The Current Outlook

The current outlook for Zimbabwe is anything but encouraging. There are three possible outcomes of the election on the 27th June; the most promising is a clean, clear win by Morgan Tsvangirai and a swift transition to a completely new government. The others are not so promising - in one scenario Mugabe wins by rigging and fear and carries on, appointing a minority government and using the powers of the presidency to govern in the same way as he is managing the affairs of State today. A third option is that he will win and then retire - handing power to a chosen successor from the ranks of the Zanu PF who would then start to implement reforms but protecting those who have participated in the present regime and securing their assets.

Under each of these scenarios there would be consequences. If we assume the second scenario becomes a reality then we can predict with some certainty what conditions will be like - there will be no international assistance and some of existing aid might well be withdrawn. Inflation - now at over 1 million per cent will continue to surge, reaching unprecedented levels within 3 months. Most likely this will be accompanied by a sharp increase in the flight of both people and capital and we can expect that the situation in South Africa will deteriorate even further. At this point several other possibilities present themselves - a coup against Mugabe, the collapse of the regime and anarchy is also possible. Whatever happens the outcome will simply make things worse.

If they manage to wrangle option 3 and this might well be the real game plan of the JOC and its external masters. Then it very much depends on who takes over and when. They would have to move fast - difficult just after an election, and the incoming leadership would have to clearly demonstrate its capacity to implement the reforms that are necessary to get inflation under control and some kind of recovery under way. Not impossible, but very difficult as the new leadership is unlikely to unscramble the bad egg of agriculture and reverse the recent changes in legislation that is crippling mining and industrial recovery. Donors and multilaterals are unlikely to step up to the plate any time soon and without them it seems unlikely that we could feed the country or stabilize the economy at large.

So we are left with option 1. The main concern here is how do we get there and what will be the reaction of the security chiefs and the senior players in Zanu PF? I have no doubt about the people; the present wave of political violence unleashed by Zanu PF on the people is counterproductive. It is being translated into anger - both in the MDC and among the general population. This makes the situation worse for existing power brokers as it is now most unlikely that the MDC leadership will entertain any sort of amnesty for them under the new dispensation - their options have narrowed significantly in recent weeks - mainly because of their own intransigence.

I would expect therefore, that in a free and fair run off, Mugabe would be trounced by Morgan Tsvangirai - beaten most likely by more than two thirds. The main threat to such an outcome is in the way the election process is managed - still totally under the control and management of Zanu PF through the JOC and the ZEC. Standing between them and a free and fair outcome are the region who are obligated to deploy observers not only to watch the run off itself but also the run up to the election. We want them here right away and we want them deployed to those areas where the violence is worse.

The other element that stands in the way of such an outcome is the MDC. They are trying to cripple the electoral capacity of the MDC in every way - many of our leadership in the front line have been killed, abducted, beaten and generally harassed. They are working in every field to reduce our capacity to campaign and win the run off - radio stations are being jammed, newspapers burned (yesterday we had 60 000 copies of the Zimbabwean plus the vehicle they was in burned in the Midlands) and journalists harassed and worse.

Only the MDC and its election agents can stop the rigging of this election - no one else has either the capacity or the legal right to do so. So our capacity to fund and support that operation (it is a massive undertaking) is crucial. The JOC is making sure that no stone is left unturned in their efforts to block funds and other resources reaching the MDC from any quarter.

But lets assume the MDC is able to control the rigging - and we get a majority vote for Morgan, what will then happen? We saw what happened last time - they simply prevaricated until eventually they were forced to announce a result that was patently false and force a run off. That process was protected by Mr.Mbeki of South Africa who not only went along with the masquerade but also endorsed the call for a run off and has subsequently made the spurious claim that the solutions to the crisis lay in the hands of the Zimbabwe people themselves. His intelligence resources here have told him what the real situation is and he simply chooses to ignore it and continues with the crude political fabrications of Zanu PF.

This time there are no easy solutions for Mbeki, if the MDC wins, the region has no option but to endorse the outcome and insist on a transfer of power. In recent weeks elements in Zanu PF and in South Africa have been desperately trying to get negotiations going on some form of national unity government. This would be the easy way out for Mbeki, as it would ensure the full compliance of the military in such an accord. However for the MDC this could only be considered if as the first step, Mugabe retired and announced that he was accepting the outcome of the elections on the 29th March and handing over to Morgan Tsvangirai. This is not going to happen and this route or easy option is not a possibility.

We are therefore left with the hard reality - can the region enforce a constitutional process resulting in the full transfer of power from Zanu PF to the MDC because our own Court system and even the State machinery itself, is incapable of such a transition without military resistance. I personally think it can but South Africa holds the keys. I doubt that the rank and file in the military or the Police would accept a coup against the constitution and the electoral results. I doubt that the region or the AU would accept that outcome or reaction. I think a transition would take place.

Under these circumstances I would expect very dramatic policy and other changes to emerge within days, I would expect inflation to be fully controlled within 6 months and for basic needs to be covered within 3 months. After that the stabilisation and reconstruction process will get underway and will, within a year be superceded by rapid economic growth and recovery. Such an outcome would have immediate impacts on the region as a whole but especially on South Africa. For that country these changes could not become at a more important time. South Africa will itself be engaged in a transitional process - from the Mbeki era to new ANC leadership and maybe even a restructuring of political forces in South Africa. While this is going on it would bring much needed stability and enhanced growth to the South African economy.

It's time to back sanity and to finally defeat tyranny.

Eddie Cross

Bulawayo, 26th May 2008