Mugabe, the West, and “servile” Zimbabweans

I’ve always found it baffling when people (particularly westerners,) discover with shock and a degree of condescension that Mugabe has, and dare I say it, remains deeply beloved by many a Zimbabwean. Fact; the quality of life of the majority of my countrymen downright plummeted during and since our colonization by the British. Oh please, you really want to tell me you believe that hogwash about how colonization brought the three C’s (civilization, commerce, and Christianity) to us in 1890? My ancestors, first the Munhumutapa, and then the Ndebele andRozvi empires did more foreign trade (mainly with Arab merchants and other empires) before colonization than they did since. We’ve always been deeply religious (much more so than we are now–thanks to Western Christendom for creating a schism between our way of life and faith). As for civilization, I’m not even going to address that; it’s nothing but anti-African propaganda, enough said.

No, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going on a blame me everything on West rant. I see major blind spots in many westerners opinions about Zimbabwe, I’m just pointing them out.
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Need I say more?…

BBC interview

Welcome to our readers coming over from the BBC. Analysts and pundits across the board are now firmly confirming the assertions I make in the interview. See this and this.

One of the hottest issues I am being asked about is the issue of hope; is there hope for Zimbabwe? I think this is one of the most overlooked aspects to this whole thing. People are desperately pining for a better Zimbabwe. With the nation in shamble as it is, there can only be hope. The impetus behind the people who were out on the streets on Sunday isn’t exclusively about what is going on in the country today; it is in large part about what Zimbabwean hope and know our nation can and will become tomorrow. The reality long sunk in that Zimbabwe has little to offer today, but we remain inspired by prospects of a better Zimbabwe tomorrow. There is a lot of hope in Zimbabwe, it’s all people can have.

For those of you not in the know, I did an interview with BBC’s Chris Vallance yesterday;

Q – What’s behind the latest crackdown?
It’s fear. The last two weeks have been absolutely horrendous for this regime. They are now faced with a reality they never thought they’d face; people willingly walking into the paths of their vicious police. Now that they’ve tortured the MDC leadership this early in the game, the government has ironically upped the proverbial ante. Tsvangirai and Mutambara have nothing left to fear having been deep into the dredges of Zimbabwe’s hellish torture system and come back from resolute to continue with their protest for a better Zimbabwe. In the past, people feared public demonstrations because they felt they were being used as political pawns by leaders who didn’t want to endure the the wrath of the police on their own. Tsvangirai and Mutambara have, because of this incident gained more credibility with people. Look for this incident to spawn of more the same kind of protest.
Q – Have you noticed a change in the public mood lately?
The thing that I’m constantly hearing of is tension. There is a palatable unrelenting tension across the country. We’re sitting on a knife’s edge. Imagine waking up one day only to see police armed up to the teeth patrolling your neighborhood indiscreminantly assaulting people and then never going away. This what many poor, unarmed, peaceloving Zimbabweans are enduring.
Q -How do you think this situation will play out?
The MDC leadership have already announced that they will be going back on the streets to the people to ask for the people’s help in hastening the process towards a better Zimbabwean. I’m of the opinion more people will come out and start working on a better Zimbabwe because the state of the nation is beyond deplorable. Even when this government isn’t shooting at unarmed demonstrators or mourners at a funeral, innocent people are still dying. Almost 40 people were killed when a state owned train collided with a bus, don’t you think someone in government could responsibility for some kind of role in this? As for the rest of the world, they will continue to ignore our plight because we don’t have any oil to offer Western powerhouse and because Mugabe remains a demigod to many African leaders today.

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ITV stealth report: fedup in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe; cracks, fissures and discontent all around.

Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe turned 83 a week ago. While he celebrated at a lengthy gala in Gweru which was forced on residents and school children there, police issued a repressive ban on rallies and demonstrations in Harare. The ban, the regime’s latest measure at calming an incessent tide of anger, is evidence that there are deep cracks and fissures in the nation’s foundations as Eddie Cross notes;

The situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated sharply in the past few days. The government has imposed a ban on public meetings, the strikes are continuing with the State run hospitals now completely paralysed, Doctors and Nurses refuse to go back to work. The Universities are due to open on Monday but staff is on strike and there are no signs of compromise. Students plan to join the strike on Monday in support of their lecturers and demanding attention to the stark conditions under which they are living. The ZCTU has announced a national strike in a month’s time and the State Security Minister has threatened them with dire action.

