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Zimbabwe's Bloggers React As The Opposition Joins Hands With Mugabe

Zimbabwe's bloggers are reacting with hope, but also anger and dismay to Morgan Tsvangirai's decision to join Robert Mugabe in a coalition governmet. It is a wonderfully eclectic mix that reflects the sheer emotional exhaustion of the Zimbabwean people after a marathon seven-month political impasse, which was compounded by the world-record inflation levels.

Amanda Atwood, writing on the Kubatana Blog a few hours after the announcement was made, expressed utter dejection in a post entitled “It's Official, The MDC Has Sold Out“. She wrote:

This deal is entirely detestable. In its statement today the MDC said this didn’t mean it was giving up the struggle, just taking it to a different arena. But it’s hard to imagine that the party will have much success fighting for true democracy inside a flawed government, when it has come to such little effect outside it. A friend of mine yesterday said he’d heard this deal likened to putting on a dirty shirt. I said it’s more like putting on a dirty condom – smelly, sticky, damp, diseased and distasteful.

Admittedly, I don’t know what other the option the MDC had. A different party – one which was more Movement than Party might well have had different cards to play. But the MDC lacks the capacity to lead any sort of civil disobedience or “make the country ungovernable” movement, which might have resulted in a different outcome. Instead, the MDC has tended towards negotiations and legal challenges and contesting undemocratic elections. This strategy has left it high and dry at this most recent negotiating table.

The day after the announcement, Saturday, 31 January 2009, Eusebia at the Blog Peace Love and Happiness, was in a different mood, saying she felt like the storm in Zimbabwe was now over. In a post Entitled “Zimbabwe: The Storm Is Over” she says:

 In the low-density area where I lIve there is no open jubilation because in September last year when the GNU agreement was signed some people openly celebrated only to have their hopes dashed a few days later, so now people are cautious about celebrating too soon and prefer to have a wait and see attitude. Personally I have chosen to accept this new development in Zimbabwe with an optimistic mind, I know just how the suffering of the ordinary people in Zimbabwe had reached unprecedented levels and I know how the ordinary people were now in desperate need of a solution to end their plight and I want to believe that the three GNU leaders will work together to rebuild the nation they had destroyed so that ordinary Zimbabweans can once again lead a comfortable life. For some of my fellow bloggers to now dwell on pointing out how they think this union is a mistake and predict doom or dwell on how Tsvangirai has been outwitted by Mugabe is rather inappropriate if they have the country's best interests at heart. 

And dwell on how Tsvangirai has been outwitted is exactly what I did on my blog, Denford Magora's Zimbabwe Blog. I have written repeatedly that Tsvangirai would join because he had been boxed in cleverly by Mugabe and SADC. But I still thought that when he did, he would be doing so with some really meaningful concessions from Mugabe. 

On the day of the announcement as well as the day before, I pointed out on the blog that Tsvangirai was walking into government with none of his really important demands met. Jestina Mukoko's continued detention and torture is only one of these demands, as I explained in my post entitled “MDC Formally Agrees To Join Mugabe in Government”:

The MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai, however, are putting on a brave front, claiming that they were” given concessions by SADC” that most of their demands will be met.
As I mentioned previously, the really important demands which have not been addressed at all by Mugabe are:
  • The release of MDC activists abducted by Mugabe and subsequently charged with plotting to overthrow the ZANU PF government through force of arms. These banditry charges still stand and the acticists are still in custody, with Mugabe's judges refusing to release them on bail. The judges also refuse to iunvestigate the unlafu; abductions of the same activists, including Jestina Muukoko
  • The “equitable distribution of ministries” has not been addressed at all. The MDC goes into government on the basis of the same distribution of ministries that they said made them junior partners in the deal
The Bearded Man, on the same day, also expressed his fear that this was the end of the opposition, comparing the coaltion to the late 1980s pact between Joshua Nkomos ZAPU and Mugabe's ZANU PF. ZAPU was swallowed whole. Says the Bearded Man:

Okay – so the MDC has backed Tsvangirai's decision to enter into a power-sharing government. Does this mean that the problems in Zimbabwe will miraculously disappear overnight? Far from it! 

Does this mean that the oppression and violence will stop? Will political detainees be released? Will money and employment become available? 

No. 

Mugabe will continue to rule the roost and Tsvangirai/MDC will be sidelined. I see this power-sharing government being very similar to the ZANU PF/ZAPU ‘peace’ accord in 1987 which resulted in the virtual demise of ZAPU. 

But I do NOT believe that the MDC have sold Zimbabweans down the river… 

On Zimbabwe forums where Tsvangirai is called Shrek by ZANU PF supporters and Mugabe is called MuGarbage by MDC supporters, there was a paucity of voices supporting the MDC move. This is consistent with the fact that most of those who identified themselves on these forums as MDC supporters had always been fully supportive of their party holding out or even walking away and leaving Mugabe to his own devices.

No voices were raised in support of the agreement in any of the threads at newzimbabwe Forums. Here, ZANU PF supporters openly taunted the MDC supporters who, when they did respond, did so by exclaiming that Tsvangirai had sold out and disowning him and the party. Some looked with hope to rumour of a split between Tsvangirai and his Secretary-General, Tendai Biti, urging him to form a new party in a thread entitled “Letter to Biti”

On Facebook, which has a sizeable population of Zimbabweans both in and outside the country, there was also the same muted, almost non-existent reaction to the announcement.
Most of this could well be because most people are not sure whether the deal is for real this time. As Eusebia at Peace, Love and Happiness notes, most people celebrated in September when the deal was announced but then saw their hopes dashed by the wrangling that ensured. They seem to be playing it safe this time around, like a broken-hearted lover who decides not to fall in love again lest he/she be hurt again.

