Every one can remember what they were doing the night Kennedy was shot
is quite extraordinary how these seminal events imprint themselves on
minds. I was in Gokwe - a remote village on a volcanic plateau on the
of the Zambezi escarpment. It was a clear night and we heard an earth
deep under our feet - a sound not unlike a train - caused by the
water filling up the Kariba basin some 130 kilometers away. As we
mused about the implications of the news we had just heard.
Another time that has similar resonance with me was the day Ian Smith
accepted majority rule. It was September the 23rd 1976. We had seen
and a group of his most senior Ministers go to Pretoria to see the
African President and the American Secretary of State. We did not know
to expect as an outcome. What we did know was that we were living in a
country that was in deep trouble. The war was reaching new heights -
all spending half our time in the bush in uniform and the economy was
When we heard that the Prime Minister was to address the Nation, a few
University friends and I gathered at a nearby home and watched his
with bated breath. Smith was not given to duplicity in any form; in
basic integrity was one of the things that kept him where he was for so
long. He did not mince his words; he had seen the two men in Pretoria
had been presented with a deal he could not refuse. He had accepted
majority rule would be adopted as the basis for a new dispensation. We
roared with approval - we were all deeply committed to the country
wanted to see real change - we knew that what was happening was not
sustainable. I still think that the intervention by those two leaders
Pretoria that weekend saved this country from itself.
Smith remained Prime Minister and in leadership for another three
he was yesterday's man - others would inevitably take his place.
elections came in 1980, were held on the basis of universal suffrage
Mugabe became our first black Prime Minister.
We are at a similar point in our history. Mr. Mugabe has been in power
27 years. He has proved to be an inept manager of our economy, has
the country to slide into a morass that now threatens to turn us into
another African 'failed State'. A third of our population has fled
economic and political refugees and the quality of life of those who
here has collapsed. Life expectancy is the lowest in the world and our
population - once one of the fastest growing in the world, continues
decline under the weight of higher adult and infant mortality and the
continued flight of people to other countries.
Faced with a decision by Mr. Mugabe to not only extend his tenure to
but then to stand again as President, at the age of 86 for another term
years, the local, regional and international communities suddenly
pay new attention to what the prospect would be of such a scenario. Mr.
Mbeki looked at the situation and was shocked - two more years of
Zimbabwe, another 1 or 2 million refugees in South Africa and then a
controversial and disputed election in May/June 2010 - just as the
reaches its peak in South Africa. His conclusion - no way could that
allowed to happen.
Opposition leaders were equally galvanized into action. Divisions
aside and a new unity of purpose became evident. Mugabe had to be
we simply could not envisage another 8 years of this ongoing nightmare.
Inside Zanu PF there were the beginnings of a consensus that the Mugabe
proposal had to be stopped.
Another constituency, over which none of us have any say or real
the economy also voted on the issue. Plunging the country into a fresh
fiscal and monetary crisis that has seen inflation soar to over 3000
cent in recent weeks with all the associated elements of collapse that
A new coalition of forces opposed to Mugabe's plans emerged and has
very powerful. Yesterday the US Congress debated the Zimbabwe crisis
voted to pressure SADC leaders to step up to the plate. On Saturday
leaders met in Tanzania and this was followed by the call for an
summit of all 14 SADC leaders to take place today and tomorrow. That is
Mugabe will attend a Zanu PF Politburo meeting today and then fly to
Tanzania to face the music. In the Politburo he will face his internal
opponents who have been working towards this show down for some months
They will demand he step down at the end of his current term in March
When he comes back from Tanzania on Thursday he will then have to face
final test in the form of the Central Committee of Zanu PF where his
will finally be decided.
If, as I expect, he will be forced to accept that his term in office
end in March 2008, after Friday he will be yesterday's man - power
recede from his position and he will be forced, like Smith, to
post of President until elections usher in a new leadership. The loss
such power will change many things here, the thugs who have been
out his instructions will suddenly find themselves facing opposition
the regular forces who will start to do their jobs properly, the
worse will seek cover and disguise or simply fade away.
Ahead of us will be the task to get the State under control and stop
inflation, get the humanitarian situation under management and restore
rule of law. We also have to prepare the ground for fresh elections
will then take us forward and restore us as a respected, if battered,
of the international community.
But for the SADC Leadership and for Robert Gabriel Mugabe, today is
time. It may be early, could even be premature, in fact I have done
before - but I am going to put that bottle of champagne on ice!
Bulawayo, 28th March 2007