Saturday, September 05, 2009

ZIMBABWE - LETTER FROM THE DIASPORA !

3rd September 2009.

Dear Friends,

One of the most depressing things about the situation in Zimbabwe at the moment is the way groups of people who should be working together for the common good are fragmenting. The students, the teachers and even the trade unions have split over issues which would seem on the face of it to be soluble. It's hard to tell from this distance away but the impression gained from various reports is that the splits are often caused not by issues of principle but rather by the personalities involved. Jealousy and the thwarted ambitions of individuals clawing their way up the greasy pole of power seems to be the order of the day in this 'new' Zimbabwe under the Inclusive Government. What is lacking - and has been lacking for the past decade and more under the government of Zanu PF - is a National Vision for the country. When political allegiance has been the only criteria by which patriotism and even 'hero' status is judged, it is not surprising that Zimbabwean society as a whole has become deeply fractured. Add the factor of downright racism against one highly productive group of people as seen in Mugabe's disastrous Land Reform and you have a recipe for disaster. Imposing a Unity Government on top of all these divisions was never likely to produce a population united by love of country. Instead we have a country where greed and corruption are the order of the day and the communal values once espoused by Zimbabweans have almost disappeared. It is every man for himself now as the struggle for political power and even day-to-day survival intensifies. With the collapse of the rule of law, the victims have nowhere to turn for help and the cycle of violence and despair goes on unchecked. The pictures we have seen this week of the burning homesteads of farmers and workers demonstrate exactly what happens in a country where the police fail in their duty to protect the citizens, black and white, of the country.
Meanwhile, Robert Mugabe, the author of all this misery, is away enjoying the hospitality of his friend Gadaffi in Lybia. In week-long celebrations for forty years of 'revolutionary' leadership; watched from behind bullet-proof glass by the likes of Sudan's Al Bashir, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela among other similarly dubious characters, Gadaffi's troops on the ground and in the air visibly demonstrated the power of the military might that has ensured Gadaffi's rule for four decades. Mugabe must hope that his own troops will be similarly loyal.

Back home, it was Morgan Tsvangirai who reminded Zimbabweans that the underlying purpose of this political union is the improvement of people's lives, 'giving the people of Zimbabwe a direction' was how the Prime Minister expressed it. It sounds like a noble reason to set old enmities aside: to unite the country in a common goal of doing what is right for all its citizens. Tsvangirai was asked in an interview how he could bring himself to 'sup with the devil', knowing what suffering Robert Mugabe and his henchman had inflicted on Tsvangirai himself and hundreds of his followers. "What is reconciliation without that?" was Tsvangirai's reply. "Reconciliation is a measure of tolerance across the very serious political divide that existed in this country. How can we stand up as leaders and call for national unity when between us we don't relate to each other?" For me, there is something deeply flawed in this line of thinking. If the violence was all in the distant past it might be understandable that Tsvangirai should set aside crimes committed a long time ago. But the truth is that Mugabe's army and police and Green Bombers, (his 'new war veterans' as he once described them) continue even now to inflict savage punishment on anyone perceived to be enemies. 'Relating to each other' sounds very fine, discovering that Robert Mugabe is a charming, well-mannered individual does not, or should not, blind one to the true facts of his history. Robert Mugabe came to power and has stayed in power through violence, through the barrel of a gun as Mugabe himself has said on more than one occasion. Morgan Tsvangirai and hundreds of his supporters have good reason to know that. For Morgan Tsvangirai now to 'sup with the devil' is in my view nothing more than political expediency and to claim as he does that it is the beginning of true reconciliation is grossly misleading.
One day after that interview Morgan Tsvangirai spoke at a Press Conference that he had himself called. President Zuma had come and gone with little appreciable change in the situation on the ground. The violent farm invasions go on, the police continue to fail to in their duty to protect Zimbabwean citizens, the courts continue to deliver highly partisan judgements and the Minister of Justice tells the country that they no longer recognise the authority of the SADC Tribunal. That is hardly surprising when we consider that it was the SADC Tribunal that had ruled in favour of the white farmers! Whether it was these developments that influenced Morgan Tsvangirai's statement at the Press Conference is not clear. "We are not" he said, " tied up by anything other than the fact that we volunteered to be in this government and what will stop us from leaving. We have an option of getting out if we think it's not working…when we say it is irreversible we are not saying things will not change, we just say this is the only option that gives direction to the people of Zimbabwe and on that we are very committed." Whether such commitment is shared by both sides in the Unity Government and the population at large is the question that only time will answer. Judging from recent comments by Zanu PF Ministers, it sounds as if the lifting of sanctions is the only issue they are seriously committed to and if the MDC can't deliver on that front - and they can't since they were not the ones who called for sanctions in the first place - Zanu PF's commitment to Unity will disappear like the mist on an October morning only to be replaced by the heat of violent retribution against their former partners. That's the way they work.
Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH.

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