Is a Tsunami Coming?

Everyone will recall the Tsunami that followed the massive earthquake in Japan. It did as much if not more damage than the earthquake itself. One feature of a Tsunami is the phenomenon that immediately precedes the actual land fall of the waves that cause the damage. What happens is that the sea is sucked out from the beaches and leaves the ground under the normal water surface dry for what seems forever.

In Zimbabwe we might use this phenomenon to describe what might be happening right now to Zanu PF. In Zanu terms there have been several earthquakes in Zimbabwe. The first was the decision by Mbeki in February 2007 to intervene and force Zanu PF into negotiations with their arch enemy, MDC. Then the quake in March 2008 when Zanu was soundly beaten and had to scramble to falsify the Presidential vote to retain what was left of their reputation and their hold on power.

It did not end there, the subsequent AU meeting in Egypt was another aftershock when the leadership of Africa said that the conditions under which the run off was held were a step too far and that they would not recognise Mugabe as President. Forced back into negotiations, the next shock was the GPA signed in September 2008 when for the first time in over 38 years, Zanu PF lost its total grip on power and was forced to share power with the MDC.

Forced to try and recover their position, they thought they were making progress when the SADC turned on them and at the May 2011 summit, lashed out and said that they must stop filibustering the process and do what they signed up to in the GPA. Further quakes shook the Zanu PF building at successive SADC summits at Mid Rand, Luanda and then Maputo.

Economically these quakes have unleashed wild seas in the economy, the immediate reaction in 2009 was a massive recovery in the formal economy, GDP rose dramatically and the revenues to the State rocketed from less than $250 million in 2008, to just under $1 billion in 2009, nearly $2 billion in 2010 and nearly $4 billion in 2012. This surge of economic activity initially led to a sharp recovery in business activity, but the fight back by Zanu PF, fronted by its damaging indigenisation threats, led to a Tsunami like effect in the ocean that all Zimbabweans swim in. Suddenly there was no liquidity, business, frightened by the threats, took their money out of the country for security reasons, new investment dried up and local business stopped investing and spending. Suddenly the surfers were standing on dry land, bemused and isolated.

In fact what might be happening right now is a Tsunami coming in and this could take Zanu PF by surprise. How much damage it does to them depends on their ability to swim and how high the waves will be. Those loaded down with the weapons of war or treasure looted from the people, will be at a distinct disadvantage. They will sink like stones as the waters returns to their normal level.

The signs are there for all to see if you are watching closely. Last week the hardliners tried 5 times in the High Court to block the COPAC Constitutional Conference, five times the Judges threw out the application. In Mutare the High Court ruled in favor of the Anglican Church at last. Inside COPAC it seems clear that those who constitute the political wing of Zanu PF have taken charge and the draft is set to go through to Parliament, largely unaltered.

In South Africa it looks as if the challenge to Jacob Zuma is fading. In part this is due to the threats mounted by the Malema group as well as the crisis that has been created in the aftermath of the Marikana strike. Hopefully, once this is behind him, the President will again be able to tackle the lingering problems in Zimbabwe. There are signs that this is the case and that the hard liners are getting nowhere with their plans for a snap election that they can control and manipulate. In fact the current signals point to a much tougher stance by the South Africans and the SADC leadership in the near future.

Mrs. Mujuru has strengthened her grip on the political factions in Zanu PF and was clearly in control this week. That explains the muted progress at the All Stakeholders Conference and the mixed messages coming out of elements of the inclusive government. Desperation on the one side and quiet determination on the other. What might be happening at last is the understanding that only a free and fair election in Zimbabwe can deliver a government that will be acceptable to the region, have the capacity to put the country back onto its feet and restore normalcy to the general population.

For Zanu PF this would be a tsunami with all its implications, a wipe out in every sense. Just how much collateral damage would be done in the process is anyone’s guess, but to be frank, the rest of us would be glad to clear up the junk and mud afterwards. At least then we would know we can at last get down to business.

Eddie Cross
Harare, 29th October 2012