Saturday, May 16, 2009


Friday 15th May 2009

Dear Friends,

The inauguration of South Africa's new president, Jacob Zuma, was an opportunity to marvel once again at what must surely be one of the political miracles of the twentieth century: the end of apartheid. Speaking in 1993 when Mandela and De Klerk were presented jointly with the Nobel Peace Prize, Archbishop Desmond Tutu remarked that South Africa was a microcosm of the world with its mixture of black and white, rich and poor, developed and undeveloped. "Once we have got it right," the Archbishop said, "South Africa will be the paradigm for the rest of the world." (as quoted in Tomorrow Is Another Country: The inside story of South Africa's negotiated revolution by Allister Sparks)

The 'negotiated revolution' of Sparks' sub-title was movingly dramatised on Channel Four recently. 'Endgame' portrayed the tensions and very real fears on both sides at this early meeting of members of the ANC in exile and prominent members of the Afrikaans community. There, on one side of the table were the so-called 'terrorists', Thabo Mbeki, leading the ANC delegation and later Jacob Zuma himself joined the ANC side. Opposite them sat the Afrikaans hardliners: academics, bankers and financiers, all of them passionate believers in the doctrine of 'Separate Development'. What had brought the Afrikaaners to the negotiating table was not a conversion to democracy but the painful realisation that in strictly economic and business terms, apartheid just would not work. It was harsh economic reality that finally brought an end to a system of racial segregation that had shocked the world.It was impossible to watch 'Endgame' and not make the connections with the present arrangement in Zimbabwe. The ANC's first priority was the release of all political prisoners. That struck a deep chord when I thought about how little the MDC had publicly addressed the problem of political detainees. Everything we have heard since the formation of the GNU has been about money and 'changing Zimbabwe's image'. There has been very little said about human rights and justice. It was the total collapse of the Zimbabwean economy that brought about this marriage of convenience. Speaking in Senegal, Zimbabwe's Minister of Finance said, "Zimbabweans don't have any other option but this experimental government. Otherwise we'll sink into the realms of failure like Somalia, Sierra Leone and Liberia." And certainly, the figures are shocking: Tax revenue 20 million, Public Servants' Wages 30 million. For the period 2000-2007, when the farm invasions were at their height, the economy contracted by 40%.

Alongside the economic collapse, the continuing abuse of human rights and harassment of political opponents goes on unabated and almost unmentioned. This last week alone we have seen the arrest of independent newspaper editors; foreign journalists arrested for being on an invaded farm and 150 white farmers facing prosecution for being illegally present on their own farms. The activists charged with various 'crimes' against the state are now be out on bail but the schedule of their upcoming trials runs solidly right through from May to July 20th when Jestina Mukoko and five others will stand trial for recruiting personnel for military training in Botswana. MDC MP's are imprisoned and as for Roy Bennet, the designate Deputy Minister of Agriculture, his trial for possessing weapons of war is due to recommence on July 1st. Mugabe has never made any secret of the fact that he regards white farmers as enemies because, he says, they oppose his so-called Land Reform that led directly to the country's economic collapse. It's ironic that the MDC should be working so hard to reverse the economic ruin caused by the man who once claimed that 'No one could have run the economy better.'

Mugabe is 'Part of the solution, whether you like it or not', Morgan Tsvangirai told an audience of Zimbabwean exiles when he was in South Africa for the inauguration of President Zuma. Back home, he went further and spoke of 'hardliners' intent on wrecking the GNU. Is it not time to name and shame these hardliners who continue to violate the rule of law? With respect, I ask what makes the Prime Minister so sure that Mugabe himself in not one of those very hardliners -or has Morgan Tsangirai been mesmerised by the famous Mugabe charm?

Only this week Mugabe demonstrated yet again where his true political sympathies lie when he received the North Korean Kim Vong Nam on an official visit. With breath-taking insensitivity to the pain and offence it would cause the families of the victims of the Gukurahundi massacre, Mugabe thanked the North Korean de facto leader for all the help his country had given Zimbabwe in the past – including, no doubt, the training of the 5th Brigade that carried out the virtual genocide against the Ndebele people. Rumour has it that the North Koreans are after the uranium in the Zambezi valley. If Zimbabwe is indeed about to sell uranium mining rights to North Korea, then it's easy to see how such an act would further alienate western donors. North Korea's recent launch of a nuclear missile in defiance of a Security Council ban has been widely condemned, yet Mugabe is said to have congratulated Kim Vong Nam on the launch. Was Mugabe speaking with the agreement of his 'partners' in the GNU, I wonder?

Watching the SATV coverage of President Zuma's inauguration and seeing the warm embrace given to the dictator, Robert Mugabe, by the democratically elected Jacob Zuma, we were reminded again how hard it is to get rid of dictators. Eradicating the system of apartheid only happened after years of negotiations, when all the parties agreed on the necessity for change. 'It's a process' says Nelson Chamisa of the GNU 'and not without pain' but no amount of 'spin' by MDC officials can persuade an increasingly sceptical Zimbabwean public that the GNU is bringing about real change.FW.DE Klerk, the reluctant reformer who finally dismantled the apartheid state, took over from a certain PW Botha as Prime minister of South Africa. Botha was known as the 'Old Crocodile'. Zimbabwe too has its Old Crocodile. The question is, has he already swallowed up the MDC? Perhaps the arrest yesterday of the respected human rights lawyer, Alex Muchadehama, by Mugabe's own secret police, will provoke the MDC into some kind of strong public reaction – just to prove to the people that the 'New Beginning' they were promised is more than just a fast-fading illusion.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.



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