High Noon on High Street
OPINION – If this were a John Wayne movie we would be about to see the good guy walk down the main street against the bad guys who were going to confront him and to try to ambush him from the side streets and buildings. Morgan has agreed to attend the SADC summit on Monday and the stakes could not be higher.\r\n
It has puzzled us as to why the bad guys had delayed this confrontation. We now know that they had hoped to be able to spring a surprise election on the MDC rather than face the prospect of their man (Mugabe) having to face our man (Tsvangirai) in direct combat on the street. A shadowy group, listed in a fascinating article by Charamba in last weekends Herald newspaper, has been attempting to engineer a snap election using the mechanism that was put in place for the June run off that ended so disastrously for Zanu PF. More than most commentators, they had recognised the dangers to them of the SADC brokered agreement.
This attempt spluttered out when they realised that the new South African government would not tolerate that option – it was only one better than the option of a military coup and in regional terms simply not acceptable. While they quibbled and played for time, what they did not appreciate was that the ship on which they were standing was in fact sinking. The consequences of their own actions are destroying the very foundations of the system on which they rely for continued power and sustenance.
The most obvious symptom of this process is the rapid collapse of the Zimbabwe currency. Issued just three months ago at parity with the Rand and
7 to 1 with the US dollar, yesterday it traded at billions to one US dollar and there seemed to be no bottom to the pit in which it was sinking. It has become virtually impossible to trade in the local currency and I would not be surprised if people simply stop trading.
There are signs that the South Africans are at last prepared to insist on a deal on Monday. The reasons are many but in my view the following are the principle elements in this change of heart.
The first, and possibly the most important is the change of leadership in South Africa. Mbeki has been consigned to a retirement home and the new leadership – Kegalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma are hardly friends of Robert Mugabe. The new President of South Africa was the leader of a Cosatu delegation to Zimbabwe that was hauled off a South African airplane about three years ago, pushed into a minibus and driven to the Beitbridge border post where they were deported and had to be collected by a car sent up from Johannesburg.
Last week Zuma and Motlanthe both made statements calling for a speedy resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis by the completion of the process of forming a new government. South Africa is the only country in the world with the power to tell Mugabe what he may or may not do. If they decide that the time has come for a solution, a solution will be found. They are probably quite happy that such a solution was not secured under Mbeki’s watch as the two ANC groups are now engaged in their own struggle in South Africa.
The second reason is one that has been there for a long time, but has been made more relevant and pressing by recent events. It is the regional implications of the economic collapse in Zimbabwe.
Of all the consequences of this collapse, the one most directly affecting the South African government are the tens of thousands of people who are pouring over the border into the crowded squatter camps that surround every City. It is visible on every street corner and every person living in South Africa pays a price for this unwanted invasion. Given the present situation in Zimbabwe, if a deal is not reached on Monday the stream of people fleeing to South Africa will become a floodtide that could simply swamp their delicate democracy.
The next is the impact on regional business sentiment and international confidence in African leadership and enterprise. The Rand fell to 12 to 1 yesterday – losing over half its value in a few days. The stock market has also lost half its value over the past 3 months. I know the reasons for this are the international credit crunch and its consequences but it does not help to be seen in a region of possible political and economic instability on top of everything else. A deal in Zimbabwe might actually help the South Africans to defend themselves against the rising tide of global recession that now seems unstoppable.
Adding to this situation is the growing evidence of the criminal nature of the regime in Zimbabwe. We are engaged in every possible activity of a criminal nature in the region. Nothing illustrates that more than the illegal diamond trade. In recent weeks the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has been offloading raw diamonds on the international market in large quantities, these carry false certificates of origin and are from Angola, the Congo and the newly discovered Maranke diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe. The proceeds of this trade are not being returned to Zimbabwe and add to the increasing flow of funds being siphoned out of the country by a frightened oligarchy that now knows their days are numbered. This illicit trade constitutes a threat to both South African and Botswana interests as it violates the Kimberly Process.
Back home, the regime has paid the civil service for the month of October. I understand the Police were paid Z$100 000. When you know that it will take days to draw that kind of money out of the Bank and that bread is now Z$50 000 a loaf and the real value of their salaries is less than 0,000007 of a US cent, you can understand why the regime cannot rely on the military or the police for protection. Prices are doubling daily now and no one is able to survive on local currency or a salary.
So Monday may be "D" day – decision time for us and disaster time for them.
If a deal is done and we get a new government it will take a few days to appoint ministers and then get going but at least then we will at last be able to tackle the many urgent problems that we have inherited from 28 years of tyrannical and corrupt rule.