The Street

I had been in a meeting for an hour, came out of the front door and found a bunch of street kids hanging around the entrance. They recognized me and crowded around asking about what was going to happen at the SADC summit and if we were likely to have an election this year as demanded by Mugabe.

I am constantly amazed at the information that these urchins of the street have at their finger tips. I used to call them collectively “Mugabe’s children” because we never used to see them in these numbers before he came to power 32 years ago. We talked for some time and they asked why the MDC did not help them, I responded that we never had any money, could not even pay our staff properly or on time. They laughed and said that Zanu PF had a lot of money.

They then talked about the new wealth of a man called Robert Mhlanga – a man who once was the pilot for Mugabe and who now lives in Sandton in Johannesburg. He is “Chairman” of Mbada diamonds, the company that represents the Mugabe family in the Marange Diamond fields. They talked about the buildings he was buying in South Africa, the lavish lifestyle and a private jet. Their detailed understanding of his activities and assets would have done an investigative journalist proud.

They knew he had done nothing to justify the new wealth and lifestyle. They understood it was patronage and corruption and they clearly understood the links with the Zanu PF leadership.

When I said that the SADC summit could be the end of the road for Zanu and we should watch the outcome very carefully, they said they used their cell phones and the internet for news. Dressed in rags and hungry, these kids were well informed, savvy and astute in their judgments. No wonder dictators the world over, fear them. Over in Luanda, in five star hotels and luxury lodges built for these occasions, hosted by one of the wealthiest men in the world, President dos Santos of Angola, the leadership in the SADC were considering just what they were going to do in yet another effort to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis.

Now in its 15th year (the crisis really started in 1998) Zimbabwe is in overtime when it comes to resolving its political and economic difficulties. The SADC is losing patience with the people who are supposed to be leading us out of the mess we are in and relieving them of their burden of responsibility for a peaceful transition back to democracy.

A year ago, in May 2011 they had read the riot act to the local leadership and demanded that we expedite the process. They repeated the mantra at a special summit in Mid Rand and then at the Luanda summit in September. In February 2012, their view was endorsed by 42 of the 44 members of the Union. They are not about to change their minds or the message – “fulfill your obligations under the GPA you signed and restore legitimacy to your elected government”.

It’s not that we have not made some progress – we have. The Security Services in Zimbabwe now understand that no one here wants them in politics. They also now understand that a military led “solution” would not be acceptable under any circumstances. This has narrowed their options and they have now ganged up with the hard liners in Zanu PF led by Mnangagwa and have been pushing hard for a political coup in the form of a forced election under unreformed conditions.

Unfortunately for them the street knows full well what they are planning and doing and so does Jacob Zuma and his colleagues. To pull off the political coup they must have the support of the SADC leadership and if it was given, there would be little that anyone could do to stop them. But I think the SADC leadership fully understands that a government elected under those conditions could never get recognition from the major democracies in the world. They know that that would not represent progress or resolve the crisis.

Once the SADC leadership has made their position clear to the Zimbabwean leadership, Zanu PF will have to consider their options. They are now very narrow – go along with the demands of the region, pass a new Constitution, reform the electoral system, open up the media and then participate in an election supervised by the region and watched by the whole world. For Zanu PF this would be tantamount to collective suicide. If they decide not to go that route, then they have to have MDC approval for any alternative and that is going to need a real climb down.

But I think that there are alternatives to Armageddon – there always are – although they will require some tough decisions. Such arrangements might be quite stable and constructive and will allow us to heal the wounds of the past 32 years while we put together our future.

And what a future we could have – just look at what we have achieved with the limited reforms made possible by the flawed GNU that came out of the GPA even with the dead feet of Zanu on the brakes:
We have seen our GDP recover from $4,3 billion in 2008, to an estimated $16 billion in 2012 – a average growth rate of over 40 per cent;
We have increased tax revenues from $200 million in 2008 or 5 per cent of GDP to $4 billion in 2012 or 25 per cent of GDP;
We have got all schools, clinics and hospitals reopened and functioning normally. Food aid to people in desperate need is down from 7 million in 2008 to 1,5 million in 2012;
Foreign trade has risen from $3,8 billion in 2008 to $16 billion this year, exports from $1,4 billion to 4,6 billion and imports (all paid for) at $8,3 billion in 2011.

Just imagine what we could do without Zanu holding us back with their retrogressive demands in the reform process and their senseless campaign of indigenisation that has frozen all new investment and fostered capital flight. Just imagine what we could do if an MDC led government controlled Marange and we could give Civil Servants decent salaries and boost State expenditure on schooling and health services.

The Street is fighting back, and we will win; it’s just a question of time and when we do, this country is going to fly.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 2nd June 2012