A State of Emergency

It is now quite clear that Mr. Mugabe is cornered. Inside his own Party he commands a minority and will be unable to secure either a decision to extend his term to 2010 or to select him as the Zanu PF candidate in a Presidential campaign in 2008. This means that we are now into the final count down of his leadership - both of Zanu PF and the country. If nothing happens he will be retired from public life in March 2008, 12 short months from now.

He has very limited room to maneuver. If he accepts this situation as unavoidable then Zanu PF is in a very difficult situation. They have to find and agree on a new candidate for the Presidential race and unite behind that person. Then they have to worry about the circumstances under which the election will take place. In 2002, Mugabe was able to turn a significant majority for Morgan Tsvangirai into a defeat by ballot stuffing on a large scale, allowing his own people to vote several times, denying the postal vote and restricting the vote in urban areas. The campaign itself was characterized by violence and intimidation on a massive scale as well as the use of traditional leaders and food as levers to force the rural population to support Zanu PF.

This sort of thing will not be possible in 2008 if they want to see international acceptance of the outcome. We must remember that international recognition of any new government, established by negotiation or by democratic means, is absolutely necessary if we are to achieve any sort of turn around in the economy. Hold an election or appoint a transitional government that does not secure international acceptance leaves Zimbabwe exactly where it is today. In fact we might even be worse off!

The Broad Alliance - currently running the 'Save Zimbabwe Campaign' that has caused so much angst in Zanu PF circles, has already said they will not compromise with Zanu PF in a transitional government. They want a democratic solution to this situation. Even then, they are demanding not just a democratic solution (selection of leadership by means of a universal suffrage vote) but also a genuinely free and fair election that meets all the laid down norms of the SADC.

This can be achieved by only two ways - either by a complete overhaul of the present system or by the adoption of a new constitution. Since I assume we will mess about for another two or three months before actually getting to grips with these issues, I think the first option is the only way forward.

If we are to hold an election under the present constitution we will certainly have to ensure that the electoral conditions are properly managed and controlled so as to allow a free and fair election that is acceptable to the Broad Alliance and the international community.

The list of such reforms is too long to set out here, but there are a few fundamentals - we would have to abandon the voter's role. The present role is absolutely hopeless and cannot be used as the basis for any free and fair vote here. The simplest way to get around this would be to vote on the basis of where we live and an ID of some sort. Obviously the 3 to 4 million Zimbabweans in the Diaspora would have to be allowed to vote via a postal ballot obtained at their local Zimbabwean Embassies.

Such a vote would preclude any election to the House of Assembly and therefore this would have to be an election for a new President only. A President who would then take full responsibility for government and run the country on a caretaker basis until a new constitution can be drafted and adopted and then form the basis for fresh national elections in 2010.

We would have to ensure that the basic essentials such as maize, wheat and vegetable oils are brought into free supply and decontrolled to negate the present systems that use these products to coerce the rural population and intimidate urban populations. We would have to have the State controlled media placed under some sort of neutral body that would supervise its activities. We would have to appoint a new, absolutely neutral Electoral Commission with an independent budget and complete authority to administer the whole electoral process.

Given these and other reforms we can easily hold a free and fair election in March 2008. In such an election the Political Parties would put up candidates and these would be allowed to campaign freely for the election - POSA and AIPPA would be suspended until the election. The people of Zimbabwe can then choose, freely, who was to be their next President and he would then have to work with civil society and Parliament to get Zimbabwe back to work.

Everyone knows full well what the outcome of such a process would be and this is the only sticking point. For Mr. Mugabe, his future would seem to be in the hands of his closest associates and they are about to abandon him to his fate. He would retire from the Presidency in March next year and would have to then decide where he was going to live. I would assume that we would facilitate his retirement with the dignity that he is due even though he has failed his original mandate. He alone can decide if the high walls around his mansion in Borrowdale would offer him any security after we withdrew his armed guards and replaced them with one Policeman and a short baton. He would also have to start paying both water and rates bills to the MDC City Council and I do not think his pension will accommodate this.

For Zanu PF it means the loss of power - but they would still hold great influence with a slender majority in Parliament and therefore influence over legislation and the national budget. But once the new constitution was in place, they would have to contest new elections under very different conditions and afterwards decide on their own futures. But it does give them time to rebuild and regroup and help with the process of healing and recovery in the country at large - to take advantage of those opportunities they will need very different leadership to that which they have had in the past 27 years. Even so, this is an opportunity for them - even if it is undeserved.

As for Robert Gabriel Mugabe, our illustrious leader, he has only one option left - declare a state of emergency, take power out of the hands of Cabinet and Parliament and administer the country by dictate and decree with the help of a small coterie of loyalists for whom the present scenario offers nothing but ignominious defeat and disgrace. He wants to go that route, is trying to go that route and is desperately trying to get us so angry that we will retaliate and do some stupid things. In fact we are turning the other cheek and saying to him that we will not bow, but he cannot break us. It is not beyond the realm of possibilities that he will carry out acts of extreme violence using State agents - and blame the incidents on us - hopefully the international and the African community will not be deceived.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 20th March 2008