Now a form of curfew is being imposed on the high-density townships across the country in an effort to bring the situation under control. These are clearly signs of panic in the realms of government.

Tomorrow should be the start of a 4-month freeze on prices and wages – however I understand the proposal has been abandoned as being simply unworkable. No statements are forthcoming from the authorities and to say the least, there is considerable confusion in business and Union circles. The Governor of the Reserve Bank speaks of a ‘Social Contract’ but none exists.

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Eddie Cross: How long?

How long, oh Lord?

Perhaps this has been the most common question that I have been asked in recent weeks. People look at me anxiously and hope for an indication that things are not as bad as they seem and that there is some hope that this long nightmare might end.

That is a tough question – perhaps because there is no answer. The truth of the matter is that we might wake up tomorrow morning and find that everything has changed. The reality is however, that change is not likely to come very soon and it is how we manage that bit of information that matters.

Let’s just review the overall situation that confronts us right now.

It is now certain that 2007 is going to be much worse than 2006. Inflation is going to be higher, the economy will almost certainly shrink – for the 9th year in a row and the flood of economic refugees into other countries will, if anything get worse. Shortages will be more widespread and this will
create additional problems for those of us who live here. I predict that the coming agricultural season will be much worse than in the past year. Output across the board will be lower – without exception.

Then there is the situation in Zanu PF. Mr. Mugabe is no longer functioning effectively as Head of State – he is working very short hours and for whatever reason is already in a state of semi retirement. He has moved to his new home in Harare and goes into the office late in the morning
returning home before midday. Few people are seeing him and it is clear that government is confused and divided – no strong central direction is apparent. Everybody is doing his or her own thing.

Then there is the succession debate. Rumors abound about Mugabe’s future plans – they all point to him stepping down and it would appear from our sources that the debate on whether to allow him to remain President until 2010 has been quashed. It would appear to us that he is now committed to
retirement in March 2008, if not sooner. A recurrent Zanu PF nightmare is that he might become incapacitated sooner than March 2008, leaving Zanu unprepared for the succession battles that will follow.
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Eddie Cross: The responsibility to protect

For almost all of the 20th Century, a basic dictum of international diplomacy was “non interference in the internal affairs of other States”. Even today, Mugabe angrily denounces all attempts to even discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe at international gatherings as “interference in our internal affairs.” At the SADC summit last month he stormed out of that gathering and flew home 24 hours early when leaders insisted that the Zimbabwe situation be discussed in a closed session.

Today in Darfur the international community faces a fresh challenge – the Sudanese government is flatly refusing to allow more effective UN surveillance of the situation in Darfur and is continuing to try to subjugate the people of Darfur by means of armed force using both State resources and informal armed forces. The international media is still allowed into the Sudan and so we can see for ourselves the effects of this situation on the ordinary men and women of the western region of Sudan. We can see the refugee camps, the fresh graves; hear the stories of those whose lives and rights are being abused by a dictatorial Islamic regime.

In recent times the issue of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States has come under scrutiny. People are questioning the dictate and saying that where a government is threatening the fundamental human and
political rights of its people, the international community has the responsibility to act in solidarity with the poor and defenseless. So today we are seeing really tough talk at the UN about Darfur and we are also seeing more and more prominent people from all walks of life saying that the international community has the responsibility to interfere.

In southern Africa we have been there as well – both the Rhodesian and South African governments used the dictate to argue that outsiders had no right to interfere. But eventually, the gravity of the crisis and the threat to the
stability of the region persuaded those with power to take action. In both cases the international community appointed a “point man” to take responsibility for coordinating and directing the resolution of the crisis. In both cases they were successful. Henry Kissenger was the point man on Rhodesia and Margaret Thatcher the point “man” for South Africa.

What happened after their intervention was critical, but it was their (often unsung) actions that actually broke the logjam and made all else possible. If you had told me that South Africa would go through the process that led
to the 1994 elections without serious violence and upheaval – I would have said you were nuts. But it happened and the key element was a carefully planned and executed political action backed by the threat of the use of
power. Such threats are only credible when they are real and can be backed up by action if needed.

