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Is Zimbabwe a ‘free’ society, or is it not?

Posted by CM on October 15, 2009

For those readers whose diet only consists of Western media such as CNN, BBC and the many others of that ilk, the answer to the question probably seems so obvious even posing it must seem strange to them. The likely clear-cut answer for them is ‘of course Zimbabwe is not a free country. That’s where the president has ruled for decades and steals elections to continue to do so, where opposition political officials are beaten up and presecuted, where white farmers with title deeds are chased of their farms with no legal recourse, etc, etc…’

Indeed, all these are very much part of the reality of present-day Zimbabwe. But it would be a mistake to believe that these sad examples give a clear answer to the free/unfree question. And of course who is to define what ‘free’ means anyway? It depends on the definer.

So, for example, fto the white Zimbabwean who has had his farm taken away and can do nothing about it, of course Zimbabwe is not free. But a black Zimbabwean who risks being unfairly targeted for his political affiliation today but who has property and prospects he didn’t before and who believes he suffered more and in different ways under the racially-based ‘unfreedom’ of Rhodesia, the answer may be different or more complicated.

This is a recurring theme of this blog: there are very few things about The Zimbabwe Crisis that are as clear-cut, simple and straightforward as is suggested by the dominant media.

Property rights are considered a key cornerstone of ‘the rule of law,’ a key definer of ‘freedom’ according to the dominant definitions of whether a country is considered free or not.  If you are a white farm-owner in Zimbabwe, you have plenty of reason to be worried about how much you can count on your ability to exert property rights. And for the foreseeable future, no one of any colour can be too sure that their tenure on any farmland in Zimbabwe is secure. So with regards to security of farmland, no one can feel too ‘free in Zimbabwe at the moment, even the recently resettled who must worry about the possibility of being displaced on some politician’s whim.

Yet in the urban areas and in regards to residential or non-farm commercial land, the title deed is as established and respected as proof of ownership as anywhere else in the world.

The state media is not only astonishingly dull, narrow and boring for a country of Zimbabwe’s ‘sophistication,’ it is so insecure that you will simply never read or hear any (mainly political) views that differ from the thinking of the dominant clique of ZANU-PF, the effective ruling party. In this regard Zimbabwe may not be very different from many other countries that nevertheless do not share its bad boy image. Ah, so clear proof that Zimbabwe is not free then?

Not so simple. Many private newspapers have been shut down over the years over silly pretexts, and the ruling authorities are so insecure about their popularity that private radio or TV stations that have become the routine norm in many other much poorer countries are not allowed. And as I found out during my recent month at home, the internet is scandalously hard to access because of the very poor connectivity, slow speeds and high costs that have resulted from the country’s isolation and lack of competition/capitalization of the sector.

Yet there is a small ultra-critical private media that exists. Critical newspapers from South Africa and beyond are freely on sale on the streets of Harare. Some argue that this is allowed because the authorities know that on the basis of cost and circulation, the penetration of these alternative media is very low and therefore of little threat to them, while allowing them to say, ‘See, we allow opposing views, we are not a dictatorship.’

And of course, in terms of the make up of its parliament, Zimbabwe can claim to be a democracy like relatively few others in Africa or beyond. Opposition parties have always been allowed, albeit thwarted in every way possible by means mostly foul, and now the previously all-dominant ZANU-PF must share fully half the elected parliamentary seats with the two MDC factions. Debate in parliament is robust, and heckling of the state president is not unknown, something for which swift death would ensue in many countries in the world.

So the free/unfree question cannot be answered in any simple and straightforward, obvious way.

Interestingly, some of the ways in which I most felt an oppressive atmosphere were often not in the typical or expected ones of fearing to express a critical political opinion or for one’s personal safety. It was instead in how every quasi-state authority seemed to disproportionately communicate in terms of threats, ‘directives’  and warnings to the public they ostensibly exist to serve.

The cash-strapped water, electricity, municipal, revenue and other authorities seemed to be in a competition to see which one could take out the most intimidating media advertisements to warn of the consequences of not paying up. There was not just an air of desperation about the ads, they seemed unusually menacing, disrespectful and contemptuous of the public in a way I could not remember having experienced so strongly in Zimbabwe before, nor anywhere else.

