Friday, April 04, 2008

Stabbing Mugabe in the back?

When I first saw the Guardian's front page story "Mugabe: I will quit, as long as I do not face prosecution" I was extremely sceptical. Although it would, obviously, be the best thing for Zimbabwe for him to go quietly now, even perhaps for a spirit of reconciliation to blur his recent thuggery and slaughter, it's far from obvious that Mugabe would see it that way. Reading a little further down the article, however, and I think I can see what might be going on...
The source said the party was approached by senior Zanu-PF officials who said they were speaking for Mugabe and that he is prepared to resign if there are guarantees that he and senior aides would not be prosecuted.
He said there were other demands which he did not specify but the approach was being treated with caution because officials who negotiated for Mugabe in the past had offered commitments which the president had not fulfilled. The MDC wants to talk to Mugabe directly.
This looks more than a little like some freelance negotiations are going on. I've identified the twin power bases before (Mnangagwa and Mujuru) and both of them are likely to be more than a little nervous about the prospect of their pasts catching up with them - I bet there's a warm welcome for them down in Matabeleland for example, where memories of the Gukurahundi are still pretty fresh.
My best guess is that ZANU PF is split right now between those who recognise that the game is up, and want to slip away from the table retaining as much as they can - money, freedom, and safety - and those who believe that the MDC will prove vengeful in Government, and thus that their best hope is in sticking to the Old Man for as long as he's alive, and worrying about the future later. What's not certain, of course, is who's winning the argument, or how much influence Mugabe still has...
UPDATE: Incidentally, given my view that it is the army that will ultimately decide what is allowed to happen next, it is reassuring that the same article states that the MDC's leadership has also opened direct talks with the "top, top" of the army according to the source.
The source said that the military leadership is looking for "guarantees for their conditions of service" and to keep farms confiscated from whites provided they are productive. The MDC said it has no problems with those issues
. People are clinging to Mugabe only as a guarantee of prosperity and security - if he is seen to have lost the ability to provide those, he will sink very fast indeed.

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