Miracle possible?

2008-06-16 00:00

South Africa’s 1994 election has rightly been regarded as something of a miracle. Against all the odds, the nation went peacefully to the polls to deliver a result which was widely regarded as both free and fair.

Sadly the evidence for a similar miracle in Zimbabwe is daily becoming ever more remote. Since his return, Morgan Tsvangirai has been arrested several times. Even more alarming is the detention of the MDC’s secretary-general, Tendai Biti, on charges of treason, which, in the Looking Glass World of Zimbabwe, could earn him the death penalty for making statements that would be regarded as perfectly normal in any parliamentary democracy. Perhaps most alarming of all was an announcement in the state media that the War Veterans of in-famous reputation would never accept an MDC victory on June 27. This amounts to nothing less than a declaration of war by the Mugabe regime.

In view of the grim portents of a bloody re- solution to the crisis in our northern neighbour, the responses both locally and internationally have on the whole been more muted than the situation would appear to warrant. In a symbolic gesture, the University of Massachusetts has rescinded the honorary law degree it conferred on Mugabe 22 years ago. Thabo Mbeki has at last admitted that a free and fair election is unlikely, but is apparently unwilling to be-come involved in any klipgooiery forced on him by the West. Desmond Tutu’s call for a sports boycott is unlikely to achieve anything in the short term. Wielding similar moral authority to Tutu, a group of African dignitaries consisting of former African presidents, two former heads of the United Nations, African Nobel laureates and some of the continent’s top artists and business leaders has issued an open letter calling for an end to violence and intimidation and the restoration of full access for humanitarian and aid agencies to the country’s people. In response to the crisis, the Sadec observer mission has been beefed up, but will have its work cut out monitoring 9 000 polling stations with its 400 members and may well revert to its three-monkeys position of previous elections.

The most hopeful solution for Zimbabwe is that suggested by Simba Makoni, namely the setting up of a government of national unity. The problem is that such a solution involves a spirit of reasonableness and compromise. Nothing suggests that such a spirit animates Mugabe and his security apparatus, and it seems unlikely that the MDC will accept any solution which involves the retention of Mugabe or his more thuggish associates in any capacity in the government of Zimbabwe.

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