Zimbabwe At The Start Of The New Year By Eddie Cross
Well, it's the last mile in this particular marathon. Within 10 days of today, Mugabe must fix the date he has been dreading for two years - the date on which he must face his own people for a judgement and a decision as to his future. This date must be by the 17th March, so that he now has, at the very most, 76 days left before...?
Never in the history of Zimbabwe has so much depended on an election. The decision in 1923 to go it alone apart from the Union of South Africa. The decision in 1953 to go into the Federation, in 1962 the decision to dismantle the Federation and the 1964 election that brought Ian Smith to power and gave rise to UDI and 15 years of isolation, sanctions and war. All of these momentous moments of decision bear no comparison to what lies ahead. Why?
The first and most serious answer must be the issue of the rule of law - we are a country whose government has flaunted, and continues to flaunt its own constitution and the laws of the land. Its people have no protection of their rights as individuals or security over their assets. Our personal security is threatened on a daily basis and murder; beatings and rape are being carried out systematically by thugs in the employ of the State.
The second is political - we are already living under the most intensive international sanctions that any regime has experienced short of full UN sanctions such as those which were applied to Rhodesia in rebellion. Our electoral process is torn to shreds; the state-controlled media are conducting a propaganda war, which is total and ruthless. The basic rules of democracy are being ignored and violated at every turn. Any victory by Mugabe under these circumstances will be greeted with derision by the rest of the world and sanctions will be further tightened.
The third reason is social. Zimbabwe now has 35 per cent of its adult population HIV positive. Thousands are dying weekly; hundreds of thousands are ill in a country where there are no drugs. Even some of the routine children's vaccinations that must be administered to prevent disease soon after birth are now only available to the rich who must buy them from pharmacies at high cost. Basic needs are in short supply and prices put even these out of reach of the great majority of people. Our people are visibly poorer than they have ever been and find the burden of daily life almost unbearable in many cases. Hospitals are dirty and run down and the staff dispirited. Schools and tertiary institutions are run down and the private schools are beyond the ability of most to pay the new school fees creating a real crisis for the affected families.
The fourth reason is economic. I put this last because although it underlies all of the problems listed above, the economic crisis is largely brought about by the political, social and other policies pursued by the government. But the record against which Mugabe is going to be judged is pretty horrific. 3 years of stagnation from 1996 to 1998, 3 years of decline from 1999 to 2001. Incomes down a third in a decade, industrial production down to below the level last achieved under sanctions in 1970, mining out put down to 2 per cent of GDP and agriculture now unable to feed the country or supply basic raw materials to industry. 80 per cent of all adults have no formal employment and for the first time in our history we are receiving reports of deaths from starvation and malnutrition - in a country with the most advanced agriculture in Africa, after two excellent seasons and with an abundance of water for irrigation.
If we do not get change in political leadership in March - all of these factors will change for the worse. Our economy will accelerate its downward spiral, shortages will become endemic and real sanctions will become a very real possibility. It will plunge the whole of southern Africa into a crisis of monumental proportions and will threaten the political, social and economic security of the whole sub continent. Continued intervention in the Congo will extend the life of that rather nasty conflict which could spread into neighboring countries, threatening the whole of central Africa. Yes, I would say this is a rather important event in the life of this country.
What lies ahead for those of us on the ground? We will continue the struggle against all the odds, we have no money, no formal access to the media, very little international coverage and virtually no protection should we or our assets are attacked in any way. Without effective intervention by regional leaders (and who can have any confidence in that process after the dismal performance this past year?) we are in for a tough electoral battle. Zanu has already declared the war. They have deployed their troops (many in uniform paid by the State) and are prepared to do anything to win. The playing field will not be level - it will be tilted at about 90 degrees in favour of Mugabe. Millions will be disenfranchised by recent actions taken by the authorities and proposed legislation.
