Britain and US in deal to protect Mugabe?

BY RALPH BLACK WASHINGTON - While much has been made of the internal squabbles surrounding the MDC's non-participation in the senate election, evidence has emerged that South Africa has persuaded the British and US governments to support the creation of a framework for a government of national un

ity in Zimbabwe, promising each faction within the MDC a part of the political fortunes on condition that human rights abuses be swept under the carpet, and Mugabe be granted immunity from prosecution for crimes against humanity for the remaining days of his natural life.

As an insurance policy, Mugabe has agreed to retire with the condition that his appointed successor is accepted by the international community and that key hardliners within the party and public service continue their tenure until 2010. In exchange South Africa, under the terms of its economic bail-out package, has undertaken to micro-manage Mugabe’s transition to retirement and has adopted unprecedented measures i.e. the signing of a defence agreement that will provide for the training of the South African Air force by Zimbabwean instructors, the signing of an intelligence exchange protocol and the sale of military hardware to the Zimbabwean military intelligence and Central Intelligence Organization (CIO).

It has become apparent to Mugabe, and to the intelligence services of Zimbabwe and South Africa that a Zanu (PF) without him as its leader is a weaker and more vulnerable political party that will not retain its hold on power in the future. This reality will have adverse effects for the South African ruling party the ANC, and its coalition. Clearly, every precaution is being taken to avoid an outcome similar to that witnessed in Zambia and to some extent Kenya, where, once leading figures like Kaunda and Moi stepped off the political scene, their successors were not able to galvanize sufficient support from the population to remain in power.

For South Africa, the rise of a labour-backed opposition party threatens its own coalition with the largest and politically virulent COSATU. Therefore the emergence of a coalition government is the main objective of its meddling in Zimbabwe’s politics.

Zimbabwe has in exchange accepted to adopt economic reform – the lifting of price controls and acceptance of IMF economic reform measures and UN demands for access to build permanent housing for those displaced and rendered homeless by Mugabe’s social reconstruction by sledge hammer and bulldozer policy. One major obstacle to this grand scheme is the intransigence of the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the non-involvement of the MDC in the senate.

Further evidence suggests that military discipline is breaking down. The rank and file of Zimbabwe’s war machine is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their conditions of service and desertion from the army ranks is at an all time high. Zimbabwean Military Intelligence estimates indicate that if a political solution is not reached within the next 18 months, a mutiny is possible, preceded by a complete collapse of the command and control structures of the entire security services resulting in the existence of internal conditions that are conducive for a violent overthrow of the Mugabe Government, with the deserters forming the core of the resistance.

The training programme agreed upon between the South African and Zimbabwean air forces is meant not only to secure Mugabe’s retirement but to provide protection and military assistance to the ailing Mugabe government in the event of a military-sponsored uprising.

A further challenge for the regime is the growing restlessness of the population. Calls for democratic resistance are being made with growing frequency. With an increasing number of unemployed, low morale within the military, police force, intelligence organization and public service rank and file, sympathy of the business sector with the plight of the workforce and increasing militancy of the student organizations and the country’s trade unions – an outlet must be found. Repression, restrictive legislation and the deployment of security forces to quell street demonstrations is no longer a viable approach. The creation of the senate as the preamble to establishing a government of national unity may dampen this.

On the economic front, South Africa cannot afford for the Zimbabwean economy to collapse. Currently, the self-enriching policies of the Mugabe regime have ruined the economic fortunes of the country, and alienated it from international financial markets.

With problems of its own the South African government is unable to shore up the Zimbabwean economy over the long term. The majority of the region’s national economies are consumer markets, with South Africa being the manufacturing hub. The further collapse of the Zimbabwean economy, coupled with the threat of internal strife, will invariably tie up South Africa’s and the International Community’s resources, in a bid to clean up the aftermath of Mugabe’s ruinous rule. In order to head this looming crisis off at the pass, South Africa has proposed the formation of a government of national unity.

A resolution to the Zimbabwean crisis in this manner works well for the American and European governments. With declining popularity, the British and American governments do not need to add Mugabe and Zimbabwe to the gallery of crises being faced by these nations. Further, as reported by the US National Intelligence Council, in March of 2005, America and a bloc of European nations are contemplating reducing their strategic investments in Africa over the next 15 years, leaving room for newer actors, especially Africa’s new Imperialist master China, whose commitment to democratic values is questionable at best.

What remains is for the opposition leader to form a working alliance of the small groups that have made claims of sustained and clear injustice, into a working political majority, that will vigorously advocate for change- on the streets. A Government of National Unity would appear to present a different beast with the same DNA as Zanu (PF). For the people of Zimbabwe – De-Zanufication presents the only possible upside for the fortunes of the nation. Anything short of this is tantamount to appeasement and selling out to the corrupt and immoral political majority.

Ralph Black is the Director of Communication for the Association of Zimbabweans Based Abroad (www.azba.org.), co-chair of the North American Coalition for a Free Zimbabwe (www.zimbabweans.org) and board member of DFW Community Alliance (www.dfwinternational.org). He writes in his personal capacity. He can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected]

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