So where do we go from here?

The struggle we have fought to bring Zimbabwe back to some sort of democracy associated with the rule of law and decent, progressive Government has taken many twists and turns in the past 15 years. In 2000 we saw the start of the farm invasions and the Zanu PF fight back to retain power at all costs. In 2002 we won the Presidential elections only to be denied a transfer of power by subterfuge and direct South African intervention and duplicity.

Then we had the Tsholotsho Plot in 2004 and the attempt by Mbeki in 2005 to engineer a new national government. This failed and we saw the final collapse of the economy in 2006/8 which forced regional intervention with international support and assistance. This led to the GPA in 2007, elections in 2008 which the MDC won again and was denied power and the imposition of the 2009 GNU.

The GNU gave us a brief respite – a short lived recovery in our economy and the start of a resumption of more normal relations with the international community. It was not to last and after adopting a new Constitution (the only positive thing to come out of four years of conflict and squabbling in the GNU) we went into another election only find ourselves back at square one – an unacceptable regime back in power with an overwhelming Zanu PF majority in both Houses and another 5 years of autocratic rule by a geriatric President.

Once we had picked ourselves off the floor we were back almost where we started – the old guard in Zanu PF back in power, rent seeking and corruption back with a vengeance, further restrictions on the media and abuse of all political and human rights associated with arbitrary arrests and detentions and abductions and disappearances.

Then suddenly, elements in Zanu PF began to work on a possible plan for the future after Mr. Mugabe. Everyone knew that time was running out for the Old Man and the issue of succession was firmly on the agenda. Joice Mujuru was the front runner and was very much in charge and expected to be elected into that sort of position at the 2014 Congress.

Her opposition in the form of Emmerson Mnangagwa were not idle – they plotted and planned and began to work on an alternative plan. They canvassed the international Community, including China, they hinted at future changes in policy and statements were made that by the end of 2015, Zimbabweans would be in a different world. Encouraged by behind the scenes conversations, diplomats began to talk of engagement.

Then came the first attack – Mrs. Mujuru was suddenly under pressure on allegations of corruption. Then Mrs. Mugabe joined the fray and finally in September 2014, Mr. Mugabe joined the duo and the Mujuru elements in the Party were swept from office. It looked as if all was going to plan. The Congress became a coronation with the appointment of King Mugabe, Queen Grace and Crown Prince Mnangagwa.

At first the plan worked to script – a massive Cabinet reshuffle took 17 Ministers out of office, another 8 were targeted and changes were hinted at in the senior ranks of the security services and the Civil Service. Our newly crown royals flew off to a holiday in the Far East and spent most of the time in Hospital. When they came home, we watched with bated breath and after a brief flirtation with the future, the Old Man reemployed his iron first.

Reforms were halted, no further personnel changes were agreed, instead, a number of new Military appointments and promotions were ordered. Suddenly the practices we have seen so often employed against us in the past 20 years started to be seen again. Abductions and beatings, arrests and detentions, threats and a crack down on the State media. The brief flirtation with the Diplomatic Corps was over.

What they could not control was the economy and the actions of millions of ordinary people. The economic slide which began immediately after the election in 2013 accelerated. The stock markets fell by half, revenue to the State fell by 25 per cent and in the early flush of victory the Regime unwisely raised incomes and expenditures incurring a huge deficit in 2014 and this is going to further increase in 2015 to totally unsustainable levels.

Suddenly the ship of state is again headed for the rocks and a shipwreck looks likely. The food crisis has exacerbated the crisis and there do not seem to be any lifelines available. The Chinese are demanding changes; the European Union has drawn back and is talking tough. The US is maintaining its principled stand. Putin is bust and cannot help.

This time Zanu PF is very much on its own – the massive revenues from the Marange diamond fields have dried up and the proceeds spent or squandered. The southern African Community is not engaged and shows no appetite for yet another Zimbabwe collapse. The international Community is totally preoccupied and committed elsewhere.

In addition, where there was some semblance of Unity in 2008, the Zanu PF Party is now totally smashed and cannot be put back together. The Old Man is like a kid with a new toy, travelling continually and spending money as if it was being printed at home just for his own use. The AU Crown is the highlight of his political life and he is determined not to miss a single opportunity – the other day he flew 2000 kilometers and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars just to plant a tree in the grounds of the SADC Secretariat in Gaborone.

He is maintaining a pace that would daunt a man 30 years younger, seeming to defy gravity. It cannot last but he is determined not only to see his term completed and to then go for another 5 years in power in 2018.

For us in the democratic movement the question is where do we go from here? We are running an effective campaign against elections without reform and although it’s hurting the regime they are ignoring it and carrying on as usual. Our team in Parliament is increasingly effective and has inflicted damage on the regime in recent months. But none of this is a real game changer.

But Zanu PF is sitting on a volcano and I sense that they might be taken by surprise sometime soon. One thing I have learned in the past 15 years is that none of us really control what finally happens – we are all being swept along by the tide of history. When approaching the beach the waves get higher and more violent, what is key at that point is to row together and keep the boat pointed at the shore. MDC is certainly doing that – everyone else seems to have fallen foul of the waves. The key now is to get ready for the beach when it arrives.

Eddie Cross
Harare, 31st May 2015