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Sunday, 08 July 2007


A revolution that has lost its way
By Crisford Chogugudza
THE Zimbabwean political puzzle is one of the most intriguing in contemporary African politics today.
What started in earnest as a liberation project for disenfranchised and brutalised people has turned into one of the most demonic tyrannical nightmares in recent memory.
In 1980, when Zimbabwe obtained its independence from Britain, there was a lot of hope that the country would prosper and become one of Africa's leading economic jewels.
This was never going to materialise courtesy of the self-proclaimed Marxist Robert Mugabe and his ultra-loyalists.
The fallen heroes of Zimbabwe, including Joshua Nkomo, Herbert Chitepo, Eddison Zvobgo, Ndabaningi Sithole, Josiah Tongogara, Jason Moyo, Lookout Masuku and Nikita Mangena, to name a few, must be wondering what has happened to the struggle they dedicated their selfless efforts to.
If a leadership is incapable of feeding and valuing the lives of its own people irrespective of political affiliation, then it does not deserve to represent the people.
The fast-deteriorating socio-economic status of Zimbabweans at home today is clear testimony that the revolution is coming to an end.
Today in Zimbabwe marks the beginning of the end of an era for Zanu PF and its opportunistic mantra on land reform.
The big question is: will Zanu PF fall without a fight and at what cost?
Ten to 15 years following Independence in Zimbabwe, Mugabe suddenly changed political course and intensified his rhetoric to the West against the background of fast-deteriorating grassroots support as a consequence of years of economic malaise and political mess.
Cronyism, corruption, suppression of the media and civil liberties became the order of the day. The rule of law became a luxury that the Zanu PF party and government could not afford.
The emotive land issue suddenly became Mugabe's trump card against the opposition and the gullible peasants. His opportunistic hijacking of the land issue cannot be justified but nevertheless, he has used it as an effective political tool to reinvent himself and galvanise his dwindling support.
It is only in Zimbabwe the world over where ironically the octogenarian leadership thinks they have the capacity to extricate the people from deep-rooted poverty.
While the majority of Zimbabweans support land reform, not many support the chaotic land reform of the Zanu PF type which has brought more suffering than solutions.
The major beneficiaries of this chaotic land reform are Zanu PF bigwigs, their closest associates and zealots of the kongonya/nhora dance fame.
Today many Zimbabweans are suffering in a country that once had a tremendous economic potential to outstage all other African countries in the sub-Saharan region outside South Africa.
Some analysts have said that the revival of Zimbabwe's economy will not be conceivable as long as Mugabe and Zanu PF are allowed to impose their will on powerless Zimbabweans.
The international community including multilateral finance institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and the Africa Development Bank will not support any economy that is run in a mafia style where the inflation rate has reached the stratosphere.
History has taught us that economic performance and the standard of life in general have improved in those African countries that are in transition from ultra-nationalist dictatorships to reformist liberal democracies.
The opposition which once had a huge potential to change the political landscape in Zimbabwe is gradually fading into political oblivion.
The leaders of the fractious opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party need to get their act together, repackage themselves and fight elections as a united front. There is no substitute for unity or coalition in next year's elections.
It appears there are miscalculated perceptions from the mainstream MDC (Tsvangirai) faction that it can go it alone. But the perceived Zanu PF demise may not work to its favour as the faction needs 30-40% support from the MDC (Mutambara) camp to have an effect on Zanu PF, let alone win elections.
Arthur Mutambara appears to have compromised his candidature to allow Morgan Tsvangirai to be the sole opposition presidential candidate under the banner of a united opposition for the sake of freedom in Zimbabwe.
Mutambara's extra-ordinary gesture of tolerance, flexibility and humility can only be found in great men who put country first before individual as did Joshua Nkomo in 1987.
Many who attended the Save Zimbabwe campaign rally in Dunstable, UK, recently were surprised that Mutambara did not address them alongside Tsvangirai although he was in the United Kingdom at the same time. What a sad story.
The story of perpetual opposition failure to dislodge Kenya's strongman Daniel arap Moi in the 1990s should not be forgotten.
It is a fact that the current state of the economy will be a major factor in galvanising a formidable Tsvangirai/Mutambara political onslaught which is the best strategy for confronting Mugabe and Zanu PF at next year's elections.
The people of Zimbabwe will have a clear choice between starvation and humiliation under the moribund Zanu PF regime as opposed to hope, revival and prosperity under a rebranded, united MDC opposition effort.
Under the current economic dispensation, I do not see how Zanu PF can win any free and fair election in Zimbabwe. They will be lucky to get 30% of the vote share but of course Zimbabweans know what the old man is capable of doing: manipulation of elections in his favour.
Some have asked about Mugabe's position after freedom. The people of Zimbabwe must decide what to do with him.
There is no denying that the beleaguered leader was instrumental in bringing Independence and was the power behind a lot of social successes in Zimbabwe, including improved education where the literacy rate is the highest in Africa at 90,7%.
The old man needs to bargain for his future immunity in return for voluntarily relinquishing power sooner.
It is widely assumed that Mugabe would want to go if he is assured of amnesty from prosecution for crimes against humanity. If this is true, a deal of some sort may need to be struck between Mugabe and the fractured political opposition in Zimbabwe towards that direction.
It appears Mugabe cannot realise that he has outlived his sell-by-date and that the people no longer have any faith in him. He has become the greatest liability in Zimbabwean politics today.
Ironically, the man has become very powerful and getting rid of him is no mean business.
It is worrying that removing him through democratic means (elections) has not worked because he manipulates the election machinery to his advantage every time.
He has politicised and militarised virtually all social institutions and an election victory against him needs changes of seismic proportions to succeed.
Removing him by military means is not an option either, let alone a viable option looking at the mess that was created in Iraq, and in any case the generality of the African leaders and their peaceful people would oppose this.
The only option remaining now for Mugabe's ouster is to negotiate with him and his most influential southern neighbour and ally, South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, that is if 2008 elections fail to achieve that objective.
Most importantly, if the West is prepared to build bridges with Libya, Iran, North Korea and Syria, I see no reason why they cannot do the same with Zimbabwe strongman Mugabe.
Any efforts to negotiate with Mugabe should be based on the principle of liberating a community in perpetual fear and without hope.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's policy on Zimbabwe was a disaster of grotesque proportions and unfortunately most Western leaders concurred with Blair's failed foreign policy and this created a stalemate on peace overtures in Zimbabwe.
Hopefully, new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will adopt a better, more focused, realistic and effective foreign policy on Zimbabwe.
It is not clear whether the current Mbeki-brokered talks between Zanu PF and the MDC will yield any significant results enough to change the course of the succession debate at State House.
The danger of not engaging Mugabe now is that more people in Zimbabwe will starve and die as there is no hope of him relinquishing power like Blair without excessive pressure.
In the absence of new political initiatives to negotiate a political settlement to bring sanity and a semblance of socio-economic normality, Zimbabweans will have to wait until Mugabe falls dead before there can be any real change in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is at a critical period of a once promising revolution that has dismally failed a whole generation of our people.
* Crisford Chogugudza is a Zimbabwean writing from the UK.


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