Today it is 30 years since Henry Kissenger flew into South Africa and held talks with a team of Ministers led by Ian Smith at Union Buildings in Pretoria. He came with a plan agreed by key African leaders and the backing
of the global community at the time. He arrived when Rhodesia was in the throes of an armed struggle with the armies of Zanla and Zipra who were demanding one-man one vote (democracy). 150 000 men were under arms and the
ordinary population of the country was being brutalized by all sides. The economy was in dire straights and there was no end in sight for the conflict. There were fears the conflict might spread into South Africa itself. Smith was totally in charge and even the South Africans were wary of taking him on politically.

Kissenger persuaded the South Africans that there was no future for Rhodesia under Smith. That backing the Smith government was not only a waste of South African resources but was having a negative impact on the survival and prosperity of South Africa itself. He was well prepared and the US had used its considerable intelligence capacity to ensure that he could argue this case with some force and conviction.

Kissenger sympathized with Smith – recognised his courage and determination and even his love of the country he led. But he also understood that he was never going to win and that if the final defeat came any way other than
through negotiation, it would be a disaster. He presented his plan to the Rhodesian team and after they had debated it amongst themselves for a while, they rejected it. At that point the President of South Africa came in and
said to the Rhodesian delegation that if they walked out of that room without an agreement, he would cut off their essential supplies and all future support would cease. Smith went on to call it the “Great Betrayal” but in fact what those two foreign leaders did that day was to rescue the country from itself and open the way to a new beginning.

The Rhodesians flew home and Smith went on television 30 years ago on the 23rd September 1976 to say they had agreed to a transition to real democracy. It took 3 more years but when Zimbabwe was born on the 18th April
1980, Henry Kissenger was, in a very real sense, its father.

Today the international media are banned from Zimbabwe and unless someone has the courage and the equipment to film something clandestinely – the world cannot see what is happening here. That does not excuse leaders. They
should not require pictures to make decisions on situations like Darfur and Zimbabwe. Unfortunately very often that is the case – but it should not be so. They know what is happening – they have other resources, reports,
intelligence and their diplomats.

The crisis in Darfur is serious, but it does not compare to the situation in Zimbabwe where a criminal class is in power, is terrified of its past and is fighting to stay in control at any cost. The consequences are there for all
to see – GDP down by half, exports by two thirds, life expectancy by half in a decade, elections a sham, the media totally controlled and all forms of opposition ruthlessly put down by armed force and violence. We are a threat
to regional stability and prosperity; our economic and political refugees are drowning the social and economic systems of our neighbors. Our leadership is unrepentant – even of genocide and the mass destruction of homes and livelihoods. They are guilty of the theft of national assets and income on a scale that has not been seen in recent years in the rest of the world.

Like Burma and North Korea they have built up a military State that is able and willing to maintain itself on what remains and can continue to do so indefinitely. The only recourse of its beleaguered and embattled population is flight or a form of national “house arrest”.

The Zimbabwe situation is one that is wide open to international intervention. The failure by African leaders, the South African leadership in particular, demands that the international community itself takes a fresh look at what is going on and what can be done to get things back on track. Unlike Darfur, Iraq, Burma and North Korea – Zimbabwe is vulnerable to international action. It is a small country with limited resources – none of them really strategic, it is land locked and its neighbors hold the key to the survival of the regime.

This is a problem that can be fixed. For the sake of its people, the international community has an obligation to interfere. It does not require military intervention of any sort, just coordinated and concerted action by the leaders of democracies in Africa and abroad.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 2nd October 2006

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All is not well on the Zimbabwean Front

The mud cake thick charade that is Zimbabwe sunk to it’s lowest yesterday when Botswana’s president Festus Mogae officially opened the Harare Agricultural Show. That Mogae played along is no surprise, it is the audacity by Mugabe and his cronies in government to hold up a non existant relationship with a country that has made no secret of their contempt of Zimbabweans that is galling.

Years after independece in Zimbabweans and the batswana cultivated a famously cordial relationship. After all, most if not all residents of Matebeleland South province in Zimbabwe have lineages span across Zimbabwe and Botswana’s boarders. Many a Tswana were educated at Zimbabwe’s colleges university and returned to their home country for a job. Reciprocally, many a trained Zimbabwe established themselves in Botswana’s smaller, but much more stable economy during the first fifteen years of our independence.