Police roadblocks seem excessively common in Zimbabwe, with some officers very showily armed. But they are not ‘political’ roadblocks so there is no fear of them on that basis. As in many countries, the police manning them seem more concerned about finding excuses to fine motorists for one thing or another, naturally preferably ‘off the record,’ than they are about anything else. And these common and frequent roadblocks may very well act as a deterrent to some crimes, or help to remove a certain percentage of unroadworthy vehicles from the country’s increasingly dangerous roads.

So it is not in a personal or political freedom sense that I found the many roadblocks disconcerting. But disconcerting I certainly did find them. I found it hard to dismiss that sense of a softly menacing presence that could easily turn on a citizen on the flimsiest excuse. My sense was far from, “Phew, I’m so glad I’m a law-abiding citizen with nothing to fear from the police/army and I’m so happy and relieved they are out in full force on the roads to protect me.”

It was not obvious that the very heavy police and military presence was to protect citizens rather than to intimidate and control them.

So is Zimbabwe a free or an unfree society? The most accurate answer I can give is that it is both, and not at all necessarily in the ways that one might expect.

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The poor rich white Zim farmer who chose to feed his pigs to crocs, rather than to people

Posted by CM on January 29, 2009

Another day, another ‘poor white Zimbabwean farmer’ story in the “international media,” this time originating in South Africa, rather than the usual source, the UK.

The story has all the now familiar elements:  Brave, committed, patriotic and hard working white Zimbabwean farmer just wants to get on with the business of feeding the starving natives who don’t have a clue how to farm. But the irrational government of Robert Mugabe won’t let them, going to absurd extents to prevent them from feeding the nation.

Excertpts from “‘It’s a nightmare” :  

 A South African farmer in Zimbabwe had to slaughter 1 000 of his pigs and feed the meat to crocodiles because farm invaders had decided that no pig feed would be allowed on the farm.

Louis Fick has been farming with pigs, crocodiles, cattle, fish and grain near Chinhoyi since 1993. He said the last of 3 500 pigs will be finished off within weeks, while all his cattle had already been killed. This is partly due to the ban on animal feed and partly because the senior Reserve Bank official who had seized the farm in July 2007 was limiting Fick’s farming activities to 5ha of the 400ha farm.

Nothing was happening on the rest of the land, said Fick. He is part of a group of farmers who will now once again approach the Southern African Development Community (SADC) tribunal to try and force President Robert Mugabe’s government to reinstate their ownership of expropriated farms.

Fick said prominent employees of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank were increasingly targeting farms. On his farm the new owner prohibited the supply of animal feed for the first time in April last year, and then again since last week.

They are making it incredibly difficult and are in effect allowing no feed. “We have to throw the feed over high security fences and then load it onto vehicles, but then they lock up the vehicles so that we can’t move. It’s not fair towards the animals. Fortunately I can feed the pigs to the crocodiles.

In its heyday, the farm as an integrated enterprise supported 3 500 pigs, 12 000 crocodiles, 1 500 cattle and a fish hatchery. Eighty hectares had been planted with wheat and soya.

Theron said most of the remaining 300 white farmers were currently being forbidden to plant and the persecution of farmers who refused to stop farming was continuing.

“It’s a nightmare.”

Okay, point taken: White Zimbabwean farmers are under siege by the government and it is difficult for them to operate. We have known this for close to ten years now, and this story does not add anything really new to what we have been hearing and reading for that time.

And granted, just as Mugabe’s regime and its supporters use crude propaganda to get their points across, the white farmers have their sympathisers and supporters using similar tactics far and wide. In this case I doubt that this story is unrelated to the farmers’ bid to go back to the SADC Tribunal which recently issued a sympathetic ruling to them which the Mugabe government predictably ignored.

That the regime of Mugabe is bad news in countless ways has been obvious for a very long time. But frequently, the efforts of the white farmer-sympathising “international media” to depict him as the devil incarnate do not at all help those white farmers. 

In this case, I wonder why the reporter did not pose the question of why, in  a country in which we are ad-infinitum  told is on the brink of starvation, this particular white farmer chose to feed his pigs to crocodiles than to people.

If Mugabe is the ultimate bad guy, it is hard for me to see white farmers like Fick as the good guys of Zimbabwe who are being prevented from saving the natives from starvation!

Quite unintentionaly, this story exposes the deep racial issues at the heart of “The Zimbabwe Crisis.”

