Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Zimbabwe Politics - Dragging out the Nightmare

Zimbabwe's nightmare will not end any time soon. The British foreign office minister Mark Malloch-Brown was only stating yesterday what had been evident for some time - that efforts to form a power-sharing government were deadlocked and that Robert Mugabe had become the chief obstacle to forming one. On Sunday Jendayi Frazer, the US assistant secretary of state for Africa, said the US would not support a power-sharing agreement with Mr Mugabe remaining as president.

The target of both statements was not Mr Mugabe, who continues to mouth inanities like "Zimbabwe is mine", but his Southern African neighbours. They too were the subjects of Mr Mugabe's wrath when he dared them to invade his country. He told Zanu-PF's central committee on Friday that he did not know of any African country brave enough to do that. In other words: come and get me.

The collapse of the deal signed in September is a challenge that South Africa in particular, will find increasingly hard to ignore, not least because it has consistently voted with Russia and China to block attempts by the UN security council to get involved. But it always had the pretext that an alternative was at hand, a negotiated end to Zanu-PF's monopoly on power, and an African solution to an African problem. It is doubtful whether Mr Mugabe ever intended to share power, or whether Thabo Mbeki, the mediator appointed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), ever intended to enforce a deal which gave Morgan Tsvangirai anything more than the role of senior minister in a government in which Zanu-PF retained control both of the military and the police. But while a process existed, the inevitable outcome could be postponed. But now it cannot, and the South African president, Kgalema Motlanthe, is left with nowhere to hide.

The SADC is already split with Zambia and Botswana calling on Mr Mugabe to stand down, and Botswana offering to host a government in exile. The split will deepen as the death toll from the cholera outbreak increases, as the regime resorts to repression, and as the Movement for Democratic Change goes underground or into exile. Declaring a state of emergency will do nothing to help Mr Mugabe retain control of his country's economy, the health system, and the ability to feed the population. Collapse is no longer a possibility but a certainty. The only question, as the SADC is forced to supply ever greater quantities of emergency aid, is how long it takes. The longer the agony, the more it will fall on South Africa to end it. As it is, the only thing that is growing in Zimbabwe is the graveyard.

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