So it only seemed natural when things turned sour in Zimbabwe, that a mass exodus for Botswana beginning first in the south of Zimbabwe became one of the most plied routes to “greener pastures” for desperate Zimbabweans. For a while, our neighbors in Botswana tolerated the surging influx of Zimbo’s. It wasn’t anything new, our countries had mutually exchanged people, skills and resources for much of the last 20 years. I can even remember a family vacation in Gaborone, Botswana’s capitol back in the day. And, if I am not mistaken, I remember my mother buying me my first “safari suit” outfit on that trip. Mugabe made safari suits popular to seven year old Zimbabwean boys in the mid-eighties.

After years of sustained heightened influx from their northern neighbors, the Batswana’s longsuffering patience began to run. They had watched better qualified Zimbabweans come and take their jobs and enjoy a better quality of life in their own country and had had enough. Right around 2000, word of Batswana’s targeted hostility began to leak out. Pretty soon after that it became news. Zimbabwean’s were being murdered by angry Tswana’s; Botswana was reipartriating Zimbabweans by the truckload everyday; Botswana was couping despertate Zimbabweans in inhumane animal pens for miniscule offences and the litany continues. There’s one headline that definitively marked a new era in the relations between our countries and our people; Botswana erected an electric fence to slow down the tidal wave of Zimbabweans.

Despite their best diplomatic efforts to project the new fence is nothing more than a measure to stem the spread of foot and mouth disease between cattle heards close to the boarders, Botswana’s government received several protests from their colleagues in Harare. All the while Zimbabwean border jumpers had figured out how isolate the portions of the fence long enough so that they could sneak back into what had become a promised land; Botswana. This controversy is well articulated in the PBS Wide Angle documentary Border Jumpers
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Mugabe chastizes party on corruption, succession

Apparently frustrated by his party’s penchant for a quick buck and lust for power, Mugabe bombarded his party’s top members not once but twice over the weekend. Speaking to ZANU’s central committee on Friday Mugabe lashed out at the members over corruption saying,

These cases of [members] wanting to enrich themselves are increasing in number. You are not being fair — some people are just being crookish. Zanu-PF is going to embark on a major cleansing exercise to remove those elements bent on tarnishing the image of the party by their wayward behaviour with their private and public lives.

The aged leader, did not leave any stone unturned in his long harangue. Taking a swipe at the MDC over recent violence within the party, Mugabe charged lies and violence were seated deep within the party. He contended this was something western powers refused to listen to. He alsoissued a thinly veiled threat to the MDC about their planned mass action saying he wanted police given more powers to crush such revolts. He continued saying the only way to secure power was by election.

On Saturday the Central Committee found themselves under Mugabe’s cross hairs when Mugabe characterized some of them as rabidly power hungry.

The things we hear about succession, succession, succession — zvatinonzwa zvacho, zvakaoma. Hapana zvakadaro. If I were to write books, I would write volumes and volumes of nonsensical things. Vamwe vanoenda kun’anga kuti ndinoda kuita ichi. Imi weee . . . N’anga huru is the people of Zimbabwe. Hazvina n’anga mukati izvi. (We hear lots of unbelievable stories about succession. We hear some people are consulting witchdoctors . . . but the biggest witchdoctor is the people of Zimbabwe. There is no need to consult witchdoctors.)

“If you do your work and work with the people well, the people will recognise you. Unhu hwako tinenge tichida kuti hunge huri hwakanaka.” (We want people with dignity.)

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Weekend Reading

The Muckraker, the Independent’s satirist is juicy this week. The installment lampoons the contradictions of the Mugabe regime highlighting their onesided mentality.

Muckraker also critizes Mugabe’s press secretary George Charamba, who, while writing under the Nathaneil Manheru nom de plum, savagely attacked Jonathan Moyo in a clearly tribalistic and xenophobic outburst.

It was Jonathan Moyo, the former information minister, who outed Charamba as the impetus behind the Manheru’s bitter protests against all government critics almost a year ago. Now, he finds himself, the object such an attack.

Known for his ascerbic two forked tongue, the former minister wasted no time firing back in this article carried by New Zimbabwe, one the Zimbabwean publications with a soft spot for the former minister best known for presiding over the closure of four newspapers deemed unfriendly.

Apparently unsatisfied by the the attention Moyo’s response garnered, New Zimbabwe editorial core decided to spinoff a tabloid style headline, “Charamba tried to kill wife…”

This should making for some fascinating reading for your weekend!

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