Yes, Virginia, Zimbabwe is in a crisis as a result of Morgan Tsvangirai’s decision to withdraw from the Presidential elections. It was in a crisis before that, it will be in a crisis after that. The Creator is starting to suspect that Zimbabwe will be in crisis when the sun goes nova and the last star falls from the sky.
The Creator has been hanging out with some MDC supporters, insofar as it is possible to “hang out” with paranoid-psychopathic xenophobes. It was not a pleasant experience. MDC people believe bizarre things. (This no doubt applies to the leading lights in the party, the dimmer bulbs and the trusting masses simply hanging on their lips like fake-surgical-steel implants.) They believe that all the problems of Zimbabwe arise from Robert Mugabe. They believe that everywhere in Africa outside Zimbabwe is equally evil and corrupt, but that South Africa is more equally evil and corrupt than anywhere else. They also believe that Robert Mugabe is channelling the Great Satan, Thabo Mbeki.
They indeed believe that some non-African foreigners, such as France and China, are definitely evil, and they are not keen on the Americans (they do not quite say that the Yanks let good old Smithy down, but it’s in the background), yet they do dearly love Britain who will save them and solve all their problems. (Much like someone at a ventriloquist show saying “I don’t think much of the guy sitting on the stage, but that little wooden chap on his knee has a lot of talent!”) What is more, they won’t shut up about any of this garbage.
This helps to explain why Zimbabwean politics is a load of poisonous nonsense and why the press is even more poisonously nonsensical on Zimbabwe than on any other issue. (The Weekly Mail recently ran a story trumpeting an “exclusive” that Thabo Mbeki has secretly criticised the Zimbabwean government. What is he trying to hide, they ask; why has this been hidden from us? Perhaps, you hideous dolts, because you shut your eyes, stuck your fingers in your ears, and then stuffed your heads up your arseholes, which at least improved your appearance slightly. Mbeki’s criticism of Zimbabwe has been a regular feature of unreported news for the last nine years.)
Tsvangirai says that he has abandoned the Presidential elections because of the violence which was going on. In the past he never abandoned any elections because of violence which was as bad, or worse, though slightly less hyped in the media. Things do seem to be a little worse now than they were in 2000, but it is impossible to be sure because of the misleading coverage. Anyway, Paris is well worth a Mass, and Harare is well worth a small pile of corpses which amount to a day’s, or a weekend’s, South African road carnage.
Right-wingers who supported apartheid are fond of comparing the Zimbabwean situation with the South African anti-apartheid struggle (naturally, to South Africa’s detriment), but in the run-up to the South African 1994 elections dozens of people were being killed by the white right and Inkatha, with the approval of the apartheid government, every day. Nobody thought it would be a good idea to pull out of the elections. It is hard to see that Tsvangirai’s protestation of humanitarian concerns carries any weight at all.
In that case, why has he dropped out? There seem to be two possibilities. One is that he, or his handlers, feared victory. Victory could lead to two obvious problems; one is that ZANU (PF) or its military allies would simply seize power, annul the election and defy the planet to do its worst. (This is what the Southern African Development Community has been afraid of; it would simplify the situation, since then SADC would no longer be obliged to support the Zimbabwean government, but it would also make it impossible to resolve by the diplomatic methods which have hitherto been pursued.)
Also, possibly, the MDC’s handlers were not altogether ready for victory. No doubt they assumed that ZANU (PF) would simply steal the Parliamentary election, as Westerners would try to do under similar circumstances. However, like the Americans in the last Iraqi elections, the ZANU-ites were too optimistic and so ended up with the worst possible situation. They managed to finagle the Presidential side of the election, but who could say whether they would be able to rig the current one properly? Meanwhile, however, were the handlers prepared to grab all that they wanted from Zimbabwe? What if someone called Britain out on its billion-pound bribe offer to Zimbabweans if they voted for Tsvangirai? Were the troops ready to intervene if things went astray after Tsvangirai’s inauguration? Most likely not. Much better wait until one does not have to depend on unreliable elections.
