Zanu PF in trouble

The Queen made a famous remark about a year in her life, describing it as a “horrible year”. I am sure that Mr. Mugabe will say the same thing about 2006 when we finally get to the end of the year.

He was confident that this year the economy would bottom out and the agricultural system would start to recover. He was wrong on both counts. The leadership of Africa at the recent AU summit and more recently at the SADC summit has snubbed him. His closest regional associates have ganged up on him and are now demanding that he retire and start the process of healing the country’s relations with the world community.

Over the past year Thabo Mbeki has had three goes at persuading him to retire and make way for new reformist Zanu PF leadership. Kofi Annan has also tried to persuade him – albeit only half-heartedly (his mind is now on that retirement home he has been planning). Mugabe thought he had achieved a coup when it was announced that his old friend and ally, Benjamin Mkapa would take over as “point man” on Zimbabwe only to have him dump him as well.

Just in case the old man might think that his political woes might end there, the reformist elements in Zanu PF, who think there may be life after Mugabe, tried to get him to accept that he and his closest colleagues should retire now and allow the Party to start the process of reinventing itself and getting the economy back on its feet. They did so in the form of a broad attack on the old guard and certain dissident elements in the Zanu PF leadership at the Politburo meeting in Harare last Wednesday. Mugabe was able to defend the status quo – but that in itself is not sustainable so he only made things worse by resisting all forms of change. The international community paid Mugabe their greatest insult this year by simply ignoring him. For a politician that is the worst form of sanction. They love to be feted, even if they are hated!!

Isolated and ignored by the world community, increasingly ostracized by African leaders and now under real pressure by the region, Mugabe is isolated and alone. His Party has fractured into three or four factions, each of whom is striving for ascendancy and there is nothing but bad news from the economy.

After claiming that we had grown 1,7 million tonnes of maize and 200 000 tonnes of wheat, the GMB has taken in less than 200 000 tonnes of maize and with imports down to a trickle we have run out of maize meal. The largest supermarket chain in the country told me last week that they had not had a delivery in two weeks of this essential and basic staple. In response to the shortage, what was available trebled in price this past weekend. In the “old days” that by itself, would have been enough to topple any regime.

The State announced they were now able to supply our needs for liquid fuels and that the retail price would fall from Z$680 per litre to Z$330. The trade simply shrugged their shoulders and said – deliver and we will comply – no deliveries and the prices remained where they were. The subsequent attempts to force retailers to drop their prices simply led to further shortages and queues.

Finally poor old Robert started to receive widespread reports of preparations for mass action against his regime. The MDC has virtually rebuilt itself around new leadership and is increasingly effective on the ground. It has taken several new initiatives – the development of a comprehensive “Road Map” describing how we can get back on our feet, it has also developed a “Democracy Charter” that spells out what the MDC stands for and it has crafted a national alliance with all the minor opposition Parties, Civil Society and the Churches. This “Broad Alliance” is now preparing to take on the State in the first real test of strength and Mr. Mugabe and his colleagues are nervous and jittery to say the least.

Intelligence is also reaching the authorities that the MDC is talking to the leadership of the Police, Army and Air Force. How this is being done they simply cannot find out or identify who is involved, but they are hearing persistent rumors of penetration and consultation. This is the final bastion of power for Zanu PF and they know that the day that the Broad Alliance goes onto the street in numbers and the security forces stand by and do nothing, that is the day that Zanu PF begins to run out of options and its final demise looms.

On Friday last week the entire National Executive of the MDC marched from our Party Headquarters to Parliament and presented a copy of the road map to the Speaker. They then marched back to the HQ and disbanded – it took about an hour. The Police simply stood by and watched. We did not know what to expect and the center of the City came to a halt for that short period of time. We hear that Mr. Mugabe was furious. But the reality lies in a single incident last weekend when a senior Zanu PF leader met one of our leaders at a function. “When are you guys going to do something?” he asked plaintively. “We (in Zanu PF) can do nothing – we are paralysed and the Old Man just refuses to go. It’s up to you.”

Today I saw a draft resolution being put to the European Parliament by EU Members of Parliament. It called for a “National Reconciliation Conference” to negotiate a way out of this crisis attended by the Government, the Opposition and Civil Society. It said that this was the only way to achieve an orderly, fair and democratic transition to a new dispensation that must inevitably follow the retirement or demise of Mr. Mugabe.

It demonstrates the reality that change is on its way here – in one form or another and that the long night of Zanu PF monopoly of power is almost at an end. This week we are encouraging parents to send their children to school – and to pay what they can afford in the form of school fees. We are urging parents to react if the schools subsequently deny their children a place at school arguing that if the State can print money for new military equipment and useless jet aircraft, then they can pay the difference between what people can afford and what a basic education costs.

Next week the Trade Unions – backed by the Broad Alliance, takes to the street in the form of a bus boycott and walk to work campaign. After that more is planned – Mr. Mugabe knows that and I am sure has difficulty sleeping these days, hated at home and despised abroad, 2006 is proving to be his Waterloo in many different ways.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, September 5th 2006.