Are we making progress?
I am constantly amazed at the number of people I speak to who say they are
determined to stick things out - but ask, are we making any progress towards
finding a resolution to the current economic and political crisis? Amazed at
the numbers because I really expect most people with options to throw in the
towel and decide to move to greener pastures.
The facts are that we are making progress. Looking back, much more progress
than I think any of us expected 18 months ago. In March 2006 the newly
divided MDC had just held two Congress's - one in Bulawayo for the Mutambara
led group and another in Harare for the group led by Tsvangirai. Zanu PF had
just settled yet another challenge to the succession issue and Thabo Mbeki
had thrown in the towel - fed up with the infighting in the main political
parties and in the lack of progress and consensus.
The international community had likewise decided to sit on their hands for a
while - they were deeply disappointed in the split in the MDC ranks, the
apparent bickering and also in the seemingly intransient nature of the
Zimbabwe situation. Nothing much happened for the next nine months except
that the economic crisis deepened and our gradual slide into some form of a
failed State accelerated.
Then came the fateful decision in December 2006 by Zanu PF to try to
postpone the election to the same time as the Soccer World Cup - June 2010.
Mbeki was galvanized into action and moved to try and establish a new
strategy for resolving the Zimbabwe crisis. He swiftly moved to secure the
basics of the new strategy - get the elections moved back to March 2008 and
try to get Mugabe to hold then under free and fair conditions. The
preliminary steps seemed too easy to be true - Mbeki spoke with Mugabe in
Ghana on the 7th March and Mugabe said yes to both issues.
Mr. Mugabe then made a serious error of judgment - he ordered his security
Chiefs to 'crush the MDC' so that they would not be capable of fighting an
election in March 2008. Four days after he accepted President Mbeki's
suggestions to resolve the crisis, the leadership of the MDC was arrested
and beaten in custody. Television footage of the incident was somehow
captured and released and a media blitz ensued which in turn galvanized the
leadership of the SADC region to sit up and eventually demand action to
settle this dispute once and for all. Mbeki got his multilateral approach to
the crisis and Mugabe lost a critical regional support base.
On the 29th March 2007, the SADC leadership met in an emergency session and
resolved to work with President Mbeki in seeking a resolution to the crisis.
Ten days later the details were thrashed out in Harare and formal talks
between the MDC (this hated 'puppet of the West') and Zanu PF eventually got
underway and have been going on for the past 8 months.
That they have taken place at all is a remarkable victory for the MDC and
its allies. That the region has supported the process and insisted that the
MDC was a key player is equally astonishing. 18 months ago no one in Zanu PF
would have said that this would happen - not in a 'thousand years' to recall
the words of another tyrant in another era!
Then came the key decision by the MDC to walk out of the process if certain
fundamental principles were not recognised and worked into the final
agreement. These were principally centred around the issues related to the
electoral system and its management, together with the fact that despite the
commitment to the talks and to trying to resolve the crisis in leadership
democratically, the Zanu PF regime and its thugs had continued to rain down
on the MDC and its structures political violence on a scale that threatened
the whole process.
The MDC action stirred the South African leadership back into action and
last week President Mbeki made a short stop over in Harare to see the main
leaders and to resolve the logjam in the talks. The talks resumed
immediately after his visit and a revised deadline for the final outcome was
set as the 15th of December.
I remain convinced that no one can walk away from this process. The
continual praise that Mr. Mugabe heaps on the SADC leadership and South
Africa for its role in the process is a smoke screen for what is a very
difficult situation for Zanu PF. They simply cannot afford to alienate the
SADC and are being forced to accept reforms that endanger their grip on
power and their ability to dictate the outcome of the next election. To
their fury, the MDC has been given a veto over those issues and we have now
used this to force through changes that suddenly make the near impossible
We are going to have an election and I still think it will be in March 2008.
We will not have anything like normal conditions for the campaign leading to
the elections but at least we will be able to say to the people of this
country - you can all vote, vote in secret and the recording and reporting
of your vote will not be tampered with this time. Perhaps, just perhaps, we
will have a chance to change our government democratically.
In March 2006 there was no way we could have envisaged this situation. It is
a real victory for the democratic forces here and for the friends we have
across the globe. It is also a victory for African leadership and if we can
pull it off, it will help put Africa's image back on track as a continent of
democratic change and hope. But for this to happen we still have a lot to do
and a way to go. On our part we will stick to our position without
compromise, prepare for the elections by selecting candidates (over 2000 of
them) and putting our policies in place and in front of the electorate.
Then its up to you out there - vote and vote wisely. Do not waste your vote
on anyone who cannot deliver change and whose policies and stand is not
absolutely clear. We have struggled to get us all this chance to resolve the
crisis in Zimbabwe - without violence, legally and within a recognised
political framework. The rest is up to us - all of us who live here and hold
Bulaway0, 27th November 2007