South Africa fails Zimbabwe (again) – By Eddie Cross

It was a minor political victory for Mr. Robert Mugabe, Mr. Mbeki and the Troika. It was a major failure of leadership.

The final decision that the two main parties should share control of the Ministry of Home Affairs and that the rest of the power sharing deal should stand as agreed by Mr. Mbeki, is neither rational nor workable. It ignores the political realities in Zimbabwe, reduces the chance of success for the new Government and could lead to the total collapse of the deal if the MDC decides to reject the package.

In a rerun of the Kenyan situation where regional leaders striving for compromise, imposed a solution on Kenya that is a hydra headed monster, barely capable of walking let alone running the country, the SADC States have taken the easy route out and in doing so have run the risk of creating a failed State in Zimbabwe and unleashing uncontrollable violence and destruction.

But take it or leave it, it’s a done deal and an appeal to the AU or the UN – both themselves dysfunctional institutions, will change little. This is the end of the road for negotiations.

At this stage the future of Zimbabwe is totally in the hands of the MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai (see statement). If we accept what has been decided and go into the new government on this basis, we will be committing ourselves to a near impossible task. It will be up to us to turn the economy around, establish conditions for free and fair elections in two years time and to try and heal the country, now more deeply divided than ever.

In this exercise neither Zanu PF nor the Mutambara group have anything to offer, except to try and not be spoilers. They bring nothing to the table except failure and corruption and unrepresentative participation in the institutions of the State. Not one of the Mutambara representatives in the new government will be elected while the great majority of the Zanu representatives hold their seats through intimidation and rigging.

The problems facing any new government are staggering – GDP has collapsed to less than half of what it was 10 years ago, the local currency is worthless and cannot be used for ordinary transactions any more, thousands are dying weekly from starvation, malnutrition and disease. 95% of all teachers in the public sector are not working, 3 million children are out of school and hospitals and clinics are either closed or non-functional. Food supplies have run out and everywhere people are desperately looking for whatever food is available.

The news today that the aid agencies feeding the majority of the people will run out of food in January and are cutting allocations by half in December to try and reach 4 million of the most affected people. The dilemma of the MDC is that if they walk away from the SADC deal they will leave ordinary Zimbabweans naked in a blizzard that will offer only death or flight.

The tragedy of this situation is that Mr Mugabe and Zanu PF do not give a damn – they want the deal to fail and think that they can in fact do ‘very well’ on what is left of the Zimbabwe economy. They do not worry in any sense about the impact of the final collapse of Zimbabwe on our neighbours. They are only concerned about one thing – how to hold onto their total control of the State and thereby protect their standard of living and personal security.

The tragedy of the SADC summit is that it is clear that after all these years and numerous declarations of commitment to democratic principles and to all the recognised human and political rights, when it comes to applying those lofty principles to a real time political crisis in their midst, they mean nothing.

But that is the reality of African politics at this stage in our history. Not pretty or easy, but the stark reality.

So what do we do? Our National Council will meet this week and receive a report from the leadership together with recommendations on the way forward. It will be the most difficult decision for the MDC since we were formed in 1999. Unlike our compatriots, we care, we care deeply for the plight of Zimbabweans – all of them affected by the collapse and crisis created by failed leadership, greed and corruption.

This time the consequences of rejection of a flawed deal for our people will be immediate and terrible. Morgan stated in Johannesburg that a million people face death from starvation if the SADC brokered deal collapses. He was not exaggerating.

Eddie Cross is the MP for Bulawayo South and the MDC’s Policy Coordinator. This article first appeared on November 12 2008