Of course, there was also the strong probability that Tsvangirai might lose. This is not because of intimidation (intimidation is not very good at winning elections) but because Tsvangirai is not a very solid Presidential candidate, being politically inept. Lots of people who are keen to get rid of Mugabe for all kinds of reasons, are much less keen to replace King Senile Stork with King Rotting Log. And if Tsvangirai loses, then what? On one hand, ZANU (PF) could justify holding power for a few more years, perhaps until they could replace Mugabe with someone less doddery and more flexible, which would pose problems for the MDC’s handlers. Also, defeat might lead to internal rebellion against Tsvangirai from the lower levels of the MDC who might be impatient with Tsvangirai’s conduct and seek someone remotely competent — but also, who might be less submissive to foreign instructions. That would also be a big problem for the MDC’s handlers.
Much safer, therefore, to denounce the whole election and hand everything over to the big drum of Western propagandists. The US has now come over to Britain’s side (whereas previously it saw Zimbabwe as too trivial to bother with, now that the US is in serious recession it needs a small country to plunder — conceivably the British, having done all the work, will now be shouldered aside by big brother porker dipping his snout into the Zimbabwean trough). Maybe they will be able to bully the UN into fabricating excuses for sanctions (in violation of the UN’s Charter, but that has never been a problem in the past) — not that sanctions are likely to do much harm to an economy which has already free-fallen from 20 000 metres onto the tarmac. Sooner or later the MDC will start sounding like Bush apologists instead of Blair acolytes. Or, perhaps, they will be able to climb on board the Obamarama.
Meanwhile, there is also Zimbabwe. Still no sign of any actual solutions to the country’s problems. The political problem could possibly be eased by a “government of national unity”, or what P J O’Rourke once rightly called “Cats and Canaries United”; at least if everybody was stealing together, there would be less conflict over who gets to steal what. But what about the actual problems? What about the lack of foreign exchange, the collapsing infrastructure, the desperate unemployment rate only concealed by the diaspora, the disintegrating social system concealed by mutual propaganda?
Zimbabweans love to pretend that their country is a paradise, or would be but for whatever invented demon they happen to endorse. Taking responsibility for their own plight, and acknowledging the catastrophe which has befallen them, is unheard of. In fact, black Zimbabweans are replicating white Rhodesians so closely, it’s as if they took them for a model. Given that white Rhodesians were so prominent in setting up the MDC — and, for that matter, played a leading role in turning ZANU (PF) into a permanent government thanks to the operations of the CIO and the Special Branch in the early 1980s — perhaps that isn’t surprising.
ZANU (PF) is keen to negotiate. To be precise, is keen to hand over all the responsibility for the problems which they have created (or at least helped to create) to the MDC. The MDC doesn’t want to take responsibility, which is one reason why the MDC hasn’t come forward with any plans for resolving Zimbabwe’s problems; if they had a policy, someone might expect them to implement it. (Recently the Mail and Guardian had an article on “How to Fix Zimbabwe” — of course nothing in the article explained any such thing. To be fair, Time also had an article on how Tsvangirai was going to sort out Zimbabwe’s problems — any fool who turned eagerly to the article to learn the answer to such questions was, of course, disappointed; Time is not stupid enough to expose Emperor Tsvangirai’s nudity.)
So negotiation should be happening, but it isn’t — or if it is, it’s at glacial pace when it should be happening in a hurry. Everybody is immensely concerned about who is going to win. Obviously Tsvangirai is going to win in the end — if you can call it winning. Obviously ZANU (PF) is going to lose in the end — if you can call it losing. But will Zimbabwe ever be able to get up off its knees again? Million percent inflation can no doubt be curbed somehow, even if it is a structural product of the economy rather than an artifact of global finance. But then what? Who’s going to invest the money the country needs? Will the skilled Zimbabweans now making big salaries abroad go back and take huge pay cuts? What happens if they don’t?
Don’t watch this space for the answers. The Creator is growing weary of Zimbabwe. Granted, it is a sad situation. Whether it is a tragedy, however, is a very moot point indeed. Maybe it is just a nation-sized farce in which the cream of the joke is supposed to be that the people slipping on banana-skins are actually breaking their necks.