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Sadly and predictably, Zim biodiesel plant produces little

Posted by CM on November 26, 2008

One will have to put up with one of the most annoying phenomena of the blogosphere: the “I told you so” post.

There is a lot of interest in the world in biofuels to replace fossil fuels. Even with fossil oil prices having recently come down to less than $50 a barrel from a recent high of almost three times as much, this is a temporary reprieve and it makes sense to continue to explore sustainable alternatives before fossil oil eventually runs out.

Zimbabwe has particular need to aggressively looking for alternatives, having been largely cut off from normal trade in oil for almost ten years, making fuel shortages an almost permanent part of life, with all the economic and other effects of such a situation.

It would therefore have been nice to report that Zimbabwe was pursuing biofuels more aggressively and successfully than other nations. Alas, the biodiesel plant announced with much fanfare last year seems to be yet another white elephant. The main reason? There just isn’t enough raw material being produced in the country, whether cotton, soya bean, jatropha or any other”feed stock.” This is  hardly surprising when the country is failing to produce enough of its staple cereal, maize.

The Standard of November 22 reports that “the country’s first commercial bio-diesel plant, commissioned amid pomp and fanfare last year, is operating at less than five percent capacity. Workers at the gigantic plant in Harare — once touted as the panacea to the country’s perennial — said they were producing “a few hundreds of litres” of diesel and cooking oil a month. They attributed the false start to an acute shortage of Jatropha, cotton seed, sunflower, soya beans and maize to produce diesel and cooking oil.

When standardbusiness visited the plant just before midday on Thursday, the plant with a capacity to produce between 90-100 million litres of diesel annually was silent.

For the past year, we have been using cotton seed for the production of diesel and cooking oil but it has run out,” said a worker speaking on condition that he was not named.  “We can’t use maize or soya beans because there is hunger. People need them for food.”

At least 500 tonnes of seed oil is required annually to produce the targeted 100 million litres of bio-diesel.
It takes between two and three years for a Jatropha seedling to mature.

“We have to wait for the Jatropha seedlings to mature otherwise we are wasting our time,” said another worker.

Sad but utterly predictable. I told you so.

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Investment rises, even in the midst of crisis

Posted by CM on September 27, 2008

No one could possibly want to invest in a country with as much bad press as Zimbabwe, could they? The ‘international media’ have been warning anyone who cares to listen that the country’s collapse will happen ‘tomorrow, next week, next month, in the next six months,  any day now,’ for close to a decade now.

And the ‘international media’ lovingly, in great detail and as regularly as possible, tells us about the social and economic hardships of life in Zimbabwe in a way they strangely forget to do in war zones like Iraq, where people have not just been experiencing hardships too, but also being killed in their thousands.

So surely no one in his right mind would invest in a country like Zimbabwe, would they? Well, according to a report about worldwide investment trends by the United Nations Development Programme, there are actually are some investors who think the country is a good bet, if only in the medium to long term. The Financial Gazette reports:

Despite the worsening economic conditions in Zimbabwe, a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has highlighted a marked improvement in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country from US$40 million in 2006 to US$69 million last year.

These investments have, however, not translated in the overall growth of the country’s tottering economy, which means the funds could have been invested on the buoyant financial markets.

UNCTAD’s statistics came as the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) indicated an upsurge in enquiries on the back of a political settlement reached between the country’s main political parties — ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change.  “We have seen a serious interest on Zimbabwe in the past few weeks,” said ZIA chief executive Richard Mubaiwa. “Next week in South Africa there will be a conference on investment in Zimbabwe to be held at the Development Bank of Southern Africa headquarters. It shows there is interest on Zimbabwe after the political settlement,” he added.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Callisto Jokonya revealed yesterday that the industrial representative body was due to meet a foreign investor keen to inject about US$250 million in investments in the country.

For a country of Zimbabwe’s former economic glory and its potential, a rise in investments in two years from $40 million to $69 million may seem impressive in percentage terms, but it is paltry in absolute terms, a mere shadow of the country’s boom times. And as the story guesses, much of this new investment may have been in the speculative financial markets rather than in production. The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange has weathered the country’s many storms to continue to reward investors with good, above-hyper inflation returns.

But it is the trend that is interesting. Instead of investment declining to near zero in response to the unprecedented propaganda, economic and diplomatic onslaught against not just Mugabe’s regime, but against the country itself, there are still some hard-nosed businesspeople who think Zimbabwe is an interesting place to put their money.

