A Warning to the Hardliners

In recent months, as the pressure from regional leaders has intensified and the health of the President has deteriorated, the hardliners in government and in the security services have intensified their efforts to stop the GPA process and stage a political coup in the form of a snap election that they could manage and control. In the past ten days this has manifested itself in a series of Politburo meetings where tempers have flared and harsh words have been spoken.

These hardliners need to be reminded that they face two possible scenarios, both of which would represent Armageddon as far as they are concerned and by their very actions they are increasing the chances of one of these materializing.

The first would transpire if the President was to die in office. In those circumstances the two Houses of the National Assembly (Parliament) would sit as an electoral college and elect a President to serve the remainder of the Presidents term of office. There is no doubt in my mind that only one candidate has any chance of being elected under those circumstances and it's not Mnangagwa. Zanu PF would have to nominate the potential candidates under the terms of the GPA and there is only one person that the Electoral College would elect.

That person would then have several months to build themselves up as the candidate for Zanu PF in the 2013 Presidential elections and to try and restore some semblance of acceptability for Zanu PF to the national electorate. The new President would control the Zanu PF Congress and would be in an unassailable position in any election inside Zanu PF. Nationally that person would be the best candidate for Zanu PF, certainly better than any of the clowns who are presenting themselves for the post at present.

The Presidential elections would take place under regional supervision and I have no doubt that Tsvangirai would be elected by a substantial majority. If the hardliners manage to stop the completion of the constitutional reform process, then Tsvangirai would come to power with all the considerable powers of Mugabe, carefully nurtured over the past three decades by the very people who would then find themselves at the mercy of an all powerful reformer.

If they force through the kind of Constitution they are trying to get agreed at COPAC then they will still have to face a new President with very considerable powers and centralized authority. In either case there would be two immediate consequences. The first is that the people may well take matters into their own hands and take retribution against those who committed Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina and the general violations that have characterized the behavior of the regime managed by these same hardliners.

If that is not bad enough, the hardliners have to know that we in the MDC have kept detailed records of every violation of our rights and the abuse of the people. We have all the facts and evidence to press charges against several thousand thugs and worse and many of the most senior leaders responsible could face the Hague. The new President, backed by a large majority of the people, unencumbered by any agreements or restraints could take action against the men and women responsible for the mayhem that has gripped this country for decades. The corrupt would have their assets stripped from them and used to repair the damage they have done to the country.

The second form of Armageddon that the hardliners face could come about just as easily - they will not deter regional determination to see a free and fair election held here in 2013. They will have to accept a new Constitution, a new Electoral Act, new voters roll, reformed media and security sector and an election campaign and voting supervised by the region as a whole.

Under these circumstances their access to the diamond millions, control of the guns, grip on the State media and the capacity to intimidate and control the population in the rural areas, will be of no use to them. Whoever they put up as their candidate for President or any other seat in the House of Assembly, would be defeated and it is most likely that MDC (T) will emerge with at least a two thirds control of the lower House and the Presidency.

Under such circumstances the temptation to take the law into their own hands would simply be too great for the people of this country who have suffered at the hands of the Zanu PF hierarchy; it would be payback time. In my view most of the leaders of Zanu PF would be well advised to leave the country for their own safety.

The new Government would be able, without restraints, to change the constitution, reform our society and the Civil Service and make the security services totally accountable to the democratic structures of the country. Prosecutions would follow and believe me we have a lot of past injustice, corruption and abuse of power to deal with before we can really say that justice has been done and we can get on with our lives.

In my view, the hardliners have only one real option open to them and this window is closing rapidly; that is to negotiate now for a second GNU, this time in the form of a cohesive and functional Government under democratic leadership in the form of a President elected in a fresh poll where Zanu PF puts up a new candidate to lead the Party. They must accept that it is simply no longer possible to imagine Mugabe as a serious candidate for the Presidency.

They clearly would have to accept from the very beginning of any such process that this will require that they relinquish power to a new President and that he or she is unlikely to come from their ranks. It is the end of the road for them and they must now negotiate, while they have some influence and capacity, a dignified exit and retirement.

Statements like 'I am ready to Govern' (Mnangagwa) and 'I will defeat Mugabe in any future election' (Welshman Ncube) are just exercises in fantasy - there are only three players on this pitch in reality and one is already in the departure lounge.

The people of Zimbabwe are peace loving and only want to be left to make their own way in the world, but they should never be taken for granted. By trying the patience of the people with their futile infighting over the carcass of Zanu PF, their refusal to give the people what they want in a new Constitution and new national dispensation, the hardliners risk everything; their own safety and security and the security of their families. They put at risk their legacy as leaders and are now faced with hard decisions.

It is not too late to do the right thing. Their future is still in their hands, but not for much longer.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 18th May 2012