Is it a Mule?

In a recent meeting with diplomats, faced with serious concerns about the workability of the arrangements negotiated with Zanu PF, Morgan Tsvangirai laughingly said 'this new government is like a union between a donkey and a horse, it could produce a mule - not very pretty, but functional'. One of the diplomats responded that mules are sterile - they cannot reproduce themselves. That is probably just as well!

Because the deal has not yet been even consummated, we do not have the beginnings, so no progress. I understand that Mr. Mugabe came back from his trip to the UN General Assembly in New York this morning. It had been rumored that he was not due in until next Friday; so that is progress. Now we need to get things moving so that a new government can be sworn by next weekend and we can finally start work.

The one thing that observers are generally failing to see in this situation is that the swearing in of a new Cabinet and government will in fact signal the end of the Zanu PF Junta. Over the past ten years we have seen a gradual shift from Cabinet government to rule by a civilian/military junta. This Junta remains firmly in charge today and is working at fever pitch to sweep their tracks and secure a last minute meal at the nations expense. I think they have now accepted that their time in control is nearly over and that the SADC process has gone too far to be reversed.

Once a Cabinet is sworn in and Morgan Tsvangirai becomes Prime Minister with responsibility for supervising and managing all government Ministries, we will again be governed by a more conventional government system - power and control will shift from the Junta to the Cabinet where it actually belongs.

The effectiveness of the new arrangements will then depend on our ability to mould the new team into a cohesive whole that will work together to put the country back onto its feet. Given our recent history, that will not be easy - but at the same time its not impossible. We have many advantages over other States that have had to try and bring their countries back into the mainstream of development after conflict and decline. We have not been swept by violence and armed insurrection. Our armed forces, remain generally disciplined and professional, they will take orders. Our economy is in tatters and dangerously close to complete collapse, but the fundamentals are all there.

If we finally get this deal consummated, MDC will have very largely achieved what it set out to achieve 9 years ago - a peaceful, legal and democratic transfer of power to a new government that can effect fundamental change in the way our affairs are run. Sure we have had to compromise and share power with Zanu PF and the transfer has only come about because our neighbors have helped us hammer out a deal that enables us to work together during the transition, but once the new team is in place and starts work, we can say that power is once more in democratic hands and has been wrested from a military dominated Junta that was destroying our country.

This past week we have been trying to meet all stakeholders in an effort to try and find out what are the fundamental problems and concerns of the people who make things happen in Zimbabwe. A team led by the Prime Minister designate has met the food industry, the bankers, the mining industry leadership and the combined farmers unions. It is not a pretty picture.

The food people told us they have insufficient stocks to feed the country, that the capacity to finance and physically import the quantities needed to prevent starvation and hardship were just not available. Industrialists told us they were working at 10 per cent of their capacity and could not fund the necessary recovery in their activity if the wider economy was stabilized and returned to growth. The miners said that three quarters of all gold mines were closed and overall the industry was operating at 20 per cent of capacity. The bankers said they feared for their staff as crowds of people gathered at all banking halls and ATMís in a desperate effort to gain access to their funds as inflation, now at over a billion per cent per annum, simply destroyed their savings and salaries while they stood in queues.

Farmers pleaded for security on their farms and the return of the rule of law and said that with 4 weeks to go to the annual planting season, only 5 per cent of the necessary inputs for the new crop were in place. They told us that if nothing was done about this, yet another year of shortages and hunger would be inevitable in 2009 with no chance of relief until 2010. A delegation from the cities told us that water shortages were now critical - that public health and sanitation were in jeopardy throughout the country. Teachers told us that virtually no real teaching was going on in schools and that many students would simply have to repeat the year to get back on track.

Despite the daunting and stark conditions confronting all sectors of our economy and society we were encouraged as, sector by sector, leadership pledged themselves to help us get out of this mess as quickly as possible. Just yesterday I was with a team who were working on what to do in the first 100 days of the new administration. How to improve services and stabilise the economy. How to get Zimbabwe working again.

Can we do it? Yes we can! Mules may not be pretty but they can work and work effectively. But we have to demonstrate that before a skeptical and wary world. We also have to try and meet the needs and aspirations of the millions of our people who have patiently supported us and fought with us in what has been a principled and non-violent democratic struggle to regain our freedoms. We are nearly there.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 28th September 2008