Saving the sinking Zimbabwe Ruins

Saving the sinking Zimbabwe Ruins

There can be little doubt now that a transition is under way in Zimbabwe. This has often seemed a remote possibility in the past decade; and the reality of the potential transfer of power to new leadership has been clouded by the confusing statements and actions of many of the central players.

Two things have made this possible: the clear evidence of the deteriorating health of Mr Robert Mugabe, 87 years old this year and suffering from various ailments; and the impatience of regional leaders with the seeming impasse in Zimbabwean affairs and the never-ending crisis in that country.

The prospect of a change of leadership raises the question of who may take the place of Mugabe and what may be the prospects of Zimbabwe under his or her leadership.

The most likely candidate for the presidency is a most unlikely candidate, a man with very little formal education and, until 2000, little known outside Zimbabwe – and prior to that a trade union leader of some repute.

Often disparaged by others in leadership in southern Africa and in Zimbabwe, since he founded the Movement for Democratic Change in 1999, his achievements have been quite remarkable: He has forged the MDC from a loose alliance of some 300 civic organisations and the trade unions.

In a decade, he has transformed this “alliance of the poor” into an integrated and powerful political party with more than a million members, offices and branches in all parts of the country, and the clear leadership of the majority in any upcoming electoral contest.

Morgan Tsvangirai was born into a peasant family in the rural southeastern province of Zimbabwe. He was forced to leave school because his parents could not afford to keep him there, and he started life as a minimum-wage worker in the textile industry.

He then worked in the mining industry at a Bindura Nickel Corporation mine, rising to the position of supervisor before joining the powerful Mine Workers’ Union. Once in the union, he rose rapidly through the ranks, assuming the post of secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions – a post he held for 11 years until he assumed the position of leader of the MDC in 1999.

During the past decade, Tsvangirai has survived at least three assassination attempts; a horrific accident in which his wife was killed; and a severe beating in 2007, with brain damage and concussion, following a prayer meeting in Harare. It was the pictures of his swollen face and head after that beating that swept the world and established him as the face of change in Zimbabwe.

He survived an internal coup against his leadership in 2005, when his secretary-general led a revolt on the issue of the resumption of a Senate and this, in turn, gave rise to the Thabo Mbeki-led process of negotiation.

These eventually brought about elections under reformed conditions in March 2008, which the MDC eventually won by a clear majority over Zanu-PF and its incumbent president, Robert Mugabe.

Despite this electoral victory, Tsvangirai was forced into a presidential run-off by regional leaders and, after a violent and turbulent campaign, declined to stand – with the resulting election being declared invalid by the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

This led to further South African-guided negotiations, resulting in the eventual formation of a Transitional Government that was meant to steer the country to free and fair elections in two years.

The struggle for power unleashed by the formation of the MDC left the economy in a shambles: by 2009, gross domestic product had declined by 50% and exports by two-thirds, 70% of the population was being fed by international donors, and inflation was doubling prices every few hours.

Savings were wiped out and all financial institutions faced bankruptcy, the total stock of cash in the country collapsed to a mere 60 cents
per capita.

Stores were empty, fuel stocks ran out and incomes were eroded to the point where monthly salaries would not buy a loaf of bread.

Having won the elections, having survived the runoff and then being forced into a government of national unity (GNU) with his bitter rivals, it was no small decision for Tsvangirai to take the MDC into the Transitional Government as a majority partner, but without hard power.

But, arguing that this was the only way to halt and reverse the economic collapse, his views prevailed – and in February 2009, he led the MDC into the Transitional Government.

Tsvangirai is completely convinced that this was the right decision, and points to the stabilisation and recovery programme he has brought into the Zimbabwean government since being appointed prime minister with a majority in Cabinet and the House of Assembly.

He points to the fact that GDP has doubled from $4.3 billion in 2008 to $9bn this year; tax revenues have recovered from $160 million in all of 2008 to $2.7bn in 2011; exports have tripled, fuelled by rapid expansion in mineral production – rising by 56% in the first half of 2011 alone.

Tsvangirai can claim that Zimbabwe now has a free market economy with no exchange controls, no restrictions on pricing, and domestic markets have recovered rapidly. Inflation is running at a comfortable 3% per annum, and the negative aspect of the rogue behaviour of the Reserve Bank has been curtailed by ring-fencing it and stripping it of authority.

Conflicts over policy, the failure to implement the Global Political Agreement (GPA) in full, and delays in the reform and electoral programme have frustrated progress. The ill-advised indigenisation programme, which was implemented without consultation nor in accordance with agreed Cabinet procedures, has halted the inward flow of foreign direct investment after it had grown rapidly in 2009.

The consequential slowing down of the pace of recovery has created new political and economic pressures that have been difficult to manage.

Strangely, the discovery of a massive diamond deposit at Marange in the eastern province of Manicaland has not eased tensions.

Denied traditional sources of income from the Reserve Bank, oil imports ../and_other_forms_of_corruption__Zanu-PF_saw_the_discovery_as_a_God-given_reprieve.css; and just before the new government took office, moved to take control for its own benefit.

