Wednesday, March 28, 2007

False dawn in Zimbabwe?

A consensus appears to be building that Mugabe's days are numbered; the failure to extend his Presidential term of office to 2010 has confirmed the belief that he has lost his touch, and control of ZANU (PF), the political party he has dominated since the assassination of its founder Herbert Chitepo in 1975 (the act itself was probably carried out by the Rhodesian CIO - though the internal Zambian investigation fingered Josiah Tongogara, himself later to be killed on Mugabe's orders). This belief is joined by a feeling that this is probably all for the best; that no-one that would replace him could possibly be worse for the country than Mugabe has proved to be.
I hope they're right. I'm not entirely convinced, however. The first point to make is that, for all the press coverage he is currently receiving, Morgan Tsvangerai is by no means certain to be the beneficiary of Mugabe's downfall. The MDC is split, weakened by years of repression and abuse and desperately broke. The MDC had a chance to defeat Mugabe and bring change to Zimbabwe in 2000, and, thanks to cynical and brutal electoral manipulation and Western indifference they were unable to take it. Short of real substantial foreign intervention the MDC are incapable of replacing Mugabe directly. It may be that, given three years of a temperate political climate, they can recover as a political party, and even challenge ZANU (PF) in the elections of 2010.
That's unlikely. For the real beneficiaries of change in Zimbabwe are internal forces within ZANU (PF). For the last five or so years there have been two groups behind Mugabe, jockeying for position, and subject to seemingly capricious changes in favour. The group currently in favour is that led by Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa is a political operator with a great deal of experience: he was the first Parliamentary Speaker in Zimbabwe in 1980. He is also deeply implicated in the brutality and murder that characterise Mugabe's politics. Appointed Minister for State Security in 1982, Mnangagwa bears a great deal of responsibility for the so-called Gukurahundi in Matabeleland. This (which literally means 'the rains that wash away the chaff') was the campaign against quasi-imaginary Ndebele 'rebels' that led to the end of ZAPU, the other main African nationalist party, amid the slaughter of anything up to 20,000 civilian Ndebele. Mnangagwa, like Mugabe a Shona, remains personally implicated in this. To add to this, Mnangagwa has been named as Zimbabwe's richest politician - no mean feat in a Government as stupendously corrupt as this.
The alternative, Joyce Mujuru, is not much better. Mrs Mujuru (she is married to Solomon Mujuru, the head of the Zimbabwean Army) is another party comrade of long standing. During the Chimuerenga in the 1970s she rejoiced in the name 'Comrade Spillblood' (Teurai Ropa) and claims, rather implausibly, to have single-handedly shot down a Rhodesian helicopter with a sub-machine gun. She owes much of her status to her husband (who was known during the war as Rex Nhongo or 'Goat') whose powerbase in the army pressured Mugabe to grant her the Vice-Presidency. She lives on Guy Watson-Smith's farm - illegally.
So the choice for Zimbabweans is between a blood-soaked, corrupt, career politician, and a corrupt career politician in hock to the army for her position. Perhaps you'll forgive me for not seeming too sanguine about Zimbabwe's future. This is Africa. In Africa, if there is to be change when the Big Men go, they must either be forced out by war, like Mobutu Sese Seko or Mengistu, or by a revitalised democracy, like Kaunda and Hastings Banda. In Zimbabwe there is no viable opposition - no chance either for a 'Cedar Revolution'. South Africa has shown itself unwilling to intervene politically, let alone militarily - and there is no-one but South Africa to do it. So the end of Mugabe will be a squalid internal party affair - the aged Big Man thrust aside by an ambitious new model. There is precedent for this.
If you want to see the future of Zimbabwe don't look at South Africa, don't even look at Zambia or Tanzania. Look at Kenya - not the Kenya of 2002, but that of 1978. After the death of Kenya's first Big Man, Jomo Kenyatta, his replacement did not usher in a new era of openness and prosperity. Instead under Daniel Arap Moi, the rule was more of the same: more corruption, more repression and more poverty. Zimbabwe can look forward to another 20 years of torment and misery. Please will someone prove me wrong?


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