A Watershed Year

Few would dispute the view that 2012 has the potential to be a watershed year for Zimbabwe. The waning health of “our dear leader” puts a deadline on events as he holds onto power and influence and does not allow his own Party to renew its leadership and policies. History speaks into such situations and records that political Parties who fail to face change, eventually die with their leaders.

It was deeply moving to watch the funeral of the Czech leader Havel and to remember that this humble and intelligent man had been responsible for the events that finally brought down the Soviet Empire and brought freedom and opportunity to hundreds of millions of people. The political parties that terrorized his world for most of his life and that seemed immortal have been swept away and only dark memories remain.

Those of us who are tired of the struggle and constant conflict, tired of the economic hardships that most of us have to contend with on a daily basis, tired of the abuse by Policemen at Road Blocks, surly and un cooperative civil servants who wield their limited power with vindictive antagonism to any who might differ with them. We know it has been a tough year and that it came on top of 12 years of struggle and hardship, but we are nearly there and it’s no time to quit.

I see two possibilities in the New Year, one, which the MDC leadership terms the “Chaos Scenario”. It is clear to all but the blind that Zanu PF and their security hangers on are trying to engineer the collapse of the GPA and the GNU government. They justify this by saying that “it is not working, is dysfunctional; we are a sovereign State – it is our right to call an election to replace this arrangement with a properly elected government”.

The problem with that approach is that we in the MDC would not contest such an election. Zanu PF could not restrain itself and such an election would be violent with widespread intimidation, vote fraud, falsified counting and reporting and finally a hurried, brief swearing in for a motley collection of elderly leaders and thugs. Such a government would not be recognized by anyone, no regional leaders would accept such a government into its ranks. The international community would repudiate the new regime and impose harsh sanctions. Our pariah state would be confirmed.

The second scenario envisages that the region will stick to its guns and demand that Zanu PF follow the road map laid down by SADC leaders in 2011. This means they must allow a new constitution, new rules for elections, new staff for the IEC, SADC supervision of the whole process, an open media environment without direct Zanu PF control of the State media, and no violence. Such a road map leads Zanu PF into the abyss and they know that. I doubt they could win a single seat in such circumstances; they would cease to exist as a political force.

So what to do? They might still have a go at the first scenario – they are desperate enough, might pull it off and be prepared to live with the consequences and become a client State for the Chinese in Africa. But such a situation would be a catastrophe for the region. Millions would flee to neighboring States, economic recovery would collapse and reverse and an elite in Zimbabwe would live like kings on revenue from mines and extortion supported by a thinly disguised military Junta. Down to the wire, this is a power game. If the region allows such a scenario to play out there will be little they could do to reverse matters. None of them have the military or political will to remove such a regime the way Idi Amin eventually had to be removed by Tanzanian forces.

I am confident that the region and African leadership as a whole; are not going to allow the failing leadership of Zanu PF to commit suicide and in the process take the country with them. In ways that may not be public, South Africa will finally put its foot down and tell the Zanu leadership that there will be no deviations from the GPA road map.

When they do that, Zanu PF will immediately open talks with the MDC to engineer a soft landing. At the very least this will involve a Presidential election as soon as possible, the retirement of Mr. Mugabe and eventually the entire JOC structure. It will lead to another GNU but this time led by new leadership and no longer a divided house. This will give the young Turks in Zanu PF as well as the moderates in their present leadership an opportunity to try and rebuild the Party before the next harmonized, free and fair elections in perhaps 5 years time.

Such a compromise would be workable, give Zimbabwe a chance to show what it is made of, be acceptable to regional leaders and the international community. It’s not first prize for the democrats, but it’s not the “booby prize” either. For the weary warriors in the trenches, it is time to keep up the struggle, our victory is near, only then can we relax and enjoy the dawn of a new day.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 24th December 2011