Mugabe Pardons 1500 Prisoners - But All Is Not As It Seems

A prisoner takes a bath in a Zimbabwe prison in this screen-grab from the documentary shot this year in Zimbabwe. Several prison officers have since been fired. Mugabe has pardoned 1544 of these prisoners, a move that may not be as charitable as it first appears

Harare, Zimbabwe, 03 September 2009

Robert "The Solution" Mugabe has "pardoned" more than 1500 prisoners because his government is so broke, it can't feed them.

Significantly, the ministry of justice announced that the pardon will not be extended to people accused of "plotting against the government.

Murderers as well are in for it, as are rapists, who also do not qualify.

Those to be released are the terminally ill, juveniles and women.

The Ministry of Justice announcement comes after that infamous documentary, "Hell Hole", shown by South African television and shot secretly in Zimbabwe's jails.

A couple of prison officers lost their jobs as a result, accused of having helped the filmmakers.

I was warned this evening, however, that this move is a prelude to darker times. A source from within Mugabe's party claims that his party and his president have now decided that sooner rather than later, the MDC is going to walk.

If this source is correct, you will, in the very near future, hear of a surge in violence across the country. It will be put down to "hardcore" criminals who were pardoned because the government had no money to feed them.

Later, of course, it will emerge that the violence is actually politically motivated. Preparations for by-elections would have begun.

Whether he walks or stays on his "irreversible train", Morgan Tsvangirai will find the corridors of power very cold indeed. He has, in the eyes of his "principal", Robert "The Solution"Mugabe, proved to be of no use.

He can't bring in the dollars.

And without that, there is no need to tolerate his presence at Munhumutapa any longer, unless he capitulates and does so utterly, as happened with Joshua Nkomo.

The new strategy has taken shape in the following form:

Mugabe has been advised that his election as president and his swearing-in were fait accomppli that the African Union and SADC accepted. Mugabe had just been hurriedly sworn-in when he left the country to attend the African Union Summit in Egypt.

It was there that the African Union received him as head of state, and then resolved to hand the matter of Zimbabwe negotiations to SADC, which threw the hot potato back into Thabo Mbeki's lap.

Tsvangirai, SADC and Mbeki dealt with Mugabe as a Head of State, with Patrick Chinamasa spitting out the words: "The president's position is non-negotiable!" to journalists.

Therefore, the fall of this Inclusive Government will result only in the country going back for parliamentary elections, organised and presided over by Mugabe.

The hope is to claw back the majority in parliament that way. And set up a government "with a clean conscience", as ZANU PF puts it, telling the world that they had tried to reconcile with their internal and western enemies, but these had proved that they did not want such reconciliation.

Campaigning, Tsvangirai will no longer be able to say that he "holds the key" to aid from outside Zimbabwe, as he has done before. Mugabe would simply retort that the keys had failed to work last time Tsvangirai took them to Europe and America and they would never work until land was restored back to white farmers (that is, after all the anchor upon which he has campaigned in every single election since 1999.

The pardon, then, is a sideshow. The Main Attraction is yet to come.

You can already see that, increasingly impatient, Mugabe has thrown his toys out of the cot, refused to play with Tsvangirai any more and is sulking in a corner waiting for the SADC meeting in the DRC next week.

He will quite simply not do anything more to appease the MDC. Already, it is clear to close observers that the dictator has made up his mind that Tsvangirai and the MDC have failed to live up to the job he had in mind for them: turning around the economy and getting money in from the outside world for reconstruction.

He sees no benefit accruing to him and his party from any more concessions he gives the MDC.

Which effectively means that, for Mugabe, the Inclusive Government is dead. It is Tsvangirai now who is clinging to hope, quite aware, as he said at his press conference yesterday, that "there is not other option" for him.

Mugabe, after all, can not be defeated, Tsvangirai has said before.


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