Making Sense of Zimbabwe, Mugabe and Tsvangirai

Zimbabweans still feel hopeful this morning. The Standard newspaper reports that there may be an announcement on the cabinet today, Sunday, 05 October 2008. The Sunday Mail, the ZANU PF mouthpiece, also says that there is now disagreement only on two ministries, Home Affairs (which controls the police and also the voter registration exercise) and Finance, under whose ambit the increasingly spaced out Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe operates.

This hopefulness is difficult for people out there to understand. Many, perhaps the majority, believe that the deal is dead as a Dodo, but they do not understand the Mugabe mentality. It boils down to this: Mugabe's dictatorship is not the dictatorship of a single man. It is a system. Tsvangirai and Mutambara are negotiating on this point only with Mugabe, but he is reluctant to carry the can entirely on his own for the eventual outcome, hence this continual referring of the issues to negotiators, whose job ended when the agreement was signed.

Mugabe keeps repeating that even in the "presidium", he never decides alone on matters of government, but consults his two deputies. The approach also goes through to his Central Committee and Politubro within ZANU PF. This deal is not being universally embraced within ZANU PF. So, should Mugabe simply agree in private meetings with the MDC on dishing out cabinet posts, he fears that this may come back to haunt him when things go wrong for ZANU PF in future.
So, Mugabe wants to be able to say to his party later on that this was a decision taken collectively, that he received recommendations from his negotiators and simply followed them. That is why we have the baffling situation where the president is asking his negotiators to make recommendations together with the MDC, which recommendation he will then approve. This is despite the fact, as in all other countries, ministers are supposed to serve at the pleasure of the president. He or she alone has the decision on who to include in cabinet. It is called the presidential prerogative.

Anyway, people are so numbed now that this latest bit of news is unlikely to give excite them. So many false starts have been and gone, so much promise remains unfulfilled, so much potential is being squandered at the altar of self-interest, including even on the side of the MDC. It is not for the interest of the people that the MDC is insisting on getting the Ministry of Home Affairs. They want to be able to control the environment under which the next elections will be held. They want to prepare the ground for a resounding victory whenever the next elections are held.

Then there is this nonsensical talk that the agreement will last for 21/2 years before new elections. This is not a transitional government, gentlemen. Mugabe says he won and is sharing power with someone who also did well on March 29. He will want to see out his term. He is going to. If this were not so, the agreement would have included a caveat that, should one of the parties pull out (as the MDC will do after two and half years, and I am willing to take bets on this), then there will be no government and new elections will be held.

Instead, when MDC pulls out, Mugabe will simply forge ahead as Nelson Mandela did after de Klerk left the post-apartheid GNU in South Africa.

This agreement will be a temporary reprieve. Soon enough, Zimbabwe's problems will come back with a vengeance.

And here is some shocking news this morning:

Workers at CARE International, a charity that is supposed to be feeding millions of starving Zimbabwean villagers, have gone on strike because they do not want to pay tax on their salaries, which are paid in US dollars. These people, who are supposed to be in their jobs for reasons other than money, are now saying that they are willing to see all these villagers die of hunger simply because they want more US dollars. This is the sort of behaviour that will lead the Mugabe government to simply revoke the licence for CARE and kick them out of Zimbabwe. The starving people will lose nothing because with or without CARE, they will die of hunger anyway. The licence can then be issued to a new international charity that employs people who actually understand the meaning of the word charity.

Do you not wonder how these CARE International workers sleep at night, knowing that they have locked away food while millions starve. I have never heard of anything like this before, ever! And just to set the record straight, these workers are not expats, they are local Zimbabweans who have been bitten by the greed bug. They are displaying the mentality that has destroyed Zimbabwe, where everyone, including the leadership, care not for the suffering of other people, helping them only when there is something in it for themselves.

As a parting note: prices went up again today, most of them by 25%. That's a 25% rise in one day, while the leaders of the country fiddle. Another update in the evening.


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