Street Fighting

I am sorry for the long delay in sending out another of my weeklies, but we have been rather busy to say the least!! Events here have been dramatic and are moving so fast that it is difficult to keep track if you are not at the centre of things. A struggle is under way - not with guns, at least not yet! But in every other way this is street fighting - building by building, street by street, close combat between two forces.

On the one side is the secret cabal that has run Zimbabwe since the quasi-military coup in 2002, when the military chiefs stated that they would not salute Mr. Tsvangirai if he were elected President. On the other side is a peculiar coalition of forces, led by Mr. Tsvangirai but including elements of Zanu PF, civil society and even the armed forces themselves.

The Cabal was noticeably absent when the Prime Minister was sworn in - as were a number of other key players, this was not a coincidence. The Commander of the Air Force has not been seen since the assassination attempt on him in Shamva, the others were all busy making mischief. The most serious issue remains what role is the State President playing in this drama, if anything.

But however it is described we are seeing a situation where a small group is fighting back and trying to bring about a breakdown of the transitional government which has just been sworn in and on Monday will start to take charge. The three key elements in this shadowy force are - the Reserve Bank (under Gono), the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney Generals Office and the Military and Police. Gono is the paymaster and is funding this fight back using the very considerable resources at his command, the Ministry of Justice - or elements in the Ministry, is providing the 'legal' justification and the armed forces, including senior elements in the Police, are executing the strategy and providing the muscle.

The legal ruse is the allegation - now totally discredited, that elements of the MDC are involved in 'treason' in that they planned the violent over throw of the State. In fact the real situation is that it is the armed forces chiefs themselves who are trying to do so and in so doing are committing treason against the State. For, no matter how you construct the transitional government, Zimbabwe now has a democratically elected government that is constitutional and legitimate. Any attempt therefore, to over throw the State by force, is an act of treason.

This fight is most clearly illustrated by the detention of Roy Bennett at Charles Prince Airport yesterday. Roy was hauled off the plane, bundled into a car and then driven at high speed to Mutare. The vehicles in which he was transported were followed by volunteers so that he could not just disappear in the same way that 42 others have in recent weeks.

When the news reached the Prime Minister he was already in consultation with regional leaders on another crisis regarding the appointment of Zanu PF Ministers and the matter was discussed. Senior Zanu PF Ministers agreed to order that Roy be released. The President of South Africa left the country thinking that this had been done and a major diplomatic and political crisis (among many) averted. It was not so, whether or not such an order was given, the Police and the CIO did not release Roy, instead they announced he was to be charged with treason!

If the Ministers of State Security and Home Affairs did give the order for his release, then the government agencies that are accountable to them did not obey the order. If they did not give the order, they lied to the South African President and the Prime Minister and are part of, what is, in effect, a military coup. The treatment of the 42 other abductees is further evidence of this defiance of the new order. They were clearly abducted illegally, held illegally in various State institutions, finally brought to Court and charged with various crimes involving absurd allegations, and denied bail. A number are still missing and are unaccounted for.

In one of his first actions, the Prime Minister visited them in the High Security Prison outside Harare and instructed that 4 be taken immediately to hospital for treatment. Two of the four, including Jestina Mukoko are very ill with life threatening symptoms, they were then taken to hospital and in the evening, they were taken by force from the hospital back to prison in clear defiance of the Prime Ministers instructions.

Many other battles are being fought - the coup plotters have people in key places all over government and they are clearly working together. The question is can they win this struggle. I do not think so. They are up against the majority of the people, a democratically elected government negotiated with the support of the entire region and they must now fight to defend their positions from within government where they no longer have legal and political control. The key player to watch in this struggle is Gono. If he goes, then the flow of resources (except for illegal resources such as gold and diamond sales) will dry up and they will not be able to sustain their fight. If he stays, the new government will be seriously weakened, as they cannot then secure the backing and support of important financial players who simply will not work with the Bank whilst he is still in charge.

While this is going on the looting of State assets and resources continue. Right now they are trying to do a deal with a local firm to sell Tel One - a major cell phone operator that is State owned, for US$200 million, which they want to use to support US dollar denominated vouchers to pay the Civil Service with, so that they can at least buy food. The Prime Minister has instead instructed that the Civil Service be paid in hard currency - Chinamasa defied the Prime Minister last week and insisted they go ahead with the deal even though after Friday he was no longer Minister of Finance.

As for me? The Prime Minister announced on Monday that I was his choice for Minister of State Enterprise and then on Friday the post was switched to a friend and colleague, Sam Nkomo. A victim of the present constitutional dispensation where Ministers must be Members of Parliament and carry over into their government posts, their political constituency. In the American system, the positions of Secretaries of State are selected from outside the political system and the President can - as is the case with the Obama government, select from his whole society, the people to run his government. Under the Westminster system no such clear distinction exists between the executive and Parliament.

The American system has the advantage that Ministers (the Secretaries) are selected not only for their political influence and experience but also for their technical background and experience. They essentially are managers of the Ministries they run. Under our system the process is much more political and the PM has to balance contending interests politically. In my case, I was a victim of the process. I am sorry - I would have loved to have had the chance to help make this deal work and to get whatever piece of government I was responsible for, functioning again. But it is not to be and its back to making my own living and working in Parliament to supervise government and look after the public interest.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 15th February 2009