October 17, 2009

Paper Unity

Reality is on a roll. A day after Afghanistan nudged one step closer to runoff abyss, Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai “disengaged” himself from President Robert Mugabe over “toxic issues.” Only last week Tsvangirai hailed “substantial progress” in Zimbabwe.

"If you were to have come to Zimbabwe last year between March and June, the level of human rights abuses was far higher and now people can live in peace," Tsvangirai told Reuters while in Valladolid, Spain to accept a lifetime achievement award. “There has been substantive progress, it's just that you have got one or two incidents and then it spoils the thing.”

Not only that, the MDC started a poll on September 24 asking its supporters to vote, “Should The MDC pull out of the inclusive government?” Tsvangirai announced last week, “I want to tell you the evaluation is overwhelmingly that we should stay in government and make this the direction the country needs to take.”

It turns out Tsvangirai wasn't being real.

“The detention of our party treasurer Roy Bennett has brought home the fiction of the credibility and integrity of the transitional government,” Tsvangirai told a press conference days after his return. “It has brought home the self-evident fact that ZANU-PF see us as a junior, fickle and unserious movement.”

Tsvangirai admitted he “papered over the cracks” in order to persuade the world that the unity government was progressing. But now, “Until confidence has been restored, we can't continue to pretend that everything is well.”

And if Tsvangirai had been fudging the truth, that means the West has too. America still maintains sanctions on Mugabe, but publicly acts without urgency along with Europe. Ian Kelly, a State Department spokesman, illustrated the point during his press briefing.

“Our position hasn’t changed,” he said, “it is that we are looking to Mr. Mugabe to implement the Global Political Agreement and foster democracy and respect for human rights. We do understand that the MDC has indicated that it will disengage from the government. But our position remains the same, that there is a way forward in place through this Global Political Agreement, and we would urge President Mugabe to implement his part of it.”

This simply isn't reality.

Tsvangirai decried, “We have seen total abuse and disrespect of the GPA and in particular of the MDC. Ministerial mandates have been changed unilaterally, government internal rules have not been changed to recognize the new reality. Over and above this, some government agencies, in particular few components in the National Security forces, still behave as if the old order exists. The National Security Council itself has met only once in nine months.”

In a letter dated October 7th, Tsvangirai requested from Mugabe, “that your office institutes appropriate action against Brigadier (Justin) Mujaji to ensure his immediate cessation of illegal activities, in particular, the use of the Zimbabwe National Army to perpetrate unlawful acts.”

Tsvangirai accused Mujaji of evicting white settlers from their farms. Expanding on the trend, “We are also aware of the extensive militarization of the countryside through massive deployment of the military and the setting up of bases of violence that we saw after the 29th March 2008. Over and above this, we are aware of over 16 000 of Zanu PF youth functionaries who have been imposed on the government payroll.”

It’s safe to say Mugabe won’t be changing his ways, certainly the power cabal behind him isn’t. After stealing two elections and procrastinating for months just to sign a power-sharing agreement, eight months have brought a semblance of normality that runs paper deep.

“If you have been married for seven months and you find that the marriage has no chemistry, something is wrong,” said Tendai Biti, the MDC Finance Minister who opposed joining the unity pact.

ZANU couldn’t agree more. Spokesman Ephraim Masawi reacted, “If MDC wants to disengage... we don't have a problem with that. We were having problems with MDC, working together. We have been trying but it was not easy."

New battle, same war

Tsvangirai has boxed himself in now and he must be careful. With the truth exposed and battle lines starting to reform, he can only return to the government if, as he put it, “all outstanding issues are fulfilled, " or ZANU will eat him up. The chances of Mugabe conceding power are low based on his history, so where does that leave Tsvangirai?

“It is a constitutional crisis which should be resolved if Zanu-PF and its leadership know that there is a price to pay for procrastination,” he said.

That price is a call for emergency UN-sponsored elections. If he can't muster support for such desperate measure, Tsvangirai is pushing for elections in 18 months. In the meantime, “We have to manage our transition until such time as the MDC can be elected in its own right.” Except Mugabe stands a large chance of compromising any election.

Ultimately Tsvangirai needs outside help to uproot Mugabe's apparatus. The AU and SADC aren’t applying the necessary pressure and the West helplessly watches from beyond. Sanctions bounce off Mugabe and a UN-sponsored election is equally improbable to damage him unless America oversees it.

Realistically Tsvangirai stands alone, now and possibly in the future, but at least reality is finally shining through. A few morsels of food drift down into the deep.


  1. "Ultimately Tsvangirai needs outside help to uproot Mugabe's apparatus." - This comment shows exactly how idiot you are!