A dressed up Somalia

I had two disturbing experiences this week. I visited the Head Office of the Ministry of Education and then went to the Government Pensions office. I was asking after the pension of a friend who had been retired for two years and had not received his pension.

The Ministry of Education was a shock - there was no one at work. Floor after floor was almost deserted. 'Where is the clerk who deals with Bulawayo?' I asked. 'She is at the bank' was the reply. Today I went back to find the office deserted except for a solitary employee who told me they had not seen the clerk for several days - did not know when she would be back at work, 'try the pensions department' she said.

I had 30 minutes before my next meeting so I went over to the building where the pensions department was and again walked in on a department where out of 30 employees there were two in attendance - one the supervisor and the other a data clerk. They told me they had 300 000 pensioners in their data base and the supervisor told me without any reluctance that she earned Z$2 million a month - US$4.00 at today’s exchange rate.

If this is representative of what is going on in government departments then the situation is pretty dire. In a recent survey, people were asked if they had tried to leave the country. 53 per cent responded that they had tried to leave Zimbabwe in the past year. Do you blame them? Today I was told that all State hospitals in the capital had closed down and were not accepting patients.

When I attended a Parliamentary caucus this week I told a fellow legislator what I had seen in the government offices - he laughed and said, 'we are a dressed up Somalia'. I thought that was very apt. 4 hours later the Parliament was closed for a month - there was no money for expenses and no water in the building. The last time I looked, I was getting Z$50 000 a month - enough to buy half a loaf of bread.

In my pigeon hole at Parliament was a glossy document - the annual report of a State controlled institution. The lay out and contents were very professional - it could easily be taken as an annual report for a big company. However, when I studied the balance sheet and did some number crunching, I found that the main customer of the organisation - another State controlled institution, had not paid its bills for two years and technically, the organisation was broke - even with money in the bank.

On Friday we finally gathered to hear what had transpired last Sunday at the SADC summit in Johannesburg. It was both intriguing and disappointing - the 14 States had spent 12 hours debating two regional problems - the conflict in the eastern Congo and the political crisis in Zimbabwe. In the end they fudged both. Angola and Zimbabwe both offered troops - the Angolan offer is unlikely to be taken up, as the Congo does not trust Angola (with good reason). Our offer was an empty gesture unless Kabila or Angola was going to pick up the tab of about US$1 million a day.

On Zimbabwe they fudged the whole issue, clearly supporting Zanu PF and more particularly, Mugabe. The final communiqué could not have been more one sided.

The MDC leadership spent the rest of the week talking to those SADC leaders who are sympathetic to the MDC and have some democratic credentials. After those consultations, our leadership met in Harare and finally today, we called in our National Executive and Council.

After an all day meeting we finally resolved - unanimously, to reject the SADC decision, reaffirm our commitment to the Global Agreement and clearly stated what our conditions are for participation in any new inclusive Government. Our demands are well known to all SADC States and to the Secretariat in Gaborone. They are: -

We reject the agreement signed on the 15th of September in front of 23 Heads of State and with great fanfare supervised by Mr. Mbeki as not representing the actual agreement negotiated and signed on the 11th September in Harare. We insist that the new inclusive government be based on the original agreement and that the way it is implemented also be in accord with the earlier version.

We demand the allocation of ministerial portfolios on the basis of equity between Zanu PF and MDC. By no stretch of the imagination can the Mugabe/Mbeki allocation be considered as anything but biased and partial.

We demand the recall of all 10 Provincial Governors, unilaterally appointed by Mugabe in defiance of the MOU and the Global Agreement and the allocation of these posts on the basis of the Parliamentary majorities in each Province (5 MDC, 4 Zanu PF and 1 Mutambara).

We demand the appointment of all Permanent Secretaries and Ambassadors on the basis agreed in the original version of the Global Agreement.

We demand full prior agreement between the Parties to the constitution and membership of the National Security Council to which the armed forces and security service are to be accountable to ensure they are not controlled and directed on a partisan basis.

We demand full agreement by all Parties to a draft version of Constitutional Amendment number 19 referred to in the Global Agreement and intended to give full expression to the Agreement in legal terms and on the basis of which it will be implemented. The Draft Bill to be jointly proposed and supported by all Parties to the Agreement when it comes to Parliament and is passed into law.

Finally, we resolved that since it was obvious that neither Zanu PF nor Mugabe can be trusted to act in the interests of either the country or the Agreement, that all these conditions must be met in full and implemented in clearly defined legal terms before we would participate in any inclusive government. We further stated that we would not recognise any government appointed by Zanu PF in the interim and would continue to hold that no Ministers currently in office have any legitimacy or legal standing and that Mr. Mugabe can only become State President by agreement.

That is a big spanner in this particular works - we wait to see what the region and the regime do in reaction. For the rest of us, it’s 'vasbyt’.

The Zanu PF propaganda machine is working overtime. 'MDC agrees to join inclusive government' was the headline this morning in State newspapers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Zanu PF thought that the SADC decision would put us in an impossible situation with no real options. They now know better. If they want to see Zimbabwe put back on the road to recovery, if they want to get out of the hole they are in, then they have to have our approval and participation. If not, they are going nowhere.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo 15th November 2008