Since then, a consortium of military and international mafia-style enterprises have taken over control and are selling millions of carats of raw diamonds in world markets in defiance of the Kimberley Process.

Perhaps the most significant change, however, has been in the stance that was adopted by regional leaders in the SADC toward the Zimbabwean crisis.

In a series of summits held this year – the first at Livingstone in Zambia, the second at Sandton in Johannesburg, and the last at Luanda in Angola – regional leaders have forged an alliance to force the parties to the GPA to comply with the terms of that agreement in full.

They have further made moves to ensure any future elections are held on the basis of the standards set by the SADC for the region and in accord with global best practice.

It is clear that regional leaders will not permit any serious deviation from this process, which has the clear support of the African Union.

In any such election, there is acceptance that the MDC, led by Tsvangirai, will be the clear winner. Zanu-PF is attempting to alter this scenario, and a number of different permutations are being discussed, but they are all on the assumption that MDC is most likely to assume power in Zimbabwe in the near future.

It is not clear what sort of government will emerge from this process, a second GNU is even a possibility.

But one thing is clear: the era of Robert Mugabe is at an end, and significant changes in the approach of the leadership of government and in the management of the state and the economy are imminent.

MDC claims to be a social democratic party in sympathy with similar regimes in Europe (Sweden, Demark and Germany). It is likely, therefore, to pursue free market strategies with strong government intervention to support real reductions in poverty and a more equal society.

The land issue will clearly take many years to sort out and resolve, but the party is clearly stating that its approach will be based on justice for those affected by the mayhem of the past decade, equity in the future distribution of resources, and security for all who make their living from the land.

It is certain, however, that no one in the region nor in Zimbabwe will ever again make the error of underestimating this quiet, unassuming man from the Buhera District.

As for Zimbabwe, it must be recognised that it has an educated and hard-working population, the highest ratio of natural resources per capita in the world, and is strategically located in the centre of a region that is showing all the signs of rapid and sustained growth.

Eddie Cross

(Ed’s note- Eddie Cross is a renowned Zimbabwean economist)

Tsvangirai tells of the challenges of coalition with Mugabe. Here he tells Colin Freeman of the United Kingdom’s Sunday Telegraph about the challenges of life in a coalition government:

Colin Freeman: Many of your critics say that you should have never entered the coalition, given the dire state that Zimbabwe’s government was in at the time – they feared it would simply taint your own party with the perceived failures of Zanu-PF. How do you respond to that?

Morgan Tsvangirai: It was a strategic decision based on our reality and our situation.

Coalitions are not the best arrangement in the world, but they are undertaken by a politician in order to pass through a certain phase; and I think to a large extent we have delivered. In our case, we had to face all the challenges of an entrenched incumbent, and find a way of unlocking his grip on state institutions.

CF: But Mugabe still controls the state security institutions. Isn’t that a big problem?

MT: He still retains the overall monopoly of the state security sector, yes. It was an omission at the negotiation stages (of forming the government); it should have been one of the most important items to be discussed, but I can understand the mindset of the negotiators.

At the time, they were not talking about the transfer of power – they were talking about the sharing of power, and therefore anything to tamper with certain institutions might have been interpreted as an MDC attempt to take over power.

Still, it was a serious omission, and that is now coming to haunt us as we confront how to create the level playing field, as to how we make sure we have a non-partisan state organ ahead of elections.

CF: Do you think there can be free and fair elections?

MT: I have no doubt that given the experience of June 2008, neither the Southern African Development Community nor the African Union will countenance anything other than an exercise that is credible and legitimate. People must be forgiven for having a continuous preoccupation with Mugabe, saying he will do this or do that. Things have changed. He no longer has monopoly over the whole of the state; he has retained some power, yes, but his authority is shared, and we are in a coalition that is hammering away all the time at all his so-called tentacles of power.

One thing that he won’t do, is make a unilateral decision on when to hold elections, because the SADC and AU insist on certain conditions being fulfilled.

CF: Can you reform the commanders of the security sector yourself?

MT: We know their history in the liberation movements: they have a culture of faith in the one-party philosophy, but we are moving to a multi-party situation, and there needs to be a shift in their professional outlook and culture to reflect that.

CF: You have had three attempts on your own life. Do you still fear assassination by your political enemies within Zimbabwe?

MT: One thing I am very certain of is that if they wanted to get rid of me, they would have taken me out already. They have the capacity and the means. I don’t have any real way to protect myself if they were determined to take me out, but because of the transition and because of the role I have played, that may have soft-landed the crisis that existed two years ago.

CF: What is your relationship with Mr Mugabe like personally?

MT: I see him at the regular prime ministerial-presidential meeting every Monday at 3 o’clock. We discuss government business, the challenges we are facing, diamond mining, civil service salaries, all kinds of things.

Unfortunately, he has his way of then having a separate meeting with his own people, so it undermines that relationship. But there is mutual respect – where we disagree we disagree, but it is not as if I go in and start shouting at him.

Colin Freeman in Harare

Sunday Telegraph (UK)

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