Game, set and match: beyond the endgame in Zimbabwe

'Zimbabwe today is a vampire state that has turned on its own people'
'Mbeki's government has once more washed its hands of responsibility, and abetted Mugabe's survival programme'
There is now no doubt in Samuel Beckett's famous expression, that we have reached the endgame i

n Zimbabwe. No doubt, except in the minds of the governments of both South Africa and that unhappy country. Our task now is to turn the endgame into a bold new beginning, as speedily and as intelligently as possible.
By any definition of a modern state – a functioning economy, effective public service, distinct civil society comprising media, courts and related institutions – Zimbabwe barely exists. The empty supermarket shelves and marauding militias we saw are final, unavoidable proof: the self-destructive policies set in motion seven years ago by President Robert Mugabe have destroyed the country.
Mugabe’s desperate attempts since 2000 to stave off his own defeat at the polls, via land-grabs, constitutional gerrymandering and police-state thuggery, have sent the economy into freefall while eclipsing any vestiges of a free and democratic process.
It is hard to overstate what that ruination means for those who live there. In effect, Zimbabwe today is a vampire state that has turned on its own people.
Inflation stands at 4 500% – the world’s highest – though independent analysts push this figure closer to 9 000%. Mugabe’s “solution” has been to print more money – thus escalating the cycle of inflation – and to order retailers to slash prices by 50%.
This latest ploy, which has hastened the rush to endgame, is a shocking instance of vampirism at its worst: the selfsame militias enforcing the price-slashes seize goods, and resell them on the black market.
The crisis has been developing for many years. As long ago as the mid-’80s, Mugabe masterminded the killing of thousands of opponents in Matabeleland, foreshadowing today’s wanton destruction.
As a result, the apocalypse – mass starvation and a headlong flight from the country, chiefly into South Africa – has arrived. According to the United Nations, South Africa must now brace itself for “arguably the most extraordinary exodus of people from a country not at war.”
How has our government reacted? After all, in his dealings with our northern neighbour President Mbeki has long echoed the famed “special relationship” of Britain and the USA, maintaining economic links, staving off international criticism and maintaining warm fraternal ties with Zanu (PF).
When SADC tasked President Mbeki this year with brokering talks between Mugabe and the opposition MDC, it was a covert admission that our government’s policy of “quiet diplomacy” had failed to set Zimbabwe on the right course. Mugabe’s contempt for the subsequent talks in Pretoria – which the South African tax-payer is funding – was confirmed this week, when ZANU-PF failed to appear.
Our Foreign Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, previously “concerned”, now added: “There must be a good reason why they did not turn up. I don’t think it was a sign of wanting to pull out because they are committed to mediation”. In fact, it is almost certain Mugabe ordered the pull-out himself.
Faced with this humiliating rejection of our mediation efforts, and the unfolding collapse, which has seen our nationals arrested for failing to reduce prices, the Foreign Minister jetted off on a state visit to – of all places – Cuba. Thus has Mbeki’s government once more washed its hands of responsibility, and abetted Mugabe’s survival programme.
We need to act vigorously and unambiguously if we are begin the long, painful process of restoring a shattered country to life. The endgame is over; beginning anew will call for all our courage as well as our compassion. – Zille is the leader of SA’s main opposition, the Democratic Alliance

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