefit of
former settler administration but within 5 years this had gone, to be
replaced almost completely by new political appointees loyal to the
that was now controlling government most of whom were ill prepared for
responsibilities and had little of no experience.
The western power brokers of that era had a single, simple political
objective in mind. "How to effect a transfer of power to the people who
could deliver peace after the transitional authorities had been
They chose Zanu PF because it was the majority party and represented
majority Shona speaking people, they chose Mugabe as the "point man"
many reasons - he was well educated, was not by any means a dominant
like Joshua Nkomo and would be more dependent on the transitional
authorities to survive and therefore more malleable. Josiah Tongogara
stumbling block and was assassinated just before independence in
There is talk that the first election was in fact manipulated by the
transitional authorities to ensure that Mugabe got his majority.
the truth of that, once this was achieved the transitional authorities
swiftly to ensure the Rhodesians co-operated and that Zapu and Soviet
influence was marginalized.
The reality is that Robert Mugabe never was a democrat - it was a role
was forced to play by circumstance and as soon as he was able he threw
the mantle and assumed total control in Zimbabwe by violently
the political opposition and subverting the whole democratic process.
brought this process to the point where Zanu PF can hold an election in
Zimbabwe today and virtually deliver whatever outcome they desire.
The past 26 years are littered with the carcasses of political parties
have attempted to confront and overturn the Mugabe regime by democratic
means - Zapu, Zum, The Forum Party, Margaret Dongo's brave experiment
early 90's. When the MDC was formed in September 1999, everyone who had
involved in previous political movements knew what was in store for
braced themselves for the onslaught.
In fact Mugabe had been so successful in his previous efforts at
the whole democratic process that he underestimated the new Party and
mood of the people. It was an error he did not repeat. Once he realized
he was up against he simply let loose all the weapons in his vast
Since then the MDC has been subjected to massive political violence,
activists murdered and imprisoned in their thousands. Hundreds of
have been tortured and the electoral process has been completely
ensure that Zanu will never be unseated by democratic means.
The MDC has stated and remains committed to what it calls "a peaceful,
democratic, legal transition of power". In fact it has become clear to
over the past 6 years, that such a transition was and is a futile dream
because Zanu PF (not just Mugabe but the entire leadership of Zanu PF)
totally committed to preventing such a transition and has taken the
steps to ensure that this can be achieved. Democracy in Zimbabwe is
has been for some years - may have in fact been still born at
So the problem facing the MDC leadership has been to try alternative
of dislodging Zanu from power, without resorting to illegal or violent
means. They have worked hard to persuade the international and regional
community that the country needs help if it is going to see a return to
ballot as a means of effecting change. This has resonated well in the
traditional democracies but not in Africa where Mugabe is actually
for his stance and secretly for his skill in subjugating the feared
The effort to try and secure change in the same way that the settler
in Rhodesia and the Afrikaner regime in South Africa were unseated has
been successful. We are grateful for the efforts of the EU and the USA
put pressure on the regime but until South Africa comes to the table on
agenda, there will be no progress. In fact the President of South
done everything in his power to frustrate the political ambitions of
MDC. There is now ample evidence that South Africa may in fact be
present shambles in the MDC and in so doing may have been attempting
only to get Mugabe out of the way, but also to secure the head of
Tsvangirai as the price of compliance by the military and security
structures in Zimbabwe who now effectively control what happens here.
In this scheme of things, the theory runs, once Morgan Tsvangirai is
the way and the MDC is no longer a serious threat, the real power
Zanu PF will comply with the conditions attached to the G8/SA loan
for the resuscitation of the Zimbabwe economy. These reforms will
the early retirement of Mr. Mugabe, the appointment of his successor by
Party rather than the people and the absorption of elements of the MDC
a new transitional government. In this way, frustrated by the failure
progress through conventional electoral means and failure to secure a
popular uprising on a scale that would effect real change, key elements
MDC may have thrown their lot in with Mbeki and the "reformers" in Zanu
The outcome of tomorrows Senate elections will be informative in this
respect, because if the "MDC" candidates are returned in a significant
number of seats it will signal that Zanu has used its hidden hand to
election in their favor. It may also signal an interesting outcome of
Zanu congress in early December. For the majority of Zimbabweans who
support Morgan Tsvangirai and his cherished goal of a new constitution
new beginning, it will signal more agony and delay. But it may be the
way forward at this time.
Bulawayo, 25th November 2005.