This partly illustrates how despite the very real hardships and decline of recent years, Zimbabwe remains more functional in some surprising ways than many ‘non-crisis’ countries that do not have such controversial rulers as it does.

If a convincing political settlement should emerge from the murky recent positions & perks deal between the political parties, the next few years should be very interesting business time in Zimbabwe.

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The complexities of Zimbabwe

Posted by CM on May 2, 2008

by Chido Makunike*

A month after Zimbabwe’s March 29 elections, the winner of the presidential poll remains unknown. The delay adds considerable additional complexity to the many undercurrents of the country’s problems.

By virtue of the suspicious, poorly explained delay in announcing who won the presidential poll, the authorities in Harare have ensured that the only outcome that will be widely believed by a sceptical world would be one in which main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai emerged the winner. Any other result would be widely dismissed as what the authorities were “fixing” to produce a favourable outcome for President Robert Mugabe in the time since the election.

Even a close result requiring a run-off election between Mugabe and Tsvangirai would be seen by many as engineered to give the ruling party a second chance to mobilise the state machinery to do whatever it took to ensure the “right” result for him. Yet the results delay and whatever other gambits the authorities are likely to serve up arguably can no longer serve to impart even the veneer of electoral legitimacy on Mugabe.

It would be one of many recent defeats for Mugabe to resort to out rightly thwarting the electoral will of the people. But he does nevertheless need a façade of democracy. He has often responded to his Western critics by saying they have no authority to chide him on the basis of his democratic credentials. “We brought democracy at independence in spite of Western support for the racist, anti-democratic government we replaced” has been his argument. He points out that by the measure of regularly held elections, Zimbabwe is far more democratic than many other countries that are in much better books with the Western world than it is.

Mugabe makes this point to bolster his argument that Western opposition to him is not because of any concern for the welfare of Zimbabweans, but is due to his stinging criticism of the double standards of the West, as well as his refusal to be compliant with Western expectations of how an African leader should conduct himself. It is precisely Mugabe’s fearlessly expressed, hard-to-fault arguments about the West’s relations with the rest of the world that makes him such a hero to many in Africa and beyond, even as Zimbabweans have suffered steep economic decline and increasing repression at home.

If the veneer of democratic legitimacy such as that imparted by regularly scheduled elections, no matter how flawed, has always been so important to Mugabe, why would he seem to risk throwing it all away now? Whatever the presidential results will show when released, the opposition MDC’s unprecedented win of a majority in the concurrently held parliamentary election is a convincing indication of the level of disaffection with the rule of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF. His actions since March 29 do not at all suggest a man who respects the right of the voters to choose their leaders.

For the three election cycles up to the mid 1990s, Mugabe’s desire for the perception of a strict adherence to at least the forms of electoral democracy, if not the substance, was relatively easy to achieve. Independence-era euphoria and “gratitude” may have been lifting with every election, but until about then, Mugabe could count on genuine popularity to make his party’s re-elections a foregone conclusion. Mugabe has now shown that his dedication to those electoral forms is not quite so strong after all, now that the evidence suggests a likely majority of the electorate want him gone.

Merely conducting an election cannot bestow democratic legitimacy when it is clear that the only results that will be respected are those in which the incumbent wins. By so awkwardly making this obvious, Mugabe’s government has trapped itself into the equally unhealthy situation in which much of the Zimbabwean electorate and the world would now only believe a result which showed Mugabe losing. This has made “the Zimbabwe crisis” take on a dimension far beyond what can be resolved by the much anticipated release of the results of the presidential poll.

The desire to hold on to power and privilege, and fear of prosecution for past crimes are the usually discussed reasons for Mugabe and ZANU-PF conducting themselves with so little dignity in the face of evidence of an electorate earthquake of rejection against them. But genuine revulsion at what Tsvangirai and the MDC are perceived to represent is no doubt also part of the intransigence of Mugabe & Company in conceding defeat.

There is a self-serving element to Mugabe’s painting of the MDC as stooges of the West who are bent on reversing the efforts to have Zimbabwe’s political independence also have economic teeth for its citizens. Yet Tsvangirai and the MDC have ineptly only fuelled these suspicions in their words and deeds over the years. Mugabe and ZANU-PF in turn have largely failed to convince a majority of Zimbabweans that the claimed slavishness of the MDC to their Western backers is the reason their country is in such poor shape. Mugabe & Co. may genuinely worry that Tsvangirai and the MDC wish to “sell out” the country to the West and “reverse the gains of the revolution” by restoring the economic dominance of whites in commercial agriculture and other sectors of the economy.

