Filibustering

Today itís the 8th October - nearly 4 weeks since the SADC brokered deal was signed. Itís now 7 months since the March elections took place and both Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe were soundly beaten by the MDC. Yet we still do not have a government and Zanu PF continues to behave as if they had the right to control the State and to make all key decisions. No Minister is in office legally at this moment of time yet they continue to drive government vehicles and draw their salaries. Many continue to work in their old offices as if nothing has happened.

Just as was the case in Kenya, the Party that should have taken over from the incumbents has been forced by regional pressure to concede a compromise deal that is proving to be unworkable. If the experience of the past 4 weeks is anything to go by, we have learned that the SADC brokered agreement is most likely to produce a dysfunctional government that simply cannot make the decisions required on a daily basis to resolve our many problems. It is also clear that Zanu PF does not have any intention of meeting their obligations in terms of the deal and is not in the slightest way concerned about the rapid collapse of Zimbabweans society and the economy.

The economy now slides to a halt leaving millions of people without an income and no access to even the most basic necessities, schools close their doors and Universities are unable to function. While preparations for the next cropping season are simply non-existent and water and electricity supplies dwindle, while poultry, pig and dairy farmers watch their stock starve and die; Mugabe and Mbeki fiddle and procrastinate.

Since the signing, of course, we have had the ANC coup in South Africa. Unlike the Zimbabwe process there was no quiet diplomacy involved in that operation! In four days, the ANC very publicly, recalled Mr. Mbeki, forced him to resign and appointed a new (not elected) President. Mr. Mbeki and his supporters in the ANC have subsequently embarked on a political guerilla war and might shortly announce they are forming a new alliance grouping to oppose the ANC in elections in early 2009.

I was asked by the staff in our factory what was happening and I said that the two bulls in South Africa were fighting and were not interested in the cows next door - even though the Zimbabwe cow was ready for some sort of consummation of the agreement. They understood that analogy immediately and saw that this was what was now holding up progress.

Someone else came to me and asked, in real sincerity, why was Zanu PF delaying the process of forming a government? They were right in that final part - they are filibustering this deal very effectively and it has nothing to do with the fundamentals or power sharing. The question of why is not so easy to determine. One ambassador told me that in his view it was quite simple - they wanted time to loot the store before they handed over the keys. And that they are doing - in great style with millions of dollars in hard currency leaving the country daily for safe refuge elsewhere.

The other part, of course is that they know that the formation of a new government - the resumption of government by Cabinet selected on a democratic basis (in so far as the deal recognises the outcome of the March elections), marks the end of years of luxurious living, access to foreign exchange on special terms, power and influence and protection from the reach of law enforcement agencies.

MDC has appealed to the region and the African Union several times in the past two weeks for the mediation to resume and for help with the issues that remain. Each time that Mbeki has looked likely to come to the country, Zanu PF have said 'no, we do not need his help, the issues that remain are insignificant', and Mbeki has taken them at their word and stayed at home. An easy decision when you think that he is trying to pick up the remains of his life and to rescue what is left of his part of the ANC.

But the consequences of this delay in the consummation of the SADC deal are very serious. In an unstable world where markets are collapsing and rescue efforts are under way on a scale not seen since the 30ís in the last century, the double impact on South Africa of not only the collapse of the ANC Alliance but the collapse of the Zimbabwe deal, could put southern Africa into a tail spin. The Rand may have gone through the 9 to 1 barrier today and looks set to perhaps hit the lows of several years ago. Inflation is already too high and global commodity prices are falling rapidly.

The Zimbabwe economy, in my view, is now as close as it has ever been to real collapse. Companies simply cannot carry on under these circumstances. I spoke with a young civil servant today about her salary. She said she was paid $13 000 in local currency credited to her account at a building society. That is about US$1,50 at the street rate. Even so she had not been able to draw the money out and was virtually working for nothing.

Hunger and starvation now stalks the land - even those in employment are going without food for days on end. The flood tide of refugees going to South Africa is worse than ever and if allowed to continue will create mayhem in South Africa shortly. The MDC is ready to tackle all these problems and has well advanced plans to do so, but it cannot move one millimeter without the formation of a government headed by the new Prime Minister.

There is little we can do about this filibustering operation by Zanu PF - that is the task of regional power brokers. If they do not come to the party and break the deadlock, the whole thing will collapse in an ignominious heap and further punish the reputation of Africa and African leadership. We can ill afford that at this point in our history.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 8th October 2008