Zimbabwe - A letter from the diaspora (February 2008)
The one thing we can be sure of is that Robert Mugabe will unleash even more violence on Zimbabweans in the next few weeks. We have seen it already in the brutal attack on the top members of the PTUZ, the alternative teachers' union, for distributing fliers protesting at the parlous state of education in the country. Some 8000 teachers have left the country since the beginning of the year and now teachers are once again in the frontline, the perceived enemies of the state in the same way that whites were once declared by Mugabe to be the enemy within, to be made, he said, to tremble with fear. In the rural areas, teachers are traditionally polling officers and Mugabe has once again unleashed his thugs to beat them up; presumably in the belief that anyone capable of independent thought must be pro-MDC. Is it any wonder teachers leave the country and that our education system is in ruins?
This week we had the official Central Statistical Office announcement that inflation has lifted off into the stratosphere at 100.000%. Mugabe has no solution; violence is the only weapon left in his armoury. His Price Controls have failed to tame inflation, his minions at RBZ continue to print useless Zim dollars thus driving up inflation even higher and his army and police force all have to be paid more and more to keep them doing his dirty work of brutalising the population. But Mugabe will still celebrate his 84th birthday with a $3 trillion birthday party and no doubt his usual tirade against the Brits and anyone else who dares to question his right to govern in perpetuity because he won our freedom he will tell us - again.
The question I often ask myself is why would anyone in their right mind vote for Mugabe and Zanu PF when all around them they see the evidence of a government that has totally failed to govern? What exactly would they be voting for; another five years of poverty and desperation, a future without hope for themselves and their children? There is a generation of 'born frees' who have known nothing but Zanu PF's misrule, surely they want something different? Even if we see a 'reformed' Zanu PF without Mugabe at the helm, do Zimbabweans really believe that life will get better for them? To me the label 'reformed' Zanu PF is a contradiction in terms; it's rather like the desperate apartheid government back in the eighties promising a reformed apartheid state as the way forward for South Africa. The truth is that Zanu PF cannot be reformed, whatever Thabo Mbeki and western diplomats may want to believe. It is for the people of Zimbabwe to demonstrate to Africa and the rest of the world that they want real change, not some cosmetic adjustment that satisfies no one but the international power brokers.
An example from the international scene serves a very useful lesson here. In Pakistan's recent elections, Mushareff's party was clearly defeated but the US and UK are pressuring the electoral winners to allow Mushareff to stay in power; not because it reflects the will of the Pakistani people but because it suits the western agenda to have a man they regard as an ally in the 'war on terror.' In Zimbabwe too, it will suit the international backers of Simba Makoni to have a new, 'reformed' Zanu PF in power. A|pparently, they believe that Simba Makoni, the onetime Minister of Finance in Mugabe's government, can fix Zimbabwe's shattered economy. It's hard to understand why they think that when we all know that Makoni was a part of the old Zanu PF that caused all the mess in the first place… and to quote his own words, he is not against Robert Mugabe, not against Zanu PF. My question remains: Where exactly does Simba Makoni stand? What are his true intentions should he happen to win the presidential election? Which party will he turn to since he has no party structure of his own? These are urgent questions that need to be answered before Zimbabweans cast their precious votes.
16th February 2008
At Independence in 1980, we trusted Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF to do what was right for us as a nation. We, the people, gave Robert Mugabe the power that he has enjoyed for twenty-eight years. One of the hardest truths for Zimbabweans to accept is that our trust was misplaced. We look around and see a nation tearing itself apart. We no longer know who to trust; Mugabe has succeeded in turning what was once a trusting - some would say naïve - and united people into a fractured collection of individuals who can no longer be sure who to trust. We have lost faith in each other and in our leaders, traditional, political and even religious. Mugabe and Zanu PF have almost destroyed the moral fibre of our society.
We have repeatedly been told by Mugabe and his followers that the only thing that counts is loyalty to the ruling party, anything less is betrayal. MDC supporters and anyone else who dares to think differently are branded traitors. 'Vatengesi,' sellouts scream the likes of Joseph Chinotimba. According to the ruling party, liberation credentials are still the only criteria of the true patriot. That is the Zanu PF mantra, the very basis of their belief that only they are entitled to rule Zimbabwe through whatever crooked means they choose. How else can they claim as they did this week that they are 99.9% certain of winning the elections!
Enter one Simba Makoni. As Eddy Cross remarked this week, 'He has a very nice smile' to which I reply, 'Beware the smile on the crocodile!' Where was Makoni during Murambatsvina? Where was he when MDC leaders were being beaten to a pulp? Where was Makoni when the brave women and men of Woza were arrested and beaten for handing out roses on Valentine's Day or when the police repeatedly misused their powers against the NCA to prohibit any form of demonstration? Where was he when our economy was diving into free fall, when education and healthcare were being destroyed? Where was Makoni when the press was being muzzled and all dissent was being crushed?
