Underlying the sense of doom in Zimbabwe is the ongoing conflict between ousted President Mugabe and current President Mnangagwa. The economy and therefore the basic living conditions of the people can only go backwards while the struggle between these two forces works itself out. The return of President Mnangagwa to Harare instead of Davos on January 22 dramatised the failure of his “Open for Business” message, just as surely as the crisis of fuel shortages followed by the crisis of fuel taxes to overcome the smuggling of fuel and currency. Mnangagwa may want a New Zimbabwe, but ZANU-PF remains at war with itself and the former democratic opposition has largely been mobilised to make sure nothing can work.
The President called for national dialogue as the way out of the impasse, and repeated again his call for talks with Nelson Chamisa. Chamisa in turn accused the President of spurning his every call for dialogue. Yet quite reliable sources confirm that Chamisa has never directly asked for dialogue, and has also rejected many real requests from the President. The elephant in the room is the ousted President Mugabe, who thrives on violence, disruption and fear.
If there is to be a democratic pathway out of this deep crisis, then the government has to make the dramatic moves – acting against violent security officers, releasing political prisoners, cracking down on corrupt use of resources, and responding to the international community’s calls for progress on reform of the security laws, the media and the electoral system.
As well, the democratic movement has to find its genuine voice again, clearly calling out the purveyors of false news, ending the use of violence in its own ranks, and itself carrying out genuine elections. The February 14 deadline for MDC-T to hold a Congress to elect a new leader to replace the deceased Morgan Tsvangirai is very important.
International supporters of democracy, women’s rights, workers’ rights, and all human rights in Zimbabwe have to stay the course in this very dangerous and frustrating time.
Zimbabwe Information Centre, Australia
January 24, 2019