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choice is either violent or peaceful change
March 23, 2007
of violence in Zimbabwe over the past week is a sure sign of a panicking
regime desperately lashing out at its political opponents. The situation
threatens to deteriorate unless regional and international diplomatic
initiatives are hastened to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Perhaps to say
this is about a desperate regime is not accurate. The current situation
is fuelled by President Robert Mugabe whose bid to extend his term
of office to 2010 has been rejected by his own party. He therefore
believes violence might secure him extended political tenure.
One thing is
clear though. Mugabe has no intention of stepping down on his own
any time soon for a number of reasons.
His own explanation
is that Zanu PF is currently divided over the succession issue and
needs him to face the opposition. This is a crisis of his own making
for he has not put in place a succession plan or created an environment
in his own party that would allow for the emergence of a new leader.
real reason for his refusal to step down appears to be his fear
of prosecution for human rights abuses perpetrated against innocent
Zimbabweans since Independence in 1980. These include the Matabeleland
massacres, the violent land invasions that saw hundreds of white
commercial farmers and black opposition activists killed, and the
Murambatsvina atrocities which the United Nations report recommended
should be referred to The Hague. And he continues to add onto these
crimes through the current round of violent attacks on opposition
Playing on Mugabe’s
mind must be the recent Charles Taylor incident, the death of Nicolae
Ceausescu and the recent events in Iraq. Thus, the main reason for
staying in office is not because he has a vision of a better Zimbabwe
under his leadership but that the office offers him protection from
prosecution for human rights abuses. For the sake of progress, Zimbabweans
might have to consider guaranteeing him immunity under certain conditions.
have already suffered long enough and there is no price too high
to pay for peace. They will have to choose between continued violence
and pardoning Mugabe if he leaves office now. This demands political
maturity and the international community will have to take a cue
immunity be extended to all his close associates? This could be
worth considering in exchange for full disclosures of all documented
human rights abuses.
It is important
to realise that unless this is done, Mugabe is prepared to use violence
against all Zimbabweans calling for change towards a more democratic
dispensation. Zimbabweans must pay the ransom so that they are freed
from Mugabe’s violent clutches.
another chance to live and dream again and only Mugabe and those
whose fortunes are wedded to his stand in the way. Mugabe has nothing
to lose and is prepared to take down the country with him but he
must not be allowed this evil scheme.
gone, we can then contemplate the future and its challenges. As
part of the transition to a new Zimbabwe, we will have to draw a
line in the sand and ensure that we don’t allow another Mugabe to
emerge from our midst. An all-party negotiated constitution along
the South African model which is rights-based would be a necessary
building block for a new Zimbabwe.
It is instructive
that so far violence, as a political tool has worked perfectly for
Mugabe. The current round of violence is partly intended to divert
attention away from calls within Zanu PF for him to step down.
Mugabe has orchestrated
the violence against the weak and divided Movement for Democratic
Change as a way of focusing his divided party on a perceived outside
enemy. Mugabe hopes that the factions in his party will buy into
this gimmick and rally to his call to eliminate an ineffectual opposition
and help him purchase a few more years in office.
is also intended to send a clear message to those within his party
who are opposed to him that they could face similar treatment from
his band of hired thugs.
It appears that
for the moment the two factions opposed to Mugabe are not taken
in by his diversionary tactics. They have woken up to the fact that
he is using them to achieve his personal goals. They are realising
that there is no national purpose to be served by Mugabe’s selfish
political survival project.
indication last week that he wants to run in 2008 is another tactic
meant to force his enemies within Zanu PF to fall into line and
campaign for him under the threat that if he loses so will the party.
In that regard,
calls by British Prime Minister Tony Blair this week for more action
against Zimbabwe plays into Mugabe’s hands and forces his protagonists
into an uncomfortable corner with him.
It is now common
cause that two powerful factions have emerged within Zanu PF which
want to see him leave office. These factions take the kudos for
defeating Mugabe’s 2010 project. There is also a faction which supports
The more powerful
of these is led by retired general Solomon Mujuru whose wife is
one of Mugabe’s vice-presidents. A year ago this faction was on
the ascendance but has clearly fallen out of favour as evidenced
by Mugabe’s attack on Mujuru’s ambitions during events around his
of the moment is the Emmerson Mnangagwa-led faction which suffered
a major reversal of fortunes following the Tsholotsho incident in
2004. Now Mugabe is making this faction believe they are his preferred
heirs as a way of dealing with the Mujuru camp.
