Ready for change

BY OWN CORRESPONDENT

HARARE - While MDC president, Morgan Tsvangirai, rides on a wave of optimism and enthusiasm from the thousands of supporters who have been attending his rallies around the country, President Robert Mugabe cowers behind his restless armed forces, desperately makin


g secret plans to escape prosecution for his crimes against humanity.
Emboldened by the mood of the people, who are clearly ready for change, Tsvangirai declared again at the weekend that he would gladly give his life if that was what it took for Zimbabwe to be free of Mugabe’s tyranny. His call is clear: nothing short of a new constitution and fresh elections supervised by the UN and international observers will restore legitimacy to Zimbabwe.
People continue to pack stadiums across the nation in a heartening display of support for the MDC’s strategy of massive peaceful public protest. Change is clearly in the air.
Mugabe, meanwhile, has ordered a massive recruitment drive to beef up the army and police and sent messages to church groups and other intermediaries about constitutional reform that would grant him immunity from prosecution if he relinquished the presidency.
“It seems that Mugabe has at last seen the writing on the wall,” said a political commentator. “He knows his rule is coming to an end. But he wants assurances that he won’t end up on trial in The Hague like his fellow dictator, Slobodan Milosevic, or on trial in his country like Charles Taylor, or living in exile, a fugitive from justice, like his friend Mengistu Haile Mariam.”
At the same time Mugabe is about to sign a law pegging his own pension to at least 75% of the salary of a future sitting president. In addition, the new legislation provides for his young wife, Grace, and three children to get generous payments for the rest of their lives.
Selfishly, the new law does not apply to the still-living family of the late former president, Canaan Banana, whose wife is understood to live in poverty in the UK.
As part of his exit preparations, Mugabe gave himself – alone among all Zimbabweans – a salary increase of more than 1000% in the past year.
Since the disastrous ‘land reform exercise’ of 2000, Mugabe has regularly used drought as an excuse for food shortages.
“But people are not stupid,” said the observer. “After the recent bumper rainy season, they can see that there is something seriously wrong with the government’s agricultural policies and whole resettlement exercise. They refuse to accept these lies any more.”
He said Mugabe continued to denounce the west, but “it is the West that is coming to the aid of Zimbabweans in their hour of need, not his eastern friends. What the people need right now are not tanks and jet fighters, but food and medicines.”
The World Food Programme (WFP) expects 5.5 million Zimbabweans to be in need of food aid by June. “People are so desperate for food that at some distribution sites, beneficiaries have been seen opening and eating uncooked rations on the spot. Some reportedly lack the strength to carry donated food home,” said a WFP official recently. Meanwhile, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) has just given £22 million to UNICEF in Zimbabwe in a bid to improve the plight of orphans and vulnerable children across the country.

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