Saturday, January 31, 2009

ZIMBABWE - LETTER FROM THE DIASPORA!

30th January 2009

Dear Friends,

Today's the day! This thirtieth day of January 2009 the National Executive of the MDC will decide whether or not to join the so-called Government of National Unity under Robert Mugabe's presidency. ‘Political analysts' have been very vocal on the subject all week. I've never quite understood what qualifies someone to be called or to describe him/herself as a ‘political analyst' but they certainly have an awful lot to say for themselves! They are ready to air their opinions on every aspect of the subject; supported by unnamed sources these political analysts seek to sway public opinion one way or the other depending on their own political affiliations no doubt.

Like many others in the diaspora – anxious about the future of our country - I too have spent the week trying to analyse the decision that has to be made by the MDC. Armed with a pencil and notepad I have attempted to use my own knowledge and understanding of the situation to list what considerations should be taken into account before making this crucial decision for Zimbabwe's future. Before one can even start the process there are certain facts that have to be acknowledged. In the eleven or so months that have elapsed since the March elections Zimbabwe and the world have changed. Cholera has killed over 3000 people in Zimbabwe, 94% of the population is unemployed and on Zanu PF's own admission the country can no longer feed its own people. " We cannot eat what we do not have" said the Acting Minister of Finance in his Budget speech And in an acknowledgement that the Zimbabwean currency is now worthless, Chinamasa announced that price controls will be abandoned and the Zimbabwe dollar will "operate alongside the US dollar and the SA rand. How that will actually work is not at all clear but what is clear is that Zimbabwe is teetering on the edge of complete collapse. That is the reality that the decision makers have to face. In the wider world too the economic collapse means that the so-called developed world will look very carefully at economic help for poorer nations, let alone those that have collapsed through gross mismanagement. Those people who thought that a GNU would bring immediate western aid for Zimbabwe now have to think very carefully in the light of the changed situation before they make their decision today.

For me there are two internal considerations that take absolute priority. One, is it the right decision for the mass of the people, now and for the foreseeable future? No one in their right mind can believe that joining the government will bring about an immediate change in the desperate plight of the people but maybe, just maybe, the presence of the MDC will moderate some of the more extreme policies of Mugabe's government. Two, the release of the activists rotting in gaol is non-negotiable. Jestina Mukoko and all the other activists must be brought to court immediately and either tried in open court or released. There can be no just settlement while fellow Zimbabweans are unjustly detained. Those as I see it are absolute priorities before the MDC can enter into this alliance with the Mugabe regime.

Making decisions is never easy but I have found it useful to list the arguments For and Against and then decide which side carries more weight. In addition to reasoned argument, there is the emotional aspect which cannot be ignored. More than anything else, Zimbabweans need to feel hope for themselves and for their children's futures. So, why should the MDC enter this ‘unholy alliance' The first point in its favour is that the people appear to want it, presumably because they believe that their lives will be improved once there is a settlement. By joining a GNU the MDC will gain experience in government and finally this is the much vaunted ‘African solution'. Whatever we may think of SADC and the AU there is no doubt that failure to join will bring down Africa's wrath on Tsvangirai's head and give further weight to the notion that he and his party are no more than puppets of the west.

On the other side, Against joining is the undeniable fact that Mugabe is not to be trusted. Bitter experience has shown us that his word means nothing. It is a power-sharing agreement with no real power for the MDC; even in the matter of ministerial appointments we have absolutely no guarantee that Robert Mugabe will play fair. To join such a government will severely damage the MDC's image. Up until now they have held the moral high ground, how will the world and the west in particular respond to an illegitimate government that now contains those very same people they once believed were on the side of democracy? If the MDC decides to join, it will be seen to be an endorsement of Mugabe's policies. It will take the pressure off his regime, leaving him unpunished for the destruction he has wreaked on the country. Even the MDC's majority in the House cannot be relied on, knowing how Zanu PF operates. There is a very real danger that the MDC will become no better than puppets of the regime unable to exercise any autonomy. Mugabe is after all the man who has blatantly ignored the will of the people as expressed in the March elections. Can he now be trusted to abide by the rules? Will not Morgan Tsvangirai and this party be swallowed up in just the same way as the late Joshua Nkomo?

These questions and so many others must be going through the minds of every thinking person as the MDC considers the options. What will happen if the deal collapses in a few months, what might that mean for Zimbabwe? For me, as a Zimbabwean in the UK diaspora and longing to go home, all I can do is hope that their decisions are guided by what is best for the people, all the people, and not by their own dreams of power, big motorcars, handsome salaries and lucrative perks. Having considered the arguments For and Against and although I can clearly see the latter is the stronger side, I have very reluctantly come to the conclusion that the MDC must go along with this flawed Agreement. There are some small signs that their presence in government may well find sympathisers even within the ranks of Zanu PF. The truth is that Mugabe needs the MDC as much as they need to be part of government. It requires, in the words of the BBC correspondent, nothing less than a leap of faith on the part of the MDC. I believe they will make that leap.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle, PH.



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