Mass protest still possible

BY STANFORD MUKASA WASHINGTON - The decision by the United States to resume the SADC-US Forum in which Zimbabwe can participate has raised fears that the United States may be softening its hard-line policies on Zimbabwe. The United States had broken off the forum because it did not want its deleg

ates to sit in the same room as those from Zimbabwe.

According to the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Jendayi Frazer, the argument for resuming the SADC forum was that the United States has always engaged Zimbabwe. She said both countries have ambassadors in each other’s capital. Indeed, one can also argue that the United States delegates regularly attend international conferences with their counterparts from Zimbabwe.

On the surface this sounds like a logical policy shift. There are, however, two major implications of this policy shift. The first has to do with the United States interests in Africa in general. The second reflects a growing skepticism that the opposition Zimbabwe is merely a minor inconvenience in the US’s overall African policy, based on the US interests there. For quite a while now both the secretary of state and the assistant secretary of state for Africa have hardly made any significant comments on Zimbabwe.

There is a precedent to this. Back in 1970s the then secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, tried forge a US policy on Africa that was focused more on the US interests than on the social and humanitarian impact of apartheid. In the early 1970s, a leaked policy recommendation showed a policy shift towards reforming apartheid rather than regime change based on one person one vote.

The assumptions underlying that policy recommendation were that the white regimes in southern Africa were there to stay and that the local liberation movements had not shown any potential to achieve their objectives for regime change. The other assumption was that the liberation movement was driven by a neo-Marxist ideology, which during the Cold War Era was clearly seen against the interests of the United States.

But the new emerging policy was overtaken by a numbered of events that changed the geopolitical map of southern Africa. As a result Kissinger was forced to increase pressure on the apartheid regime to force majority rule in the then Rhodesia. The apartheid regime had accepted this in the hope that the tide of liberation would be effectively halted on the Limpopo River. But as we all know events took their own dynamic.

In the aftermath of the splintering of the MDC leadership there is a loss of faith in the ability of the opposition movement to dislodge Mugabe and Zanu (PF).

The new policy shift towards engagement signifies a key US focus from regime change to regime reform, similar to what Kissinger envisaged back in the 1970s. But this time around there are no signs of a clear and present threat to the Mugabe regime in a way that would give hope that the opposition movement is anywhere near achieving their objectives of dislodging Mugabe.

How many times over the years did we hear former secretary of information and publicity say the MDC had secret plans to confront Mugabe but would not disclose them until the appropriate time!

This is not to say that the MDC was or is without strength – but is there is a commitment and determination among the leadership to mobilize the massive and raw strength of Zimbabwean masses into street protests?

This is the fundamental key to any popular revolution against Mugabe. Since the split in the MDC leadership Morgan Tsvangirayi and his highly energetic secretary of information Nelson Chamisa and economic planning and finance secretary Tendai Biti have articulated a new radical policy of confrontation.

In a stark contrast, the splinter pro-senate group led by Welshman Ncube and Gibson Sibanda has opted for the politics of accommodation. The question is which agenda will reach the finishing line first, if at all?

So what is needed in Zimbabwe today is a dramatic event that will inspire an effective challenge to the Mugabe regime. It can be a coup within the Zimbabwean army?

Thousands of soldiers are reportedly resigning from the army, signaling a low morale and a rising dissatisfaction with Mugabe among the soldiers. These disgruntled solders could provide the backbone for a more organized civilian resistance to Mugabe. MDC leadership would need to forge closer links with them in their civilian lives.

It can also be, as in Kenya, a group of dissatisfied Zanu MPs crossing the floor and effectively bringing down the Mugabe regime, university students and youths around the country staging mass demonstrations, or civil servants going on an indefinite strike, effectively shutting down government.

Mass protest is still possible in Zimbabwe. But what is critical now is what will trigger or inspire it.

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