Where do we stand now?

The much awaited AU summit has closed, African leaders have spoken and
resolved to take up the Zimbabwe crisis in a certain way - but where does
that leave the region and Zimbabwe right now?

In summary, the June 27th election has been pretty roundly condemned as not

meeting continental standards, not representing the views of the people and

not being “free and fair”.  A number of major figures on the continent have

spoken out and called for not only withdrawal of recognition for Mugabe as a

Head of State but in several cases armed intervention. The leadership of the

AU had little choice but to condemn the election and call for dialogue

leading to a Government of National Unity.

So far so good – realistically we could not have expected more from the AU

working as it does by consensus.  But the issue is where does that leave us

in Zimbabwe and in the region as a whole?

The first point to note is that after the March and June elections we have

an illegitimate government that is not recognised by any major nation –

including for the first time China, Russia and South Africa. Recognition by

fellow dictators in Africa and elsewhere does not matter.  The main issue

here is that for any administration in Zimbabwe to get to grips with the

economic and humanitarian crisis it must get the support – political and

financial, from the donors who have the capacity to provide the required

funding. Apart from this – the fact of non-recognition simply makes our

position that much more critical and urgent.

The second point is that an urgent humanitarian crisis is developing in

Zimbabwe so serious that if it is not addressed in a matter of days or

weeks, will make life simply impossible for every Zimbabwean not hooked up

to the Zanu PF gravy train. I spoke to the Headmaster of a school today and

his salary – paid last week, bought 4 bananas. Inflation at more than 2

million percent is simply wiping out the accumulated capital assets and

companies in a matter of weeks. If they do not have access to hard currency,

these individuals and companies simply will not survive.

Basis essentials from soap to food staples are simply not available – I

passed the largest supermarket in Bulawayo yesterday and it had two cars

parked outside. The largest wholesaler in the country is close to closure.

People can only withdraw Z$25 billion a day from the banks – not enough for

one kilogram of dog food. Cash is in very short supply so that cash rates

for foreign exchange are now a third of the business rate. This impacts on

millions who rely in remittances at about US$100 million a month from

outside Zimbabwe.

Add to this harsh reality and take into account that the State has stopped

all food aid for a month now – depriving about half the country of their

basic needs and you get the picture.  We are in meltdown and the only way

out is across the Limpopo to South Africa – or anywhere. A fiend of mine

opened his factory on Monday to find that 11 of his staff had left the

country for South Africa. This is taking place across the country – what is

making this migration different is that many are taking their whole

families – they have been terrorized for three months by this regime, their

homes burnt, their physical safety threatened and their assets destroyed.

They cannot even buy food if the money is available and the new developments

in the money market make remittances much less valuable. The only answer is

to leave and to take your whole family with you.

If this is not addressed and soon, the consequences will be catastrophic.

South Africa is already struggling to cope with millions of economic and

political refugees. Squatter camps and high-density townships are packed

with people – all living on the margins of society, many by crime. They

simply cannot absorb a fresh wave of humanity from beleaguered Zimbabwe but

they need to know it is on its way.

The third point to note is that Africa is being judged by its peers in the

international community and by the global business community in how it is

going to deal with what is a clear violation of all democratic and human

rights in Zimbabwe. This is not a problem for the west – no strategic

interests are involved, just questions of principle and governance.  This is

an African problem – and solutions must come from African leadership. If we

fail then we must suffer the consequences. We will be judged as not being

committed to democracy or universal legal and human rights. We will be

judged as not being sound partners for global enterprise and investment.

The most dramatic evidence of such a judgment will be the World Cup in 2010.

Very much a symbol of African capacity to host a global event and one that

captures the imaginations of millions of African soccer fans, the

controlling authority of FIFA on Friday stated that they had a contingency

plan to move the World Cup away from Africa if, in their judgment,

conditions were not right. It was a signal, not seen by many, but it was a

clear indication that African leadership is on notice. Much less public but

just as significant are the many decisions being taken behind closed doors

in business diverting effort, skills and capital away from the continent.

The AU has tossed the ball straight back into the SADC court, in the SADC

the responsibility now rests with regional leadership and South Africa

remains a key player as well as the most vulnerable to the regional crisis

now being played out. The question is what will they do with the ball? Time

is not on their side – the crisis here is escalating rapidly, the options

are limited.

Any solution will only fly if it has the support of the MDC and Civil

Society here in Zimbabwe as well as the full endorsement of the

international community and in particular the donor group on Zimbabwe. The

illegitimate and criminal regime headed by Mugabe does not have a great deal

to offer such a grouping – they clearly will not voluntarily agree to any

solution that meets the criteria laid down by the above three groups. They

will have to be brought to the table by force – not military but simply by

the combined weight of the SADC region and especially our immediate


Eddie Cross

Bulawayo, 2nd July 2008

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