It would be
political folly for the Mnangagwa camp to get false comfort from
Mugabe’s political embrace. He will dump them as soon as they become
a real threat and once he is secure again. Politics in Zimbabwe
is about Mugabe and nothing else.
And Mugabe has
his own faction fighting for his survival in the top echelons of
the army, the police and the intelligence services. It must be noted
however that there exist deep divisions within the middle and lower
ranks of the uniformed forces which mirror the three factions in
Two things are
instructive as Zimbabweans ponder the way forward.
The first of
these is that the defeat of Mugabe’s 2010 project was delivered
by forces for self-serving change within Zanu PF and had little
to do with pressure from the opposition or the international community.
Also, the weakness
of the opposition MDC, unfortunate as it is, removed an outside
threat to Zanu PF, focusing the party on internal dynamics. The
factions have since realised that Mugabe is the problem.
to the fact that Zanu PF’s internal dynamics might be key in finding
a way out of Zimbabwe’s crisis and that the MDC might not be the
place to look for relief. While this is an unpopular view, it is
a pragmatic one informed by the current weakness of the MDC and
the potential offered by progressive forces in the ruling party.
is the realisation that Zimbabwe’s problems are far bigger than
Zanu PF and the MDC put together. We need to disabuse ourselves
of the notion that talks between the MDC and Zanu PF will solve
A durable solution
requires getting a broad section of Zimbabweans talking to each
other about their problems and structuring the future together.
This is clearly not a winner-takes-all strategy but a process of
negotiating how Zimbabwe’s future is going to be ordered. For this
project to have wider purchase, trade unions, the churches, business
and all other civic society players will have to be involved.
needs from the region and the international community is an honest
broker who commands respect from all players. Zimbabweans have become
so polarised that it would be difficult to find anybody internally
to play this role.
needs to be a realisation that we need to talk to each other, followed
by agreement on the things to talk about. The latter appears daunting
but should really be the easiest because Zimbabwe is sick and needs
We need to tear
up the Lancaster House constitution and start afresh in fashioning
a progressive rights-based founding law.
We would then
need to agree on an electoral law and the rules of engagement and
invite the international community to help in running a democratic
election whose outcome would form an important bedrock for the future.
We would need
to put in place a process to rebuild key national institutions such
as parliament, the army, the police force and intelligence.
The people would
need to be given reasons to believe in their power to elect and
Our recent past
tells us that we have lost our humanity and respect for each other
and we need to define who we are. Our national psyche has been poisoned
by Zanu PF discourse and we need to cleanse it and rebase our norms
We need to confront
the ghosts of our recent past and decide how we deal with them in
a fair and just manner so that they don’t revisit us in the future.
We are where we are largely because we failed to deal with troubling
issues around our war of liberation which have all come back to
Talking of peace,
justice and reconciliation will find few takers among the hardliners
in the opposition and the ruling party. But we should refuse to
have extremists on both sides dictate a winner-takes-all and narrow
political agenda to the nation. Zimbabweans have been brutalised,
dehumanalised and need political maturity and not grandstanding
from their leaders. Indeed, Zimbabweans desperately need a visionary
political approach realises that while the MDC has played a significant
role in confronting Mugabe’s dictatorial regime, it is far from
ready to govern.
On the other
hand, while cognisant of the fact that Zanu PF is largely responsible
for our current predicament, there are good people in the ruling
party who are prepared to play a role in fashioning a new Zimbabwe
if they re-organise their leadership and party structures. They
need clear policies and a programme of action.
Apart from simply
wanting to dislodge Mugabe and grab power, none of the Zanu PF factions
has shown they can be trusted to govern on their own. Thus a new
Zimbabwe will have to be the outcome of a collective and consultative
quote from Brutus in Julius Caesar is very pertinent in our current
circumstances: "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken
at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their
life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are
we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose
Indeed, we face
a choice between violent or peaceful change and we need to make
the right choice for the future of our country.
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