27 June 2007

Zimbabwe: Country Beyond March 2008


EVENTS on the economic and political front in Zimbabwe are moving at supersonic speed. In fact far too fast for the politically-untrained eye to keep up!

The Zimbabwe dollar has taken a heavy knock on the informal market sending prices spiralling sky high, and making life for the average Zimbabwean even more unbearable.

At the same time, the Zimbabwe government has shifted the black empowerment exercise a notch up by firstly distributing some nine hundred tractors to indigenous farmers and secondly by introducing the new empowerment legislation designed to shift the ownership of Zimbabwean public and private businesses to the indigenous players.

On the political front, as the Mbeki mediation initiative is taking place in South Africa, events in Zimbabwe have taken a dimension of their own. Constitutional Amendment number 18 is being debated in parliament and will likely become law by August. The amendment seeks, among other things, to amend section 28 subsections 3, of the Constitution hence empowering Parliament to sit as an electoral college and nominate a new president to replace the incumbent, should he die, resign or become incapable whilst in office.

In the opposition camp of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), two philosophical stand points have emerged. The Morgan Tsvangirai MDC seems bent on continuing to hammer and rely on the goodwill of the international community to usher it into power. MDC Mutambara has embraced the pan-Africanist ideology by publicly acknowledging the role played by the liberation war heroes in bringing Zimbabwe to where it is today. This pan Africanist stand point seems to have endeared him to the regional leaders in Southern Africa.

Looking far and wide, there are other players; the likes of WOZA who seem to have decided to take their participation in the struggle to the next level, if their demand to take part in the Mbeki talks is anything to go by. Dr Lovemore Madhuku, at the helm of NCA, seems to have aligned himself with the Tsvangirai faction, possibly in a strategic move to remain relevant following the constitutional debacle in the NCA. In Zanu PF itself, the 18th Amendment promises to usher in a new Zanu PF and possibly put paid to all the efforts of the opposition. By the look of things, change is definitely on its way.

Anybody familiar with the game of chess will look at the board and possibly foresee the checkmate. Chess is a game that's often been said is easy to learn, but impossible to master. How true! Like politics, becoming a better chess player requires a lot of work. Players on the political scene have to ready themselves to work. Because some are working, others procrastinating, the impending change will benefit the politician working with a vision. Here is my analysis and why I think that is so.

The Mbeki initiative is dead under water as it will not benefit either of the MDCs. The reasons are as follows. The initiative has come far too late and is moving far too slow, especially with elections around the corner. Secondly, the fact that MDC Tsvangirai is perceived by all and sundry as a western puppet on an imperial agenda, he is unlikely at this juncture to receive the support of Thabo Mbeki, let alone the regional leaders. Tsvangirai's trade union background and politics is in direct conflict with Mbeki's problems with COSATU at home. As a player on the chess board, he will not be able to call for a checkmate on Mugabe.

Professor Arthur Mutambara's MDC remains a faction that has the potential to become the central rallying point of all progressive forces. His politics have remained largely appealing to those who see beyond liberation war politics and imperial puppetry. What is required in my view is that on his part, he needs to develop his pan-African approach tied to the economic development policies as an ideology completely divorced from the MDC Tsvangirai's politics which is based on trade unionism. On how he will fare on the chess game, well, it is my contention that he has the potential to make all the right moves and become key in the game.

The queen in this game of chess is largely under the control of Zanu PF. Those familiar with the game will know that the queen is not limited in its movement. It is able to move upwards, downwards, sideways or diagonally. In other words, Zanu PF has all the resources of a governing party. Zanu PF has laws that work in its favour. For example, the residence provision in the constitution providing for the electorate to be in their constituency at the time of voting serves to disenfranchise all who have voted with their feet in the past.

One key issue that most take for granted is the land issue. Land was central to the struggle and hence an emotive issue with the people of Zimbabwe. The fact that MDC Tsvangirai seeks to redistribute land and at the same time have the likes of Roy Bennett in the MDC as a senior member is a contradiction in terms. Bennett is a former farmer himself who benefited from the legacy that took land from Zimbabweans in the first place.

We can comfortably discount the Diaspora vote in the next election. It will not happen. The reason being that Zanu PF will not allow the Diaspora to vote as it is not able to send its representatives to campaign in the UK and elsewhere due to the travel embargo on its officials!

So what am I saying? Well in the words of the ANC founding president in 1896, John Langalibalele Dube: "We have discovered that in the land of their birth, Africans are treated as hewers of wood and drawers of water", hence any political organisation that suspiciously seems to operate against this truth will be rejected by the electorate in 2008.

It is my contention that economic arguments alone are not enough to get the people to turn against Zimbabwe's liberators. In fact Zimbabwe remains largely reliant on subsistence existence; hence the economic collapse argument will not cut it. A fundamental truth that we all cannot run away from is that Mugabe will soon need to be replaced by a younger leader prepared to take Zimbabwe to the next level of the struggle, without compromising the gains thus far.

The next leader from whatever political party will need to have both the attributes of protecting the legacies of the liberation war heroes and be able to engage the International institutions (IMF, WB, EU etc) and governments on Zimbabwe's terms for its economic benefit. So whoever this player will be, he will be ushered forward on condition the king is secure and then checkmate everybody else!

Lloyd Msipa writes from London, England

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