But if so, electoral democracy required that Mugabe sold that message to the electorate more convincingly than the MDC made its pitch of a need for change and renewal. The MDC has arguably won that battle for the hearts and minds of Zimbabweans, helped considerably by the country’s desperate economic state under Mugabe.

Instead of accepting his failure to sell his message of “Things are bad because we are besieged by powerful external foes, stick with me while I work out a plan to thwart them and improve things,” Mugabe has instead arrogantly chosen to accuse the electorate of not fully understanding what was at stake. His stance is essentially that the electorate are mistaken to buy Tsvangirai’s message and reject his. And if he can get away with it, he seems inclined to “correct” the misguided electorate by hanging on in power regardless of the popular will!

Yet the price one must pay for accepting a system of electoral democracy is to respect the will of the people even if one believes that will to be wrong. You then revert to opposition, sharpening your message for the next election. The current impasse is partly because of the refusal of Mugabe & Co. to respect this rule of the game because for the first time its result has been unfavourable to them.

The MDC had begun to make inroads into reversing the suspicion with which it was regarded in many African capitals by a belated diplomatic outreach to them. Those efforts have in recent weeks become compromised again by the over-the- top eagerness of the Western political establishment and media to take sides in the Zimbabwean election. In the days leading up to the election, and since then, the Western political and media establishment abandoned all pretence of merely being onlookers who were just interested in seeing that Zimbabweans were able to freely exercise their vote. Zimbabwe’s economic, political and humanitarian problems are severe enough, but the Western media, particularly that of ex-colonial master Britain, went into an absolute frenzy to depict the country as a virtual war zone.

Whether or not it was a coordinated campaign to give Mugabe that has made it so easy for the West to come to hate him the decisive final push out of power, in their shrillness the Western political and media establishment only served to give credence to Mugabe’s long-held claim of a Western conspiracy to depose him for not being pliable in the mould of most African leaders. Britain had kept a relative distance in the months leading up to the election, correctly fearing that any unusual interest would be used by Mugabe as proof of its dishonourable neo-colonialist intentions. But at the time of the election and immediately after,

Britain seemed to smell Mugabe’s blood and lost all self-restraint in the excitement of the prospect of seeing its old nemesis gone. It was almost as if Britain were so certain of Mugabe being deposed that it no long felt the need to maintain the façade of being a neutral observer.

Western shrillness has only grown since the election, with the Zimbabwean authorities also feeding it by the astonishing games over the election results, as well as the jailing of some Western journalists for slipping into the country to report on the election without getting accreditation to do so under the country’s tight media laws. But the effect of all this has been to justify the paranoia of the Zimbabwean authorities about a claimed coordinated Western “regime change” agenda.

Such an agenda could not justify the flouting of the popular electoral will, but it is not much of a stretch to guess that the unseemly eagerness of the West to interfere in and influence the election against him would only have made Mugabe and his whole political machinery feel inclined to dig in even in defiance of the voters. It is therefore quite plausible to speculate that the Western eagerness to “help” the MDC to ensure Mugabe’s exit may in the short term have served to do the exact opposite.

In the immediate term the desire of the West to see the back of a troublesome-to-them Mugabe probably overlaps with the wishes of many Zimbabweans who put the blame for the political repression and economic hardships in their country squarely at Mugabe’s door. But it is not at all certain that those similar desires perfectly coincide. Neither Britain nor the US have an honourable history in regards to Zimbabwe, so their posing as great champions of democracy and defenders of its peoples’ best interests have a hollow ring.

Mugabe has indeed degenerated into a despot who has refused to accept any responsibility for his country’s mess. But he is no worse a ruler than many others who dare not point out the West’s double standards and who are quite happy to have their countries be client states in return for being absolved of scrutiny over their governance records. Therefore the West and the Zimbabwean citizenry want a change from Mugabe for likely very different reasons.