4 comments

  • Mr. Obama, It’s Time to Embrace Robert Mugabe…

    Last November Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe congratulated Barack Obama after his election as the 44th President of the United States. He assured Mr. Obama that he was ready to engage the US (and the international community).

    In his Inaugural Address, President Obama responded: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

    Mr. Mugabe has given all there is to give. He has already unclenched his dictatorial fist as far as is possible. Last September, he signed a unity pact with Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the larger of the two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The deal anoints Mr. Mugabe as President and Mr. Tsvangirai as Prime Minister.

    The burden is now on Mr. Obama but he cannot help Zimbabwe without taking the following four steps:

    1) Abandon the globally popular but ineffectual regime change/”Mugabe must go!” policy of the Bush era:

    This rigid policy illuminated Mr. Mugabe’s violence. It generated unprecedented global sympathy for Zimbabweans. Global leaders and celebrities lined up to condemn the veteran Zimbabwean leader. In Zimbabwe, the stance nourished the friction between Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai. Mr. Mugabe used the regime change agenda to portray Mr. Tsvangirai as a stooge of the West. In the end, the regime change agenda didn’t benefit the struggle for democracy in any tangible way. If cost the opposition the support it needed to beat Mr. Mugabe on the ballot.

    2) De-racialize the international position on Zimbabwe:

    Many Zimbabweans and Africans are sceptical about the West’s true motivation. They see race as an important factor. Who can blame them? Following scattered incursions by apartheid South Africa-sponsored rebels in southern Zimbabwe in the early 1980s, Mugabe unleashed his ruthless, North Korea-trained 5th Brigade military unit.

    The unit exterminated 20,000 innocent black villagers. Mass disappearances, beatings, gang rapes abound. Hundreds were burned alive. Some victims were forced to dig their own graves. Some were forced to sing songs praising Mugabe, before being executed.

    The international community neither intervened nor chastised Mugabe. Between 1980 and 1995, he continued to be an acceptable guest at most Western capitals, London and Washington included. His crimes grabbed global headlines only after the post-1999 killings, which claimed 300 lives from both MDC and Mugabe’s Zanu PF party. But now these killings included about a dozen white Zimbabweans. Mr. Mugabe had also started repossessing white-owned farms to give to landless black peasants.

    3) Call on past Mugabe supporters in the international community to account:

    Prominent individuals and institutions in the West once coddled the devil. In 1984 Scotland’s Edinburgh University awarded Mugabe an honorary doctorate of law degree. In 1986 the University of Massachusetts awarded Mugabe the same honorary degree. Michigan State University honored Mugabe in 1990.

    In 1994, Mr. Mugabe became the Knight Commander of the Order of Bath, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. In 1995, former US President Bill Clinton hosted Mr. Mugabe at the White House. The list is endless.

    4) Embrace Mr. Mugabe:

    When Zimbabweans signed the unity deal, all of Africa celebrated. A handful of major powers in the international community cautiously welcomed the deal. But most countries in the West openly opposed the deal because Mr. Mugabe remained in charge. They continued to demonize Mr. Mugabe and imposed more sanctions on his regime. They declared that they would only accept Mr. Tsvangirai as leader.

    Last December, the Bush administration event tried to lock Mr. Obama into its retrogressive policy on Zimbabwe. It intensified calls for Mugabe to quit. It declared that Washington could no longer support a government that included Mr. Mugabe.

    But Zimbabweans shrugged off the West’s divisive policy. They continued to dialogue. As I write, the Zimbabwe opposition has agreed to join the unity government, set to take office next week. On Thursday, the Parliament of Zimbabwe approved the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment 19, which will officially create the new position of Prime Minister and pave the way for the unity government. The vote, in Zimbabwe’s 210-member House of Assembly was 184 to zero in favor of the amendment.

    With this unity government, Zimbabwe will negotiate a treacherous political curve that requires maximum support from the international community. If given the chance it deserves, the unity government will heal Zimbabwe and create the institutions and systems supportive of free and fair elections.

    Mr. Obama can play a lead role in giving this unique home-grown experiment a chance. In a major shift away from the Bush era, and a progressive one in international politics, his administration has already publicly revealed a willingness to talk to Iran, Hamas and North Korea.

    He must immediately review the US’ policy towards Zimbabwe and curb the West’s obsession with punishing Mr. Mugabe. He must tone down the language against Mr. Mugabe, apply a carrot-and-stick approach and be open to direct dialogue.

    In taking this progressive route, Mr. Obama will incur a lot of political bruises. If he embraces Mr. Mugabe, he will face the wrath of a powerful global “Mugabe must go!” lobby that has built a powerful case against Mr. Mugabe.

    The lobby has built careers and fortunes by peddling the anti-Mugabe stance. It has become so globally powerful that any Western leader who dares to pursue a different approach toward Mr. Mugabe risks losing domestic electoral capital.

    The least Mr. Obama can do is tone down the anti-Mugabe rhetoric and let Zimbabweans do what they believe is best for their country. For now, they have chosen to jump into bed with the devil.

  • […] Other Zimbabwe bloggers seem to span the range between outraged and confused. In that sense, they may be aligned with much of the global community. On the one hand, the standoff between ZANU-PF and MDC has helped no ordinary Zimbabweans. On the other hand, if MDC is absorbed into ZANU-PF with no real change occuring, it may augur even worse tragedies. […]

  • Michael

    The Big Bash…”Tsvangirai plans to attend the celebration, which he derided last year as “a gathering of the satisfied few” in a nation crippled by food shortages. …….
    This is a disgrace if true, I always felt that once Morgon was given the petty cash tin he would too become the same as the thugs he now alligns himself with. Pipes need fixing, lives need saving and yet a pissup seems more important while Morgon begs for help in Cape Town. Seems par for the course!

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