Under Zimbabwe’s unity Government established last year, Robert Mugabe, who took Africa’s garden and trashed it, has retained enough power to reverse the optimistic direction the country is taking.
He and his Zanu-PF party still control the discredited central bank; the military; the police; the Central Intelligence Organisation, which is Zimbabwe’s version of the KGB; and the Ministry of Information.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who, until the formation of the unity Government was Mugabe’s great enemy and rival, has control of the Finance Ministry. Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Tsvangirai’s ally, has done the impossible: he has brought the worst inflation the world has ever known to a halt.
The remedy was simple, though extreme. Biti substituted the US dollar for the worthless Zimbabwe dollar. How worthless was it? Would you believe a currency that once had rough parity with the US dollar was trading – if you could find a buyer – for 1 billion Zimbabwe dollars to $US1? Incredibly, the Mugabe faction of the Government and Zanu-PF party members want to bring back the Zim dollar, as it was known.
Under the new set-up, the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange has reopened and is prospering. And again, shops have goods on the shelves for those who can afford them. While US dollars have circulated illegally in Zimbabwe for some time, it is unclear where they are now coming from, and what is the plight of those who have no access to them and no employment, which is much of the population.
In fact, many Zimbabweans live in a barter economy without cash. Rural people lead a desperate subsistence life, relying on perhaps a few chickens, sometimes a goat or, if relatively well off, some cattle.
Most depend on growing enough corn to feed their families and on the generosity of relief agencies, although these are often the targets of Mugabe’s thugs.
Food is power and Mugabe has used his troops, police and secret operatives to control it, starving the opposition and feeding only his political loyalists.
In the face of Zimbabwe’s tenuous recovery, there are many questions about Mugabe and his acolytes, and about Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change. Will Mugabe use his control of the military and the courts to destroy Tsvangirai’s reforms?
Mugabe likes to be the top man, even the reviled top man. His unhinging can be traced back to Nelson Mandela’s release from long imprisonment in South Africa and the deserved global acclaim he was welcomed with. Until then, Mugabe had been the golden African leader. Also he and Mandela were courting Graca, the widow of former Mozambiquan leader Samora Machel. Mugabe lost out and Mandela married her.
Too much praise for the reformers in Zimbabwe might set Mugabe off on another spree of destruction. His favourite charge – if he bothers with charges as opposed to random beatings – is treason, which is a hanging offence in Zimbabwe.
There are also questions about Tsvangirai: some of his early supporters are very critical of his conduct as Prime Minister. One critic, who does not want to be identified but who played a big role in establishing the unity Government, told me: ”He has become Mugabe’s bagman. That’s about it.”
This was a reference to Tsvangirai’s recent world fund-raising trip. He did secure minor commitments from doubting donor nations, but most want to see what happens. The money that was raised will go to humanitarian efforts, not the Zimbabwe Government.
The success or failure of financial reforms may rest on the diamond fields of eastern Zimbabwe. These were only discovered in 2006 and should have been a valuable source of hard currency for the nation. But Mugabe had another idea: he allowed the military to massacre itinerant miners and seize the mines for its own profit. This has solved a pay problem among soldiers and kept the military faithful to Mugabe. Another gift from the devil for his protege, Robert Mugabe. SOURCE