Letter From Zimbabwe

January 13, 2024
5 mins read

How long, oh Lord?
By Eddie Cross
Perhaps this has been the most common question that I have been asked in recent weeks. People look at me anxiously and hope for an indication that things are not as bad as they seem and that there is some hope that this long nightmare might end.
That is a tough question – perhaps because there is no answer. The truth of the matter is that we might wake up tomorrow morning and find that everything has changed. The reality is however, that change is not likely to come very soon and it is how we manage that bit of information that matters.
Let’s just review the overall situation that confronts us right now.
It is now certain that 2007 is going to be much worse than 2006. Inflation is going to be higher, the economy will almost certainly shrink – for the ninth year in a row and the flood of economic refugees into other countries will, if anything get worse.
Shortages will be more widespread and this willcreate additional problems for those of us who live here. I predict that the coming agricultural season will be much worse than in the past year. Output across the board will be lower – without exception.
Then there is the situation in Zanu PF, Zimbabwe’s ruling party; Robert Mugabe is no longer functioning effectively as Head of State – he is working very short hours and for whatever reason is already in a state of semi retirement.
He has moved to his new home in Harare and goes into the office late in the morning returning home before midday. Few people are seeing him and it is clear that government is confused and divided – no strong central direction is apparent. Everybody is doing his or her own thing.
Then there is the succession debate. Rumors abound about Mugabe’s future plans – they all point to him stepping down and it would appear from our sources that the debate on whether to allow him to remain President until 2010 has been quashed.
 Downtown Harare, capital of Zimbabwe: Behind the serenity, many want a quick solution to the political and economical mess that now beset the country.
It would appear to us that he is now committed toretirement in March 2008, if not sooner. A recurrent Zanu PF nightmare is that he might become incapacitated sooner than March 2008, leaving Zanu unprepared for the succession battles that will follow.If we look at the four likely candidates right now they do not look very hopeful!
Munangagwa is not well and probably could not take the strain of a Presidential election and the aftermath. Vice President Mujuru is regarded as a bit of a lame duck – lacking the capacity to operate as President or to win an election. Simba Makoni is a lightweight who does not command enough support in the rank and file although he has the support of Mr. Mujuru for what that is worth. Mugabe does not trust him and probably would block his nomination.
That leaves Gideon Gono – the one man goon show who has been running the Reserve Bank for the past few years and seems no closer to understanding anything other than his masters wishes.
That could get him the job – he is the effective Prime Minister for Mugabe at present and clearly has his trust and backing. However Gono does not have support within Zanu PF and I am not sure if that is a good or a bad thing. It probably makes little difference –it is Mugabe’s mantle that matters.
And that brings us to the state of Zanu PF itself. I sometimes wonder if it actually exists anymore – as a political party that is. The gravy train certainly exists and is still puffing its way through our remaining resources and capacity. The people who operate and live on the State, like overblown leeches, would call themselves Zanu PF but the day that Zanu loses power and the gravy train is derailed, they will run so far from the Zanu PF label that it will be difficult to identify their political origins after a week or so.
In my view if Zanu were to loose power tomorrow, they would disintegrate and cease to exist as an effective political force within 24 hours.
Certainly the one thing we can all agree to is that this government seems to have absolutely no idea as to how to get out of the hole they have dug for themselves over the past 26 years.
Then there is the opposition – still popular with the ordinary person on the street, but unable to set in motion an effective campaign to unseat Zanu PF and replace it with a new and effective government.
It now seems unlikely that mass action will be the instrument of change that was once hoped. No one will fund mass action and it cannot be mounted without resources. At the same time the State has shown itself to be willing to crush any sign of dissent. Since we will never take up arms again – that rules out those options for regime change.
So we must now wait – either for Mr. Mugabe to become incapacitated for one reason or another (there are persistent reports of health problems) or for March 2008 when he might step down and a candidate for Zanu PF will have to run for President.
Any election that does not include Mr. Mugabe will be a totally different one to an election that did incorporate him as a candidate. For a start the new candidate will have none of his stature as one of the “strong men of Africa” and “liberation war hero”.
Secondly, Zanu PF has always pretended to be a democratic institution and pretended to play the democratic game in elections here. This exposes them to the threat of an electoral loss and even if they do maintain the machinery that gave them victory in 2000, 2002 and 2005, there is no guarantee that it will work again.
So we may have to just sit tight and wait – time is on our side in this situation, Zanu PF has nowhere to hide at present – they created this mess and must live in it and bear responsibility for it in full. For the opposition – perhaps it is time we persuaded the Broad Alliance to put up a single candidate and to begin now working on controlling the vote and the count in the forthcoming presidential election.
If we play our cards right, we could win that election and then treat the period up to the June 2010 election as a transition with a new constitution and the restoration of the rule of law in the interim as principle objectives.
Mugabe said this week that he sees no reason to change the constitution – well lets hoist him onto that petard and see how he likes it under an Alliance President with all his present powers in April 2008.
I think we can hold out until then.
Eddie Cross is a journalist and writer, based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He blogs at Zimpundit.
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