By Eddie Cross
Zimbabwe is again at an “interesting” place. The outcome will determine the immediate events in my country and maybe even in the longer term.
The past determines the future and we need to quickly summarise what has gone on in this country since 1997.
In 1997, the Mugabe regime made a number of strategic errors; as a consequence the country began a slide into destitution that would last a decade.
During that time the South African government, which has always played a critical and pivotal role in Zimbabwean affairs, used its diplomatic and economic influence to ensure that President Robert Mugabe remained in power, going to extraordinary lengths to prevent a takeover by the Movement for Democratic Change opposition party.
When finally the South African administration decided it could no longer stand aside and watch its northern neighbour self destruct it stepped in and in a dramatic series of events it forced talks between the three main political parties in 2007 and persuaded the G8 leaders to help finance the stability and then the recovery of the country after elections in March 2008.
After initial success, Mbeki botched the operation and allowed Mugabe to once again hold onto power, but in a supervised Government of National Unity (GNU). This was supposed to last two years, ran for four and then collapsed in a flurry of legal and political measures which forced elections in July 2013 despite the failure to implement the reforms necessary to hold a credible election process.
In the subsequent elections, a military-led campaign, funded by considerable resources from illicit diamond and gold sales, the Zanu-PF party was returned to power with a two thirds majority. Once again the electoral process was adjudged not free and fair and the international community withheld recognition.
There were no celebrations, the country went into mourning and markets savaged what was left of the economy. The stock market fell by a third, a quarter of the cash reserves of the banks fled to safety and capital flight reached new heights.
The fragile recovery instituted by the GNU in 2009, halted and was then reversed. Today a third of all our banks have failed in the past 18 months, deflation has taken hold and our GDP is again in steep decline.
To compound his difficulties, Zanu-PF has begun to disintegrate under Mugabe’s feet and may not survive the next few weeks in its present form.
The key to this situation is the declining health of Mugabe, who is over 90, suffering from prostate problems and other ailments and who now shows all the signs of reduced power and authority. As control of the centre of power slips from his hands, competition for control and succession has taken centre stage and two principal contenders have emerged – Mnangagwa, currently the minister of Justice and Mujuru, currently the Vice President.
While within the ruling party, Mujuru has held sway and clearly controlled the majority, Mnangagwa has control of the levers of hard power in the State and has shown that he is a very clever and devious opponent. In a series of swift and devastating attacks he has disabled the Mujuru political machine in advance of the Zanu-PF elective congress on December 2 and looks increasingly as if he will emerge as nominated successor to Mugabe.
Looking into the crystal ball and trying to determine just who will emerge from the melee on the playing field in front of us is never easy and made all the more difficult by the complexity of the situation in Zimbabwe at present. It contains elements of democratic power and influence, ethnic balances and age-old conflicts as well as a clash of cultures and tradition. This is on top of a straight forward fight for power and control.
But one thing we can do is to assess what would happen if either of the two front contenders was to emerge supreme at the December congress. –