Friday 25 April 2008


No one can fail to be concerned and saddened by the continuing suffering and strife in Zimbabwe; clearly there is another bout of repression now that intensifies what has taken place before. Churches want to show sympathy and solidarity through prayer, and through comments like this one from Bishop Desmond Tutu.

My take on this is slightly different. Why is it that a regime like that, which is again unleashing another terror, goes through the merry dance of elections in the first place, even ones that are bogus? Having gone through them, how is it that they don't just announce victories, but pause, have no results, and only then start to stitch up results by apparent recounts and the like?

The answer is because politics is still in operation, and power is not quite as certain as it seems. It has been clear that not all of ZANU-PF was united, and there has been a small independent breakout of a sort. The ruination of the economy bears down on the ruling party and the sustainability of power, on top of the age of Mugabe and the biases of the people on whom he relies. Approaching these elections, in a situation of legal and extra-legal repression, there was a degree of uncertainty about his power and standing that allowed something of the dance to take place - and when the result was so obvious, that he had lost comprehensively, and even allowed a narrow majority for the opposition in parliament, the whole thing went into pause and puzzlement about what next.

What seems to have happened since is that Mugabe has rallied his forces. Enough people at the political centre see themselves more threatened by a change of power than by the continued ruination - at least for now. There are also gangs who can get food and provisions and have to go around causing a terror. Enough people getting the benefit and causing mayhem keeps the present centre where it sits.

Still, Mugabe did this before: he destroyed places where people lived and he injured and he killed - and for a while then he produced a terror that reasserted his power. This option, though, becomes more limited the more it is carried through. Once this level of suffering and ruination passes, nothing will have changed.

The South African position is, of course, deplorable, and it has lost international standing by continuing to treat Mugabe as "one of us" - though the unions not landing the Chinese ship of armaments have shown a more in-touch contact with the country as a whole. Other African regimes are becoming frustrated with the embarrassment of Mugabe - but many of these are corrupt to some degree and fighting their own internal battles. The coming change in leadership in South Africa may help. In the end none of these will matter set against Mugabe's ability to use enough people around him to spread a terror and keep control for now, and dull down those who would create doubt about his abilities, and his ability still to overcome spaces and places that can be exploited by forces of opposition.

What he wants is to fix the present situation, and attach the label constitutional to the outcome. This is, though, a thin veneer. It sometimes suits a regime to have the appearance of an opposition to therefore have an appearance of legitimacy, and others wider and abroad can latch on to that for their own purposes. Zimbabwe though has real opposition, and this election has fooled no one - that the Mugabe regime remains uncertain. The clock is against him and the whole regime. An effort is still being made to twist the election to call a favoured outcome constitutional, and that is more the measure of his weakness, as is his effort to link the organised opposition to colonialism. Legitimacy and authority is increasingly out of Mugabe's grasp, even if he does twist the election. Too much has gone on and the stalling has been for too long.

One puzzles why leaders want to stay in power when the country they rule has gone to rack and ruin; others quite close to Mugabe will wonder precisely that.

There is another side issue here about which everyone is well aware. It is the couldn't care less attitude of the Chinese regime. It is as if the Communist Party of China has read its Marx on imperialism and, along with its introduction of the ruthless bonded capitalism at home has decided to do economic imperialism abroad without any moral compass at all. It trades with any regime regardless in the pursuit of getting its raw materials. It too is noticing some limits to this - the Olympic Games with its ethical dimension is rebounding in the Chinese regime's face and indeed these arms are going back. What a disgusting regime it is, rotten to the core, generally corrupt, and an upholder of human rights abusers around the world.

Blessed be the Land of Zimbabwe

O lift high the banner, the flag of Zimbabwe
The symbol of freedom proclaiming victory;
We praise our heroes' sacrifice,
And vow to keep our land from foes;
And may the Almighty protect and bless our land.

O lovely Zimbabwe, so wondrously adorned

With mountains, and rivers cascading, flowing free;
May rain abound, and fertile fields;
May we be fed, our labour blessed;
And may the Almighty protect and bless our land.

O God, we beseech Thee to bless our native land;
The land of our fathers bestowed upon us all;
From Zambezi to Limpopo
May leaders be exemplary;
And may the Almighty protect and bless our land.

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