The New MDC Strategy: Zimbabwe's Tragedy
The new thrust by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his advisers is to escalate the Zimbabwean crisis all the way up to the United Nations.
Clearly, Tsvangirai and his people are of the opinion that they signed the September 15 agreement only because Mbeki, who they see as pro-Mugabe, was president of South Africa and also Chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Back then, the MDC leadership could see no other way open for them to take over the country. Now they think that either Mothlathe, the new South African president, can be more hard-hitting, or that SADC will throw its arms up in despair, admit failure and open the way for the AU and, eventually, the UN, to step in.
It is, as I have said before, a fatal miscalculation on the the part of Tsvangirai and his advisers who have mistaken Mugabe's readiness to negotiate as a sign that he is ready to capitulate. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Should the MDC maintain its pig-headed approach to this whole thing (yes, Mugabe, is also being pig-headed, but he holds all the Aces and Morgan has nothing but a handful of dust), SADC may well declare MDC and Tsvangirai the real impediment to the talks and hang them out to dry.
What will not happen is the capitulation of SADC. Nor indeed that of Mugabe. They will never admit failure and refer this issue to the AU. We have been through this before, when Morgan tried to escalate this issue up to the AU, only to have that body refer the matter back to the SADC leaders, saying this was a regional issue. The new South African president has also signalled through his paly-paly approach to Mugabe, that we can expect a continuation of South Africa's policy towards Zimbabwe, which the MDC had mistakenly personalised as a Mbeki policy. It isn't. It is now clear that this is an ANC policy.
It beggars belief just how the MDC hopes to turn a trifling matter like the issuing of a passport into an international incident. What would be the purpose? You certainly are not going to get international, UN-approved sanctions approved on this basis.
But there is another angle to all this, one which has been ignored by all the media and commentators on Zimbabwe. Put simply, it is this: in these negotiations, it is not Mugabe who is under pressure, but Morgan Tsvangirai. He has played very nicely into the dictator's hands. Mugabe withheld Tsvangirai's passport in the aftermath of the laughable June run-off because he did not want Tsvangirai leaving the country to lobby the UN, SADC, AU, EU and the USA.
Now, it is Mugabe who doubts Tsvangirai's sincerity and he does so genuinely. It may be warped thinking on Mugabe's part, it may be ridiculous, but if one is to defeat him, one needs to understand the mindset that is at work in Mugabe's head here. Mugabe, you see, believes that Tsvangirai only agreed to the talks as a means to get his passport back. The veteran Zimbabwean leader believes that, should Tsvangirai get his passport back, he would bolt at the first opportunity, leave Mugabe to cool his heels in Zimbabwe while he visits the capitals of the world to ask for more pressure (i.e. stronger, perhaps even general, sanctions) to be tightened around the ZANU PF leadership that snatched victory from the MDC jaws in June.
It means then, no matter what the MDC does, Tsvangirai is not getting his passport back until he agrees to be sworn in as Prime Minister and agrees on a cabinet with Mugabe. Full stop. Mugabe is quite wiling to go ahead with the charade of forming a 5-year tenure government, leave the MDC out in the cold and hold on to the passport. Tsvangirai will be greatly hamstrung by this. He would not be able to leave the country except in the manner of Joshua Nkomo: jumping the border into the arms of his best friend Ian Khama of Botswana and launching a global offensive against Zimbabwe from there. Mugabe believes that it is the withholding of Tsvangirai's passport that resulted in him agreeing to negotiate, but only as a ruse to allow him to get the document back and then flee, perhaps to set up a governmnet in exile, which would be quickly recognised by America and the EU. That passport will have to be prised from Mugabe's "cold dead hands", to use the late Charlton Heston's words.
Nothing will move Mugabe, who now sees a new lifeline in South Africa's pledge of US$30 million for preparations around the current agricultural season. It is also likely that, with the SADC leaders having now lost patience with Tsvangirai (King Mswati is snubbing the meeting in Harare on Monday as a direct insult to Tsvangirai for standing him up in Mbabane this past week), they will pool their resources and seek to inject cash and other economic support into Zimbabwe.
Investors are also losing patience and, at a conference in South Africa this last week, some were muttering that they will go ahead and buy up investments now and hold onto them in preparation for the turnaround that they are sure is likely to come. Surprisingly, the common consensus coming out of this investment conference was that the appalling state of Zimbabwe's economy is artificial and, with the right kind of support and environment, the currency would rally within weeks and the economy could be back on sound footing within six months. The Telegraph quotes the conference as agreeing that Zimbabwe is "the best investment option" in Africa at right now!!
All of this conspires against the MDC strategy. It now looks increasingly likely that the MDC will be in the wilderness for the next five years. There will be a semblance of recovery once the support SADC is extending arrives in a Zimbabwe with a ZANU PF government. This will buy Mugabe time to organise his party and his succession. It will not last, to be sure, and inflation and suffering will come back with a vengeance within a couple of years.
Fatally, though, the people, whose hopes have been raised and now lie in ruins, Zimbabweans, will almost certainly move away from the MDC. Basically, in failing to understand the lengths to which Mugabe is prepared to go in order to make his point, the MDC may well have committed political suicide. By toying with the emotions of the peple, they have turned them off. This is fact.
Now, however, they are not the single opposition party that they once were. They are faced with a stiff challenge from Simba Makoni, who was in the city centre of Harare on Wednesday visiting with and talking to depositors, people waiting for trains at the railway station on Kenneth Kaunda and others along First Street.
Previously, The MDC could hold the people hostage to its own status as the only opposition party, but now, those people have the option of saying, "perhaps if we try Makoni, he has a better understanding of the psychology of Mugabe and can probably outwit him and deliver the people of Zimbabwe from this suffering and economic inferno into which we have been plunged".
Interesting times indeed.