Some people have convinced themselves that Robert Mugabe is now cornered and is simply sitting back, arms folded, waiting to see how Morgan Tsvangirai will "rescue" him from the hole ZANU PF has dug itself into.
This belief is now so widespread that it is taking the place of a strategy even in the top echelons of the MDC. It is the politics of Godot, colloquially known as the "Tongai Tione".
Strategically, the MDC should be reading the dictator's moves now and crafting ways to counter it before Mugabe's moves become a fait accompli. It will then be too late and all we will get are more excuses about why the opposition party has lost yet another battle for the people of Zimbabwe. As the drama over the charade called power-sharing rolls out, here's how Mugabe is planning on consolidating his power. Here is how he is setting the stage for locking the MDC out of the corridors of power for at least the next five years:
While the world focuses on power-sharing, ministries, fake militias and non-existent bandits, Mugabe is pinning his hopes on reversing the MDC majority in parliament. You will recall that there are MDC MPs currently out on bail on charges of violence allegedly committed or "incited" in June. Never mind that, even if the MDC did admit that there was violence on its side when it signed the September 15 agreement, by far the biggest culprit was ZANU PF. Its campaign was much deeper, much more brutal, more organised, well funded and extremely unrelenting. Terror was spread in the rural areas, especially, to such an extent that the event of June 27 can not qualify to be called an election by any means. In all my years of living in Zimbabwe, I have never seen the kevel of terror that I saw inspired by ZANU PF during the run-off. My mother tells me the nearest approximation would be the Liberation War, when hot, molten plastic was dripped into people's mouths and ears and ears were cut off, roasted and fed to their owners.
But Mr Tsvangirai made the fatal mistake of recognising Mugabe as president when he agreed to negotiate. Going back on that endorsement now, as he is doing while backing out of the power-sharing deal, is only an indication of the miscalculation and floundering that is only a symptom of the MDC leader's strategic bereftment. That agreement was, at the time Mr Tsvangirai suggested it, Mugabe's lifeline. Now, he does not need it. He has a new weapon, the so-called militias. Those who seek to paint Mugabe as being cornered and want the rest of us to join them in that Cloud Cuckooland are only doing the people's project a disservice. It was, after all, as I have already said, Mr Tsvagirai and the MDC-T who actually initiated the dialogue that is now dead. It was Mr Tsvangirai who called for talks to share power, not Robert Mugabe. Mugabe already had his plan for clinging on to power in place when the MDC-T did this and he ran it alongside the dialogue process, certain that MDC-T would not see talks to their logical conclusion. He bought the time that he needed and now he can see light at the end of his very narrow tunnel.
What exactly is Mugabe's plan for putting himself back in the saddle? By-elections, even those these were undemocratically banned by the agreement between Mugabe and Tsvagirai. As I mentioned earlier, some MDC Mps are under arrest for "violence." Some of them, like the speaker of parliament, have left their seats vacant after being elevated. And then, as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, you are also going to see some of these new MPs die mysteriously over the next nine to twelve months.
In each of these cases, a by-election will be called. These by-elections will not be elections at all. They will be brutal, violent affairs, in the worst tradition of ZANU PF. There will be intimidation and beatings on a frightening scale because Mugabe now knows that this works. And, seat by seat, constituency by constituency, he plans to claw back a majority in the House that way. Initially, he had thought that he could combine this with a tactic to woo the MDC Mutambara and have his MPs vote with ZANU PF in the House. But that much-maligned man, whom I have dealt with first hand and found to be much more radical in his opposition to Mugabe than Tsvangirai, put paid to that when he told ZANU PF point blank that they should not "have illusions about our MPs commitment to the removal of ZANU PF from power."
So, while the world looks the other way, eagerly watching the talks initiated by Mr Tsvangirai, Mr Mugabe is preparing the ground for an assault on the democratic will of the people of Zimbabwe. By- elections are the route he has chosen to reverse the majority the two MDCs have in parliament, since that majority is extremely thin.
The two main parties had plotted and agreed to subvert democracy by agreeing in their September 15 non-agreement that there would be no by-elections in the case of a seat falling vacant. Instead, the party that held that seat would simply nominate anybody they liked to take it up in parliament. The people where not consulted as they were denied a chance to choose a man or woman who would work for his constituency's needs, which is the purpose of our Westminster model. Mugabe agreed to this only because he knew full well that he had no intention of honouring that bit. He wanted time and Mr Tsvagirai gave it to him.
This is why, even as the negotiations were taking place, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was announcing that there would be by-elections to fill seats vacated by dying MPs and those elevated to higher office. The world did not notice and that suited Mugabe just fine. Even the MDC failed to read the full implications of this and decided it was better to keep their eyes firmly on the doomed talks.
The reversal of the MDC majority is progressing even as we speak. Mugabe is confident that his tactics of violence and intimidation will carry the day, and they most probably will because Zimbabweans have never been ones to stand up for their rights. And they have chosen very bad champions in the MDC-T.
In any case, once that reversal is in place, Mugabe will feel on top of the world once again. Never mind that he is running a country that is now one big toilet, with Cholera deaths much higher than the ones you hear reported, hospitals and schools closing. These are "small details" in the "final revolution to defeat Britain" in Mugabe's eyes and they do not concern him one bit. He is at war, he believes and he is running the country basically along Martial Law lines. Which explains why the destruction of the country at the moment is the last conern he has. His eyes are on winning that "war." It is not just rhetoric and the sooner we all understood that the better. Tsvagirai realised it at the Sheraton hotel when he had lunch with Mugabe in September.
Safely in power, backed by a parliament that will be able to push through his wishes, Mugabe will then simply ignore the MDC-T and Morgan Tsvangirai, pushing ahead with his doomed rule of Zimbabwe.
The world will wake up too late, I am afraid and Mugabe will present them with a fait accompli yet again. Only then will we start to see Mr Tsvagirai run around to try and close the stable door, but the horses would have bolted.
I mention this to illustrate to you what exactly we mean when we say the MDC lacks both strategic foresight and direction. As of now, the opposition party has no strategy for dealing with this Mugabe plan. They do not understand the strategic implications of Mugabe's violation of the agreement in this respect. Their eyes are fixed on the talks and the corridors of power, their single-minded focus is on winning government. Having taken people's votes and put them in their back pocket, they have turned their backs on the electorate, who will now be left to suffer the consequences of Mugabe's latest play at keeping power.
It is for this reason that the MDC fails to win in the rural areas, which are more close-knit societies. When the beatings start, when the torture and the killings begin in earnest, the villagers will not see anyone from the MDC. And the MDC leaders in those villages will either flee as they did in June this year around the Presidential election run-off or renounce their memberships. The villagers will be left to swing in the wind and they have no option but to toe the line and vote for Mugabe's evil party. In any case, the bottom line is that Mugabe will have physical seats with which to continue the charade of running Zimbabwe (into the ground).
It is for this reason that there will be no new general election, the prospect of which even Mavambo would welcome with open arms. We are realists enough to recognise this. We do not make the mistake others make of making our wishes fact and our conjectures the basis of the only strategy in our movement.
Chess. To paraphrase James Carville, "It's the strategy, stupid!"