Of the guided suicide

The deadline given by the regional community in Maputo passed on Friday without a single decision regarding the issues that are still outstanding being met.

The political agreements were signed by the three Parties to the Zimbabwe crisis in September 2007. The reason was quite clear – Zanu and the Mutambara group simply do not know what to do. If they agree to do what the region wants, they are dead in the water.

But they signed the deal, they have nowhere to go and there have been intense discussions behind closed doors for weeks now. What to do? When MDC resolved to suspend all contact with Zanu PF in the Cabinet and Council of Ministers, they reacted with glee and started talking about ‘caretaker Ministers’ and going it alone. Mr. Mugabe made a speech in the Midlands where he said that the Zimbabwe dollar would be back before the end of the year. Rumours of the Reserve Bank printing new currency were rife.

But they had underestimated the sophistication of the MDC decision and the reaction of regional leaders. They also misread the full implications of the SADC decision to divert the management of the Zimbabwe crisis to the Troika. By doing so regional leaders reduced the status of Mr. Mugabe from Head of State (at the SADC summit) to President of Zanu PF on a par with Mr. Tsvangirai and Mr. Mutambara at the meetings of the Troika.

This past week an aircraft arrived at Harare airport with tons of new local currency onboard. They tried to keep it secret but without success and we were called by people to say the consignment was at the airport. When this news found its way through the corridors in Harare speculation was widespread. The most frequently asked question was ‘why’?

Printing a new currency simply did not make sense, who would accept the new currency? It would mean a rapid and complete collapse of the already fragile economy – empty shops and no fuel. It would run the risk of a national revolt and it was doubted if the army and the police would accept the new currency. A violent reaction was probable; certainly the people did not want to see a new local currency so soon after the 2008 collapse.

There was only one logical explanation – Zanu was contemplating a UDI from the region rather than go along with what they regard as political suicide. This made complete sense – they could arrest the MDC leadership, appoint ‘caretaker Ministers’ and simply go it alone. Issue the new currency and exile Mr. Tsvangirai. That is exactly what Smith had done in 1965 in reaction to what the Rhodesian leadership regarded as unreasonable political demands by the international community.

But on reflection, even the crazies in Zanu (and there are many) would soon appreciate that Smith could contemplate such a move, encouraged by regional support from neighbouring States, particularly South Africa . Zimbabwe is a land locked State and very dependent on its neighbours. It is also a minnow – with a GDP today of less than Swaziland or Lesotho . A large army but poorly equipped and motivated. No major sponsors after China and other international States began to distance themselves from Zanu PF and its widely perceived rogue status.

Any talk of a UDI from the regional block would soon be heard in Pretoria and I have no doubt that it would be dealt with swiftly. So I do not expect to have to spend the next few weeks in a detention centre. I think the new currency will quietly go into storage at the Reserve Bank and will not be heard of again. I would guess that after a tense two weeks, the negotiators would be in discussion this weekend to decide what to recommend on the way forward on the issues to the Party leadership early next week.

MDC is not taking any chances and Mr. Tsvangirai is visiting the leadership of the African Union (past and present) this weekend. He will be back on Monday just in time to pick up where the negotiators left off and reach a deal with his colleagues in government so that they can report positively to the President of South Africa when he makes his planned visit to the country.

El Nino is once again working its menace in the Pacific Ocean . In the past month temperatures have risen 1,5 c. and the signs are all there that this is not going to be as good a season as in 2008/9. The wet season has started and all areas have had heavy rains this weekend. Parts of South Africa have had floods, but typically for an El Nino season, parts of the Cape are bone dry and drought stricken.

We are busy distributing small allocations of fertilizer and seed to a target of one million families in the rural areas. I am sceptical that this will make much difference. What concerns me even more is that the international agencies that deal with the question of food availability to the disadvantaged simply do not have the resources to do the same job they did last year.

We have millions who do not have the money to buy what food is now available, tens of thousands of elderly and orphans by the hundreds of thousands – the remnants of the aftermath of 30 years of Zanu delinquency and failure. The Diaspora plays a key role by sending money to the affected families where the links exist, but they have problems this year finding the resources to maintain the flow of money to their relatives.

Then there is the ongoing saga of the trial of Roy Bennett in Harare . This dragged on all week with Roy’s lawyers tearing holes in the prosecution and the fabricated nature of the charges becoming apparent to all. Displays of weapons that are supposed to be evidence of the arms dealing by Roy were found to include weapons from another case altogether. No evidence linking Roy to the arms was presented and the State claimed State secrecy to withhold evidence on which they based their claims.

It’s very tough on Roy and Heather and you must keep them in your prayers. Thank you also for the funds sent through to Zimfund and others to help with his defence and other needs. Just be sure to email notification of any donations so that we can personally thank you and notify the family of your support.

But in all of this, just remember what we have said many times in the past – this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon and it takes not only physical stamina but also intellectual commitment. We are in this to the finish line. Perhaps for the first time we sense this is ahead and that the final leg is going to be in the form of a guided suicide for Zanu PF. They must make decisions in the next few days that will seal their fate in the next two years, perhaps even next year.

Eddie Cross, Bulawayo , 21st November 2009