Running out of time
This past week has seen several interesting developments on the
The major one being the decision by the West African States to abandon
protective screen around Charles Taylor. He promptly slipped away from
hide out in Nigeria and was mysteriously picked up a few days later (I
suspect by special forces) and today arrived in Monrovia to face trial
the atrocities he committed in the region over a period of nearly 15
I remember when he first put in an appearance and the BBC picked up his
voice from the depths of the West African bush, brash and outspoken,
American educated thug then went on to become one of Africa’s so called
men'. Using child soldiers and others he is responsible for hundreds of
thousands of deaths. The slaughter that he unleashed in fact only
when a small force of British soldiers arrived and actually initiated a
peace-making role that was astonishing effective. Like all bullies and
thugs, when faced with a well-trained group who mean business, he was
match and his days were over when West African leaders ganged up on him
forced him into exile in Nigeria.
He now faces justice in a Court run by the government that he once
terrorized. He did not look all that cocky this morning when he was
out of a helicopter and into an armored vehicle. Almost at the same
Americans announced that they had taken into custody his son - once the
player in the Presidential guard for Taylor.
Then Mr. Blair - Prime Minister of Britain, made a series of key policy
speeches - one in London and another to the Australian Parliament last
I listened to the latter and was most impressed. He called for a
of countries to support good governance and democracy throughout the
He argued that the historical practice of 'non interference in internal
affairs' no longer held sway where the government in question abused
people, were a threat to regional stability and security or global
and stability. He actually cited Zimbabwe and Iran as two examples of
where he felt the domestic situation demanded concerted action by the
I do not think for one minute that this means a return to gunboat
But it does mean a much tougher stance by the majority of countries
those who blatantly abuse their people and whose actions threaten their
region. It also means that not only is time running out for many who
into this category but also that there are fewer hiding places.
When Mengistu fled Ethiopia - at the behest of the United States and
flown to Harare in a US military jet to be given sanctuary by the
regime, the US was in effect ducking the issue and allowing a tyrant
murderer to get away with his crimes - because it was thought that this
the only way to get him out of the way so that Ethiopia and the region
dominates, could find its feet and start to recover. He still lives in
comparative luxury in Harare and his family seems to be able to move
less freely throughout the world. I think this would be much more
to achieve today.
Then on the home front we saw the Zanu PF pantomime in full swing. One
the senior policemen in the close protection unit for the Mugabe clan
under mysterious circumstances - one report said his family thought he
been poisoned. It turns out this was the same man who had threatened to
Mr. Mugabe about his wife’s infidelities and as a reward he was
unceremoniously dumped; only to be re-instated and then die. But the
did not stop there - he was declared a 'National Hero' and without a
postmortem buried with full military honors watched by a crowd that
comprised men and women from the armed forces who were told to attend
else' and to do so in mufti.
At the funeral Mr. Mugabe completed the play by abusing all his
and reserving special venom for Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC Party.
great leader and senior African democrat, a 'big man' in a league all
himself, threatened the leadership of the MDC with death if they dared
challenge Zanu PF supremacy.
Then Mr. Mugabe moved into the Ministry of Finance and decided that the
Commissioner of Taxes - actually quite a competent man in his own right
has done a reasonable job in very difficult circumstances - was not
collecting taxes. So what does our 'big man' do? He takes the head of
Army - a very nasty character, and puts him in charge of the Tax
Heaven knows what he is going to do in this job - any way, not much
in the army and if he does not collect big time soon, the army is going
starve along with the rest of us.
If anyone needed proof that we are now under a military junta - this is
Military officers of various shapes and sizes and rank now run the
Parks, the Electoral process in Home Affairs, the Grain Marketing
Attorney generals Office and Noczim. They are present in all the
of government and whenever Mugabe encounters problems he turns to the
military to step into the breech.
Understandable really as the military, police and the CIO are the last
remaining pillars of the State under Zanu PF. If we had a real, free
fair election today under genuine democratic conditions, Zanu PF would
to exist as a functioning entity. They know this and that is why they
do everything in their power to avoid such an eventuality.
But like the driver of a run away train - they know where they are
they know it means destruction and a huge crash with all of us
board, but they simply do not know what to do. They cannot stop the
and they cannot divert it in another direction - the rails see to that.
cannot jump off and risk breaking their necks in the process - anyway
‘big man' in charge is likely to shoot or poison any who try to defect
I spoke to a diplomat this past week and he said he had met with a wide
range of Zanu PF leaders in recent weeks - all of whom were in despair
the economy, inflation, the increasing isolation and the collapsing
infrastructure. But not one of them had the slightest idea as to what
What he did not say was that time is running out on these goons and
is most unlikely that the 'big man' has very long to go.
Bulawayo, 4th April 2006