But there are signs of hope - even at this late hour. The SADC Heads of State will convene in Malawi on the 13th and 14th of January to put pressure on Mugabe to play the game by the SADC rules. President Bush has put in place a "carrot and stick" process, which will mean sanctions on Mugabe and his cronies if they refuse to play ball. The European Union is about to do the same. Our own people are registering to vote throughout the country. People are hiring lawyers to insist on their right to register and vote. My own son in law has renounced his right to any other citizenship so that he can vote without restraint in the elections - it cost him thousands of dollars and many hours in queues in the sun to do so. Many have given their lives for the right to support the party of their choice and their right to freedom of speech and association. Ordinary Zimbabweans with little or no education know for the first time, what is really important in a modern state if we are to be safe and prosper. It's a lesson we could never have paid for in any other way.
In addition, we have firm indications that the many thousands of decent, law-abiding civil servants and personnel in the armed forces will stand by their constitutional duty when Morgan wins the election. We are satisfied that in this event a transfer of power will take place, those who have flaunted the law will be brought to justice and we can put this country back on its feet. In this respect, we are confident that we can turn the country around in a period of no more than three years. After this we can show the world and Africa, what we can do in a rich country made poor by bad government in the past.
The crowd in the stadium is yelling support. We are into the last mile, can we get there - you can be sure we will. Can we win? We are so far ahead I do not think that the competition, that tired old man over there, has a snowballs hope in...!
Secretary for Economic Affairs, the Movement for Democratic Change
January 1st 2002
Editor's Note: Here is what Rep. Cynthia McKinney Had To Say About The Situation In Zimbabawe, last month, juxtaposed to legislation coming from the U.S. Congress:
ZIMBABWE DEMOCRACY AND ECONOMIC RECOVERY ACT OF 2001 --
(Extensions of Remarks - December 05, 2001)
HON. CYNTHIA A. McKINNEY
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Tuesday, December 4, 2001
* Ms. McKINNEY. Mr. Speaker, at the international Relations Committee meeting of November 28, 2001, which considered the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, I asked a question of my colleagues who were vociferously supporting this misdirected piece of legislation: ``Can anyone explain how the people in question who now have the land in question in Zimbabwe got title to the land?''
* My query was met with a deafening silence. Those who knew did not want to admit the truth and those who didn't know should have known--that the land was stolen from its indigenous peoples through the British South Africa Company and any ``titles'' to it were illegal and invalid. Whatever the reason for their silence, the answer to this question is the unspoken but real reason for why the United States Congress is now concentrating its time and resources on squeezing an economically-devastated African state under the hypocritical guise of providing a ``transition to democracy.''
* Zimbabwe is Africa's second-longest stable democracy. It is multi-party. It had elections last year where the opposition, Movement for Democratic Change, won over 50 seats in the parliament. It has an opposition press which vigorously criticizes the government and governing party. It has an independent judiciary which issues decisions contrary to the wishes of the governing party. Zimbabwe is not without troubles, but neither is the United States. I have not heard anyone proposing a United States Democracy Act following last year's Presidential electoral debacle. And if a foreign country were to pass legislation calling for a United States Democracy Act which provided funding for United States opposition parties under the fig leaf of ``Voter Education,'' this body and this country would not stand for it.
* There are many de jure and de facto one-party states in the world which are the recipients of support of the United States government. They are not the subject of Congressional legislative sanctions. To any honest observer, Zimbabwe's sin is that it has taken the position to right a wrong, whose resolution has been too long overdue--to return its land to its people. The Zimbabwean government has said that a situation where 2 percent of the population owns 85 percent of the best land is untenable. Those who presently own more than one farm will no longer be able to do so.
* When we get right down to it, this legislation is nothing more than a formal declaration of United States complicity in a program to maintain white-skin privilege. We can call it an ``incentives'' bill, but that does not change its essential ``sanctions'' nature. It is racist and against the interests of the masses of Zimbabweans. In the long-run the Zimbabwe Democracy Act will work against the United States having a mutually beneficial relationship with Africa.
Thursday, January 3, 2002