If Mugabe somehow survives the electoral and diplomatic onslaughts against him and hangs on for several more years, the ill-advised Western intervention on behalf of the MDC would provide him considerable ammunition against the opposition party. This may make little difference to the voters’ feelings towards him if economic decline and hardship continue, as is likely to be the case in a situation where the Western world would be even more resolute in closing doors off to Mugabe’s government. Yet if Mugabe were able to stem the slide, say by paying serious attention to improved agricultural productivity, he might well be able to say “you saw how the Westerners behaved during the 2008 election; their conspiracy against me was not a figment of my imagination.”

With the economy continuing on its present slide, few outside his immediate circle and the die-hards in his party would listen to this argument. But with even modest stabilization, his idea of radical land redistribution remains popular enough amongst even his opponents that the argument could gain political currency to his benefit and at the expense of the MDC.

Even if Tsvangirai and the MDC assume office, their doing so with such open support for it as the West has shown will be a double edged sword. If the expected massive Western financial support flows in a way that quickly results in a stabilization of the economy that is widely felt at the grassroots, the whiff of the suspicion of the MDC having agreed to be “stooges” in return for Western support would be neutralised, at least in the short term. The need for a return to economic stability is probably the one issue that unites people across the country’s criss-crossing political divides.

But in the absence of either quick or widely-felt economic recovery, the tag of “Western stooge” around the necks of Tsvangirai and the MDC could remain a potent political weapon in the hands of a ZANU-PF that no longer dominates parliament, but nevertheless has only a handful fewer seats than the MDC. This assumes that ZANU-PF adjusts to being a minority party without disintegrating, which in turn also depends on how successfully they can choose a leader to fill Mugabe’s very large shoes. Without dramatic economic recovery, ZANU-PF in opposition could remain a formidable thorn in an MDC government’s flesh, with its Western backing becoming more of an albatross to it than a blessing.

Having won a majority, the MDC has not spent much time contesting the legitimacy of the parliamentary results. If they are considered to be a true reflection of the electoral will, it is astonishing that the ruling ZANU-PF did as well as it did, winning almost half of the popular vote and the number of parliamentary seats. With the rate of inflation said to be close to 200,000% and virtually every other economic index being strongly negative, one would have expected the ruling party to have been electorally wiped out.

Herein lie some of the nuances of the Zimbabwean crisis that much of the media we are exposed to is either oblivious of or simply not interested in relating. Mugabe has increasingly become repressive, he has been a brilliant ideologue but a very poor manager and he has simply stayed in power longer than was advisable for his own legacy. But his broad message of an unapologetic, assertively expressed desire for African empowerment retains its appeal and has led to a sea change in how black Zimbabweans think about what their independence should mean.

To say many and probably most Zimbabweans want Mugabe to step aside is not the same as saying his ideas have been largely rejected by them. For example, most would want his flawed land reform effort to be fixed to work, not for it to be reversed. The MDC was slow to understand this and other nuances of Mugabe’s complex legacy, losing it precious early time and support in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. Now the opposition party is careful to say it would not return land to its previous white occupiers, but would make sure it was productively used by the new black landholders. It remains to be seen if the MDC’s Western backers understand these nuances and would it to negotiate the minefield of balancing the need for reviving the economy with the political imperative of a strong desire for African empowerment that will remain one of Mugabe’s strongest legacies despite his failure to translate that desire into concrete, practical reality.

There has been talk of a Kenya-like ‘government of national unity.’ Both sides naturally posture against it. It may still be emerge as the immediate way out of the present crisis. But as in Kenya, such a compromise solution robs whoever the winner is of the spoils of electoral victory. When the game is played, all the participants are fully aware that they could lose by a mere handful of votes.

Whether in Kenya or Zimbabwe, another potential flaw of a GNU is to rob the electorate of two or more competing visions of how their country should be ruled. It may avoid conflict in the short term, but it also effectively allows political parties to put aside their competition for power because the GNU allows all of them a chance at the feeding trough. There is also

the potential of them collectively ganging up against the citizens they usually claim are their whole reason for being.

Resolving the current impasse is undoubtedly the most urgent order of business in Zimbabwe. But the country’s tortured and violent history, the cynical external interests seeking to exert their influence for their own ends, the huge ideological gulf between the two main political parties and the closeness of the results announced so far suggest that whichever way the immediate crisis is resolved, there is much difficult long term ahead to getting Zimbabwe back on a track of political stability, psychic healing and economic growth.

*article originally published on Pambazuka News, May 01 2008)

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