Saturday, May 09, 2009


8th May 2009

Dear Friends,

Anyone who has ever brought up children knows that one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to issue threats you know you can't carry out. After a while even very small children get to know that their parents' threats are meaningless if they are not accompanied by action. The end result is the collapse of trust; threats - and promises - must be adhered to if there is to be a solid framework of trust between parent and child.

This seemingly trite observation about child-rearing applies equally to relationships in later life. Without trust and belief in the integrity and honesty of the other side, there can be no meaningful basis of sound relations, in whatever sphere of life you operate. It is as true in international relations as it is in politics at a national and local level. Put simply, it means that each side must trust the other to say clearly what they mean and mean exactly what they say, threats and promises included.

It is a lesson that the MDC seem not to have learned. We heard yet another ultimatum and accompanying threat from them this week. It was Tendai Biti's turn to issue an ultimatum to the Unity Government, a government of which he is himself a part. In effect what he said was 'Settle all outstanding issues of the Global Political Agreement by Monday, May 11th. or the MDC will refer the matter to the party's National Council which is due to meet on May 17'. That was the threat Biti held over the heads of his 'partners' in this Unity Government. I can't imagine that threat had any of his 'partners' in government shaking in their boots! Zanu PF's response was predicatable: 'We are committed to the GNU' they affirmed. No threats can frighten them! Why should they be scared when they know that they hold all the levers of power? That was powerfully demonstrated this week with the re-arrest of MDC activists: Jestina Mukoko and the fifteen others. Press reports said Jestina and all the others in the crowded courtroom were stunned by the magistrate's decision to refuse them bail. One can only imagine their anguish as they were taken back to the hellish Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. The next day the very same magistrate granted them bail. So they go back to their homes again but with the very real threat of their upcoming trials hangs over them. No one can say that Mugabe's threats are not real! It would be comforting to think that this reversal of the bail decision was a demonstration of people's power but what it, in fact, revealed yet again was that justice and the rule of law in Zimbabwe have become nothing more than a tool whereby Mugabe demonstrates his complete domination of the legal process. The hapless magistrate was simply acting on orders from the politically motivated Attorney General. Meanwhile Ghandi Mudzingwa, Chris Dhlamini and the jounalist Shadreck Manyere remain in police custody. Their 'crime' is more serious we are told; they were found in possession of weapons of war; more to the point is the fact that Mudzingwa and Dhlamini are MDC officials and Manyere is an independent journalist, another of Zanu PF's perceived 'enemies'.

Speaking to the National Endowment for Peace and Democracy in the US last week, Tendai Biti made this staggering assertion to his audience of Zimbabwean observers. Zimbabwe was experiencing "Peace and stability, the biggest achievement of the inclusive government." he claimed. By the time he arrived in London and gave an interview to the BBC, Biti's message had changed somewhat. The interview was broadcast on the Today programme and I made a note of Biti's words: "People are suffering and that's the reality. When you have 95% of the population surviving on less than 20c a day that's a disaster. So I think our people need help." If that is Tendai Biti's understanding of what constitutes 'peace and stability' then we are entitled to ask whether he and the MDC as a whole have become so divorced from the reality that, like Zanu PF, the people's continued suffering - on the invaded farms, in the rural villages and in the poor townships - means nothing to them? Meanwhile the latest report on the situation in Zimbabwe from the IMF states, "Poverty and unemployment have risen to catastrophic levels. 70% of the population is in need of food assistance…These disastrous outcomes have resulted from poor policies and weak governance." And this is the government of which the MDC is now an integral part. It is becoming clearer by the day that neither their threats nor their promises have any real value without the power to implement them. And Robert Mugabe and his cronies remain adamant that they will not share real power with them. No one should be deluded into thinking that Robert Mugabe is being manipulated by some so-called third force of army generals or other assorted malcontents. It is Mugabe alone who wields the power and he is not about to surrender it.

Someone should tell Tendai Biti that the absence of outright war is not the same as the 'peace and stability' that he claims now exists in our poor, benighted country. There is no peace without justice, Mr Biti.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle. PH



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