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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2426

Save Zimbabwe From Mugabe

By Tushar Charan - Syndicate Features

Zimbabwe is one country that faces threat to its survival, not from the usual suspects--an outside force, insurgency, terrorism or global warming---but its own octogenarian president, Robert Mugabe, who has turned into a megalomaniac.

But Mugabe may well be on his last legs. Neighbouring countries which were previously unable to take a tough line against his regime are revising their views. Botswana and Kenya firmly believe that Mugabe must go. Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa has even demanded that if Mugabe does not quit he should be tried for his ‘crimes’.

Much of the population of Zimbabwe has either fled to neighbouring countries or is struggling to keep itself alive when unemployment at 80 percent is the rule, prices double every 24 hours and the non-existent health care system has now led to an outbreak of cholera epidemic in which 600 have already died and nearly 6000 are said to be in danger of falling prey to the disease in the next few weeks.

Zimbabwe has declared a national emergency because it has no resources to deal with the cholera epidemic. The country that was once the breadbasket of the continent and has now become a basket case does expect the international community to help it. Help may come but the scale of problems is staggering. At the same time the continuation of Mugabe might also see another dose of sanctions slapped on Zimbabwe if he does not honour the terms of a power-sharing agreement with his main rival, Morgan Tsavangirai.

The year 2008 has been particularly bad for the hapless people in that South African country, what with political turmoil, election violence, police crackdown, rigged polls and a ruined economy which has made even buying a loaf of bread a luxury for most ordinary citizens. Their plight can be appreciated by the fact that after issuing a $ (Z) 100 million currency note the government is set to follow it up with a $(Z) 200 million note. These bank notes of high-sounding denominations can barely buy a day’s minimum provisions for an ordinary household.

The rot in Zimbabwe had set in long time ago because Mugabe, an undoubted hero of the country’s freedom struggle against the British, became absolutely sodden with power, turning out to be an intolerant dictator who thought nothing of harassing and imprisoning his opponents. Like all dictators he began to suffer from the illusion that the country needs him more than he needs the country.

The neighbours, particularly the powerful Republic of South Africa, decided to turn a blind eye to all his indiscretions even when people started to flee Zimbabwe to escape from the intolerant regime in Harare. The early signs of a humanitarian and political crisis in Zimbabwe were ignored by the neighbours, perhaps under the influence of Mugabe rhetoric against colonial powers making a bid to recapture his country.

But when it became nearly impossible to turn a blind eye to the creeping humanitarian crisis, some well-meaning interlocutors, including the former UN secretary general, Ghana’s Kofi Anan, did speak to Mugabe as also his main rival, Morgan Tsavangirai, in the hope of sorting out the incredible mess created by Mugabe..

The picture that emerged after the mediation efforts late in November was that Zimbabwe was soon going to have a government of national unity—mainly with representatives of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, Tsavangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change and an offshoot of the latter.

A 46-page document outlining constitutional amendments was signed by the three parties to pave the way for a government of unity. It was seen as a major breakthrough. The general opinion in and out of Zimbabwe was that the new government will be in place by January 2009.

Three months back in September, Mugabe and Tsavangirai, had signed a political agreement on honourable power sharing. But Mugabe developed cold feet even before the ink on that agreement had dried. He did not want to do anything that would weaken his powers and hand over some of them to his rival—the prime minister-designate Tsavangirai. Mugabe demurred on the question of sharing important cabinet posts with Tsavangirai’s party.

There is some qualitative shift in the situation since them. Many neighbours who had willingly given Mugabe a long rope have now decided to tell him to honour his commitments for the sake of his country—and even countries in the neighbourhood. The last round of efforts at ‘mediation’ found new interlocutors emerge, pushing Thambo Mbeki, former president of South Africa, out of the spotlight.

That was overdue perhaps after Tsavangirai had made a clear demand for his removal as the mediator appointed with the approval of the South African Development Community. Mbeki’s mandate was to help establish democracy in Zimbabwe after it had been crushed by Mugabe. Mbeki failed because he appeared ready to let Mugabe continue with his ways instead.

The writing on the wall is clear. But the question is: Does Mugabe see the writing on the wall?

- Asian Tribune -

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