No Where to Hide

In 1983 when the Zanu PF regime in Harare launched Gukurahundi and mounted a concerted attack on the structures and leadership of the then opposition, Zapu, they did so behind a curtain of secrecy that kept the full extent of what they were doing out of sight of the majority. Nothing new in that – Hitler did the same thing 60 years ago in Germany and the ceremonies in Poland this week brought all of those nightmares back into perspective.

When the German genocides were being conducted, a blanket of disinformation and secrecy kept the full extent of the nightmare out of the public eye, the authorities knew what was going on but did not take appropriate steps to bring the German government to book. It took photographs of the camps in 1945 to finally bring the Holocaust to our attention.

The same situation applied here from 1983 to 1987 and it was only after the Legal Resources Foundation and the Catholic Commission published their report “Breaking the Silence” on the genocide that finally we got to see and hear about the extent of the atrocities. The only difference between these two episodes was time and magnitude.

Nothing illustrates the need for a free press and electronic media than these failures of governments to protect their citizens from abuse or to bring the authorities to account, than this sort of state abuse of power.

In the past decade as we in the MDC have fought for freedom, justice and democracy, we have had a constant battle against secrecy and media restrictions. The new form of communications via the internet has helped as this is out of the control of the authorities virtually everywhere and has empowered the individual.

The fight here can be divided into three main segments – the information and media campaign, legal battles and the political struggle. The full story of the work done and the success gained in each sphere need a book and they have all contributed to whatever success we have had in the past 10 years. But the main weapon we have had has been the use of the media and the weapon of information.

When Mr. Mugabe was building his mansion in Borrowdale it was an MDC volunteer who flew over the site with a camera and caught the size and luxury of this extravaganza, I was suspected of being responsible and was told that “if I flew my aeroplane across the site again, I would be shot down by the air force.” As I had nothing to do with the exercise at least it told us they knew nothing of the operation.

Disappearances and violence against opponents were all carefully monitored and brought out into the public domain; individuals went to great lengths to collect information and often at risk to their own safety, brought the facts to the light of media scrutiny. Restrictions and threats to media practitioners did not stop them coming and at great risk to themselves, recording events and abuses of human rights.

The result of all this effort and human courage is that the regime here has had no where to hide when it committed abuses and as a result has not been able to act with impunity. Had the veil of secrecy been effective the violations of our rights and even physical safety would have been much more in jeopardy than has actually been the case.

That is the position today on the eve of the SADC summit in the Congo . It is a year since the GPA was signed and the SADC leadership must now fulfil their obligation to act as guarantors of the agreement. This means they should sit down and objectively examine what has transpired since the GPA was signed and then take appropriate action to ensure full compliance if there has been any violations.

In fact we do not even appear on the agenda! So much for African leadership; the Kenyan deal brokered by the regional States and now the deal in Madagascar, are by no means shining examples of continental diplomacy and real politic. It could be argued that regional action has simply made things worse for all parties involved.

MDC is battling to get the regional body to take its responsibilities seriously and we hope to get a special summit to deal with the Zimbabwe issue. One thing is for sure SADC, no more than Zanu PF, has no place to hide. How they deal with their responsibilities will be a matter of record and comment across the globe.

The issue of Zanu PF compliance with the terms of the GPA is now a complete farce. They are in violation of virtually every aspect of the agreement they signed and the list of violations grows by the day. They had no right to “terminate” our participation in the SADC Tribunal as announced this week. That is a matter for the government and is subject to the consensual decision making mechanisms built into the GPA.

Media reforms have been totally stalled, POSA and AIPPA remain on the Statute books, senior appointments made without consultation and agreement in terms of the GPA have not been rescinded and politically motivated violence continues. We have evidence of new militia camps and the clandestine deployment of military units and personnel to the districts to direct a campaign of political violence. I was personally warned last week by a senior Zanu PF person that the hard liners are arming themselves and we must be careful.

Zuma and his colleagues cannot say they do not know this. Since the early part of this century, the South Africans have deployed intelligence agents to Zimbabwe and have a well oiled system of double agents in the CIO and other State agencies. They know this is going on, they know this is in direct violation of the GPA; they have no place to hide on this issue.

In the meantime we struggle on with what we have – tax revenues have climbed though the 100 million a month ceiling and the maize crop is running out – from next month we will have to import the majority of our needs. Failure to meet key benchmarks and to sign agreements such as the Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement with South Africa , are holding up lines of credit from across the globe and the region. Our leading friends in the world community are understandably cautious and reticent about helping us until we deliver on these key issues.

The Zanu PF argument that our economic plight is the product of “sanctions” is pure claptrap and in any event such sanctions that we do face are the direct result of either Zanu PF violations of human rights and norms or our failure to meet our obligations in financial and economic terms. In many ways they are self imposed and therefore can only be removed by putting our affairs in order and starting to live and work in accord ance with the very standards we have espoused in previously agreed protocols and international agreements.

Eddie Cross
Harare , 6th September 2009