Comical Ally

I am sure we all recall that press conference in Iraq when the Minister of Information for the Iraqi government was holding forth on the status of the war against them launched a few days earlier by the Americans. He boldly declared that the American forces would never reach the city of Baghdad. Behind him and clearly visible on camera, were American tanks crossing the bridge into the suburb where the press conference was being held.

The shrill protests and hysterical claims of the regime in Harare take on a similar character. I include in that the statement by Mugabe at the Bindura conference of Zanu PF that he would 'never, never, never give up - Zimbabwe is mine'. I found it curious that my last letter headed 'Let it Crash and Burn' has evoked a storm of debate in the State controlled media here. I have also been attacked by the War Veterans and called all sorts of names. They seemed frightened of the prospect of being left to their own devices in the chaotic situation we are living in here at present. A bit like the horror of a killer who finds himself locked into the room containing the body of his victim and forced to sit there while it stinks and rots and the killer himself faces the prospect of dying from thirst and hunger. The reality is that Zanu PF finds itself hooked on a line that leads back to a transitional government that will in fact be controlled and managed by MDC with the obligation only to consult and gain consensus with the Zanu PF minority in its ranks. This fish is fighting the line, but losing the battle. This coming week they must decide whether to tear the hook out of its mouth and dive into deep water, or to allow it to be landed on the beach.

The situation is quite clear, Zanu and MDC have signed an agreement, that agreement is backed and guaranteed by regional and continental bodies and leaders. It provides for the formation of a transitional government that will last about 27 months before a free and fair election under a new constitution and observed by the international community. In that transitional authority, Zanu is in the minority - in every organ of the State. All it has is consultation rights and the need to agree with the MDC on what has to be done to fix the economy and our shattered society.

'Zimbabwe is mine' Mugabe is stripped of much of his power, has to deal with Tsvangirai on all policy issues and before any senior appointments are made. The JOC is replaced with a new National Security Council that is dominated by the MDC and is democratic in character. The Zanu PF Politburo saw the implications immediately after the SADC signing ceremony and has been furiously fighting a rear guard action ever since. But the pressure from the region on the regime has been relentless.

This coming week is the Rubicon for the regime. They must decide to either go with the deal, conclude the steps necessary to complete its implementation or to refute the deal and go ahead with the formation of an illegitimate government without the MDC or the approval of the region. This decision must be made before Parliament is convened on the 20th of January.

If they decide to go into the transitional government then they must accept what the MDC is proposing - a draft of new legislation to set up the National Security Council, the equitable allocation of ministerial portfolio 's and they must accept that all the senior appointments made since June 2008, in violation of the MOU and the GPA be rescinded and new appointees agreed with the MDC and substituted.

Once this happens then everyone can expect that events will move quite rapidly; Parliament will debate and adopt the new legislation - followed by the appointment of both Mugabe and Tsvangirai to their respective posts, followed by the nomination and swearing in of all Ministers. This could all be over by the 31st January and a new government could start work on the 2nd of February.

If however they decide not to go this route, they will walk away from the deal and in the process walk into the wilderness. Their problems will multiply exponentially; they have no idea how they are going to finance salaries this month, whatever they pay civil servants and the army and police, and it will be worthless. They will plunge the region as a whole into a real crisis - they could jeopardize the prospects for the World Cup next year, (over 400 000 people crossed the Beitbridge border post in December), South Africa would be swamped with economic refugees.

The Zimbabwe regime would be even more isolated and regional leaders would have no choice but to repudiate the new government. Internationally, sanctions would be tightened and broadened to include financial restrictions on all deals with Zimbabwe. China and Russia would not be able to maintain their neutrality and political pressure would grow for fresh, internationally supervised elections. Elections that Zanu PF would lose totally.

What the criminals in the Mugabe regime have also got to understand is that this is their last chance to avoid their very worst fears becoming a reality. Inside the new transitional government, working with and not against the MDC, the leadership of Zanu PF would be able to avoid prosecution and probable imprisonment for various crimes for at least the period during which they would be in the transitional government. It is unlikely that the government, operating on a consensual basis, would agree to going over all the violations of the past 30 years and bringing the perpetrators to book.

In fact, for the Ministers and other senior officials in the present regime, it would take the form of a type of enforced community service. They would have to accept the failure of their policies in the past and their shortcomings in many areas. They would be confronted by the very people they beat and tortured yesterday and be required to work with them in repairing the damage and helping to build a new Zimbabwe.

Zimbabweans are a unique people in many respects, if these erstwhile masters accepted their fate and willingly gave themselves to the task of reconstruction, many would find forgiveness and reconciliation. I think the decision facing Zanu PF this week is quite simple and straight forward, but then we have been there before.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 11th January 2009