Outside looking in: A letter from the disapora

Interviewed on SW Radio Africa’s Question Time this week, Rugare Gumbo was asked, “Why did we have this scenario in 2008 where people were killed in election violence, abductions and things like that?” Gumbo replied with a casual, almost throw-away line: “It doesn’t help us just to go back.”

Coming from a man whose party’s claim to popular support is based on past glories, that’s pretty ironical. Where would Zanu PF be without Mugabe’s constantly repeated claim that he brought the country freedom from colonialism – thirty-one years ago?

Writing in Heidi Holland’s book ‘Dinner With Mugabe’ (First published in 2008 by Penguin Books) Edgar Tekere comments that it was Rugare Gumbo, still in the government, who preached the idea of ‘democratic centralism’ to Mugabe way back when they were in Mozambique together.

The idea is that while everyone is entitled to have an opinion – that’s the ‘democratic’ bit – it is the leader’s opinions alone that ultimately determine party policy. As Tekere says, “It’s a recipe for dictatorship.’ For the last thirty-one years Robert Mugabe’s opinions have dominated on every subject: on the use of violence as a political weapon, on the politics of race, on the land question and ongoing farm invasions and more recently on indigenisation.

These are Robert Mugabe’s declared beliefs and they are central to Zanu PF policies. What Mugabe thinks is what matters; the fact that the pro-Mugabe Chipangano gang continues – unchecked – to terrorise Harare suits Mugabe’s political agenda. There are repeated claims that top Zanu PF officials, cabinet ministers, serving and retired military officers and even church leaders are financing Chipangano and giving them material support. It is Chipangano’s violent activities that led directly to the abandonment of a planned housing project for Mbare that would have benefited hundreds of poor people.

On Sunday last the MDC was due to hold a big rally in Chitungwiza. The Herald published a picture of Zanu PF youth on their way to the MDC rally, armed with sticks and machetes. No wonder the picture was withdrawn within hours; seven people were hospitalised and a further fifteen were injured as the Chipangano-inspired violence escalated. (The picture is in this week’s The Zimbabwean)

After the cancellation of the Chitungwiza rally, the Prime Minister prepared a detailed dossier of the violence, saying that the police were nowhere to be seen during the attack. Despite that, the police proceeded to arrest MDC youths for causing the violence. Then, up pops Rugare Gumbo, he wasn’t there either, denying that Zanu PF had anything to do with the violence.

It was the MDC claimed Gumbo, they provoked the violence by force-marching people to their rally. But it is not the MDC who have to force people to their rallies, that is Zanu PF’s way! So unpopular have they become, that the party is reported to be in ‘panic mode’ as elections draw near. Precisely when those elections will be we still don’t know but whenever they take place, people dread them. Elections and violence have become synonymous in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe makes all kinds of promises to Morgan Tsvangirai about stopping the violence but promises mean little; in the 32 months of the GNU’s existence Mugabe has repeatedly broken his word on a whole range of subjects. “What do you expect?” asks Douglas Mwonzoro, “from a party that reneges on everything it agrees on.”

SADC announced this week that the Troika will ‘meet very soon’ to find ways of ending Zimbabwe’s crisis. ‘Very soon’ hardly implies urgency; it could mean later on today, tomorrow, next week, next month or even next year. Perhaps by the time the UN Secretary General visits Zimbabwe in February next year, things may have changed – for the worse, if past experience is anything to go by. Rugare Gumbo claims that ‘going back to the past doesn’t help’ but for the hundreds of victims of Zanu PF brutality, it is past experience that has taught them always to be wary of Zanu PF, especially at election time.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH. aka Pauline Henson author of the Dube books, detective stories with a political slant set in Zimbabwe and available from Lulu.com

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