I can no longer afford to travel regularly to London for the Vigil but I understand that Zimbabweans toy-toying outside Zimbabwe House are divided in their view of Makoni's entrance onto the presidential contest. Some are saying that it's a brave move, he's an honest man and that they might vote for him - if they had the vote that is. Some of these Zimbabweans have been away from the motherland for a long time and may not even be Citizens any longer. They seem to have forgotten that the Zanu PF government of which Makoni was a part was responsible for that piece of disenfranchisement.
What Zimbabwe desperately needs now is hope! Night after night on SW Radio Africa we hear the voices of Zimbabweans inside the country, full of despair that things will ever get better. Eternal Suffering for African People seems to be the only way forward. Zimbabweans have lost faith in politicians or the possibility that elections can change anything. They have resigned themselves to lives of unending misery and struggle. Every phonecall and letter I receive from home tells the same story: it is hopeless, how can we go on like this?
This week I received a letter from my old hometown, a small place, not what you would call a hub of activity but it has a bank, a post office, a few trading stores even a hotel and, of course, the inevitable bottle stores. This little town is the centre of what the ruling party likes to believe is solidly Zanu PF territory but even here there is widespread disillusion with Mugabe and the ruling party. Maybe this is the sign of hope that we have all been waiting for?
I was in Zimbabwe in 2002 and I recall the inspirational speech Morgan Tsvangirai made before the results were announced. ' The power is in your hands' he said. 'This election is about the choice between hope and despair…' That was six years ago and as we all know the vote was stolen and the people's voice was silenced. Now in 2008 things are a hundred times worse for the people. Will their voice be silenced again or will Robert Mugabe even at this late hour find it in his heart to listen to and abide by the will of the people? The signs are not good; The Zimbabwean this week reports that Mugabe has already told SADC that he will not accept an MDC victory. He says it will be tantamount to allowing Gordon Brown to rule Zimbabwe by proxy. Someone really should tell the old man that Gordon Brown needs Zimbabwe's problems like he needs a hole in the head – he has quite enough problems of his own in the UK!
The entrance of Simba Makoni , a onetime Finance Minister in the Zanu PF government, into Zimbabwe's electoral battle has excited political analysts into a frenzy. Here in the UK just about every newspaper carried the story and the independent press in Zimbabwe has been similarly vocal. For myself, I admit that my first reaction was profoundly sceptical; is this just another Mugabe ploy designed to fool the opposition - or is it a genuine sign of hope that at last someone has found the courage to challenge Mugabe from within party ranks. Zanu PF claims that Simba Makoni has expelled himself from the party by daring to challenge the President. Joseph Chinotimba, the onetime Security guard who was responsible for the reign of terror on the farms has described Makoni as a 'sellout' and we all know what that means. The Herald, that toadying Zanu PF mouthpiece, was its usual vitriolic self while the Mutambara faction of the MDC is apparently mulling over whether to throw in their hand with Makoni. At last we now know that the Tsvangirai MDC will participate in the elections with Morgan Tsvangirai as their Presidential candidate.
Is Zimbabwe the next Kenya? asks a correspondent in this week's Financial Gazette published in Harare yesterday, Thursday 31.01.08.
With just fifty-six days to go until Zimbabwe's own elections, it is a question that desperately needs to be asked - if only to make us all fully aware of the dangers that lie ahead for Zimbabwe. We know that Mugabe's sole motive is to remain in power at all costs but it is hard to see how exactly he or the ruling party would benefit from the total breakdown of trust between ethnic communities and the ensuing violence that Kenya has experienced following rigged elections. But we also know that anything is possible, given the meglomania of the ruling party and its leader.
This morning comes the news that the UN Secretary General is himself flying to Kenya to support Kofi Annan in his efforts to bring the two warring sides together. The list of African luminaries in the country reads like an African Who's Who; with such pressure on the Kenyan leaders there must surely be a solution? If all these VIP's leave the country with no agreement in place,' Kenya will be set on a slippery slope towards a full-scale civil war' (Sam Akaki). The latest figures show that some 850 people have died already and hundreds of thousands are internally displaced. There has been a marked decline in the killings while the negotiations are underway and Kenya holds its breath awaiting the outcome of the talks. Kibaki and Odinga hold their country's future in their hands; the question is will they have the vision, the patriotism to put Kenya first before their own personal ambitions and pride?
How can we prevent this catastrophe happening in our own country when we know that all the rigging mechanisms for our own elections are already in place? In addition, the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy and the resulting poverty and desperation of the population make the likelihood of violent inter-ethnic clashes even stronger. While western commentators continue to describe Kenya's collapse as ethnic in origin, the truth is that the root of the problem lies in the political stalemate brought about by fraudulent election results. Sam Akaki, quoted earlier, the Director of Democratic Institutions for Poverty Reduction in Africa stated this very clearly in a Letter to The Guardian on 30.01.08 when he said, ' The only long-term solution lies in establishing who actually won the elections. This can only be achieved through fresh elections administered by an independent election commission and supervised by international observers. It is only then the violence will stop.'