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As Zimbabwe enters a cross-road

 

By Eddie Cross

 

There are growing signs that we may be seeing the end of the Mugabe regime. The main driver is the economy, but this is now being supported by regional consensus that he has to step down so as to allow intervention and recovery.

 

Political momentum is also being supported by renewed global agreement that Zanu has exhausted all options, save one and must now step down and allow change to take place.

 

On the economic front the pace of collapse has accelerated sharply. This is not reflected in official statistics but today the US dollar is trading at five times the official rate, fuel prices have risen to over Z$500 000 a litre and a loaf of bread is selling at Z$200 000 with milk not far behind for a half litre.

 

This week maize meal prices have doubled, pushed by the first price increase in maize from the GMB in nearly two years. In the past 24 hours, we have been without electricity for 12 hours – many areas are also without water.

 

I watched the Zimbabwe television news the other night and heard Mr. Mugabe announce that we are no longer importing maize – we have after all grown enough maize to feed ourselves!

 

The reality is that in the week ending the 14th July, we imported 17 000 tonnes of white maize from South Africa. No matter what the rhetoric, the reality stays stubbornly in sight – we will only reap a third of our maize needs, imports will again have to be over a million tonnes. We have grown a scant 20 000 hectares of wheat and barley and will have to import three quarters of our needs of these essential grains as well.

 

But aside from the dismal outlook for agriculture, with the exception of the platinum sector where special agreements and the power of a few multinationals are holding the sector together, the Zimbabwe economy is very close to collapse.

 

       

While millions of Zimbabweans are living in abject poverty, Mugabe and his wife are still enjoying the trappings and trimmings of office.

 

The fiscal deficit is totally out of control and inflation can only accelerate in the months ahead. The railways and other State controlled parastatals and companies are at an advanced stage of collapse – many struggling to maintain even limited services and supplies. This is typified by Air Zimbabwe, which, this past week has had only one aircraft flying.

 

But it is not only in these spheres that the noose is tightening about the neck of Zanu PF. It’s also in the body politic. Demonstrations and marches are a daily occurrence. Hundreds are arrested for one misdemeanor or another. MDC Members of Parliament resolved this week to boycott Parliament saying that it has ceased to have any relevance to the crisis that is unfolding here.

 

This past weekend the MDC held rallies and meetings across the whole country – calling on the people to get ready for the day when they will be called out onto the streets of our towns and cities to say “enough is enough”.

 

This coming weekend we will hold meetings of our National Executive and Council and the MDC Council will meet on Saturday with representatives from civil society organisations to agree on the “Road Map” (if you want a copy let me know and I will send it to you) and to discuss plans for the next few weeks. All civil society organisations will attend plus the Trade Unions and representatives of the Churches.

 

On Sunday I attended a small meeting with Party leaders from the rural areas to outline their participation in the actions that are being planned. The meeting was held behind closed doors and in near darkness. The feelings deep and the sense of commitment profound. At the end of the meeting the group rose, held hands and pledged to support each other in the struggle that lay ahead.

 

Then a simple meal with water and they returned as they had come – at their own expense and by private transport to their remote villages.

I am so privileged to belong to this movement among the poor and disadvantaged.

 

The man who led the discussions has seen his home for only one day in the past two months. He gets no salary and meets most of his own costs. His freedom and family at risk every day. Today I walked into a meeting with two women there – just back from a meeting in a Church surrounded by four truckloads of police. The one lady has been in prison many times in recent months. They were planning their next moves and action. “Soon”, they said to me “the long night will be over”.

 

Most observers and commentators do not believe the MDC and its allies can bring this off. I see a very different picture altogether. Zanu PF and its cohorts in the CIO and elsewhere are very nervous and with every reason. They have failed as a government in every sphere of their responsibilities.

 

They have failed to keep us safe and secure, they have failed to protect our freedoms, the very freedoms that were the goals of the liberation struggle. They have failed to deliver a rising standard of living and access to health and education. They have failed to create and secure our jobs. Now they must go and allow others to start to put things right.

 

It was interesting to me to see that the ASEAN countries have just agreed to isolate the regime in Burma. This after 30 years of patient tolerance of a regime that has held its people in military submission and captivity. Perhaps now the world community will be less tolerant of these aberrant regimes – identify them for what they are and isolate and punish their leadership until they agree to allow their people the basic rights taken for granted in modern democracies. Perhaps this is also the moment for us in Zimbabwe.

 

Just this week the Chairman of the SADC, a regional grouping of central and southern African states invited Morgan Tsvangirai to visit Gaborone and hold discussion with his administration on the crisis in Zimbabwe. An unusual honor in Africa where opposition is often confused with insubordination and treachery.

 

He was well received and the visit given prominence by the media – the government owned daily carried a full color picture of the two men embracing and tonight there is an hour-long interview with Morgan on Botswana television.

 

I get the sense that people here are exhausted and dispirited. They are denied the information they need to be anything else. Lets not despair – the finish line is in sight and we must finish the race we joined in the year 2000 when we decided to finally confront the regime in Harare.

 

It has taken longer than any of us expected and it has been much tougher than we anticipated, but we are nearly there.

 

Eddie Cross is a journalist and writes from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He also blogs at Zimpundit

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