The Election Crisis (II): Over the Top.

July 11, 2013

Suppose, for the moment, that in the middle of 2014 the leadership of the ANC is looking at a strikingly poor showing in the late election. They have won, let us say, 57% nationally. In Gauteng they get, let us say, 55%. In the Northern Cape, 52%, alerting even the DA to the possibility that they might win if they put some effort into it. The mood in the National Executive Committee is glum. Even if outwardly optimistic, they know that unless they do something they will quite conceivably lose the next election and have to go into a coalition.

So what, if anything at all, will they do?

Even at this stage, the ANC does not really face disaster. An identical decline in the party’s fortunes in 2019 would force the party into coalition at national level and in several provinces, but the coalition could easily be with parties which were small enough to be easily controlled. More to the point, coalition with other parties would not mean coalition with parties of different ideological persuasions, since no such parties exist in Parliament at the moment. Therefore, danger is not immediate.

Zuma could not become President again in 2019 in any case without violating the Constitution, and while he might not shrink from that he would probably be prepared to retire – he will, after all, be very old and arguably no longer capable of serving his foreign corporate masters. The real issue, however, would be 2017. Would he want to keep control of the National Executive Committee by running for President of the ANC again, and thus – possibly – hold onto indirect control of the government? Above all else, Zuma needs to ensure that he does not face charges for his crimes; whatever he does in the intervening period to protect himself against such charges can always be undone by an unsympathetic government, as Silvio Berlusconi has discovered in Italy.

The trouble is that Cyril Ramaphosa is Deputy President of the ANC. It is possible that he would want to become President, simply because it is quite clear that the President of the party has more power than the President of the country. It is also likely that many of the big businesspeople who installed Ramaphosa at the Mangaung conference would prefer to see Ramaphosa in full control of the party. Of course, some of these big businesspeople would actually view Ramaphosa as a problem, because he is seen (in the business community, if nowhere else) as a competent person, and therefore one who would improve the image of the ANC – whereas of course they would ultimately like their party, the DA, to take power eventually. As a result, the Ramaphosa factor, which supposedly was going to protect Zuma against the perils of Kgalema Motlanthe, may place Zuma in danger in any case.

Another trouble is that once it becomes clear that Zuma’s regime is in any kind of trouble, all the forces of destabilization which Zuma employed against his former opponents are liable to be unleashed against him. For instance, Zuma will have no more guarantees of patronage once he ceases to be President of the country. As a result, it is possible that competing candidates for the party and for the nation will be able to argue that they should be supported because they can give people jobs whereas he cannot. This was a major factor weakening Mbeki’s control. Meanwhile, there will be people who will want to see Zuma fall merely because of what happened to Mbeki – and they may be stronger than Zuma realizes, if only because his inclination is to avoid things which he does not wish to think about.

Hence, there will be a terrifyingly wide variety of dangers for Zuma to face, which cannot be evaded or resolved by telling lies or bribing or bullying people. So what can be done?

One alternative would be to try to appeal directly to the people, to win public support for Zuma and try to use this against his gathering enemies. This would be an almost ideal answer, but it’s hard to believe that Zuma or his allies could do this. In order to appeal to the people, Zuma would have to establish public trust by taking action which would actually serve their interests – and that would mean that the people whom he currently serves would become distrustful of him. In other words, for Zuma or his allies to try to establish themselves with the people they would first have to endanger their current position. Which could not be tolerated by their supporters – it would be an invitation to massive conflict within the ANC.

A simpler alternative would be to carry on as before. Zuma’s recent decision to purge some potential opponents, such as Baloyi and Sexwale, and replace them with compliant stooges, shows the kind of behaviour which could be expected – reshuffles of people whose disappearance would not antagonize wealthy white people or foreigners, their replacement with nonentities increasingly dependent on Zuma or his allies. That might seem to be the royal road to peaceful dominance. The trouble is, however, that the people whom Zuma has purged over the past two or three years have all been people who seemed submissive nonentities or reliable stooges. After all, Mbeki once considered Zuma a submissive nonentity and a reliable stooge – whereas he eventually turned out to be a rebellious nonentity who wished to be a reliable stooge for someone else, a fact which Mbeki only recognized much too late. Therefore, carrying on as before will probably not prevent catastrophe. After all, the more purges you conduct, the more enemies you create and the more allies you make nervous.

But if Zuma actually cannot reform and cannot carry on as before, then there is very little for him to do. Perhaps he can strive to transform the system into one more controllable – but in a sense he has already done that in a way which only works provided that the majority are prepared to accept the system. If the majority rise up and defy Zuma, he will be in very serious trouble indeed, especially because the more he dominates the ANC’s political system, the more he discredits it and the more likely mass demonstrations against it are likely to win support from disgruntled, disenfranchised members, branches and regions – a problem which pervades the system at the moment.

The most likely response is a weak combination of all these things – unsuccessful attempts to win public support, unsuccessful attempts to bribe or bully allies into subservience, unsuccessful attempts to change the system into one less subject to control by others. The fact that all these attempts are likely to fail does not mean that Zuma will be defeated, but it does mean that any counter-attack against an almost inevitable challenge to Zuma’s authority (in the almost certain event of a substantial decline in ANC support) would have far less weight than the Polokwane stitch-up or the September 2008 purge of Mbeki’s supporters.

It would, however, have weight. One possibility might be that the first challenge to Zuma would fail – that it would fail to gain traction within the spineless National Executive Committee, or would fail to get any support from the provinces and the metropoles, so that even if the NEC were against Zuma, Zuma could appeal to a real or purported mass support base and attempt to overawe them. In which case, Zuma would be in a position to launch yet another purge, which he would be forced to go ahead with – but this would simply place him further out on a limb, with many of his supporters now facing the axe. Also, his supporters in the media and the big business community would undoubtedly begin to wobble, wondering if they were backing the right horse. Ultimately, the danger might then be that Zuma would be a weakened leader, one who was forced to pretend that he was strong, and to throw weight around which he actually did not possess.

However, if Zuma’s opponents succeed, what then? Then, presumably, there would be a lot of unhappy Zuma supporters around. Zuma would want to take revenge if he could, and equally presumably, forcing Zuma out would so disrupt the ANC as to make it difficult for members of the ANC to prevent him from doing them immense damage, either indirectly through Zuma supporters or directly through the immense amount of damaging information which Zuma possesses and can use against his opponents. After all, Zuma’s defeat would also mean the defeat of the security services who desperately want to retain their power and job security. There would be a lot of powerful people desiring either to see Zuma back in power, or else to see Zuma’s successors weakened.

Meanwhile, the people who had removed Zuma would not have done this because they particularly wanted to pursue a specific ideology which challenged his. Mostly, they would have removed him out of greed, desire for revenge, or fear that he and his allies might threaten them in some way. This is not a stable basis for building a coalition. There is actually no firm alternative to Zuma in the way that Zuma provided a spurious firm alternative to Mbeki. Hence, any post-Zuma administration within the ANC and within government would be extremely vulnerable – and would be conscious of this fact, meaning that it would be continually paranoid and self-justifying, and therefore eager to conceal its existing flaws as well as any new flaws which developed.

Thus, given the probability that the ANC will trip over its untied shoelaces in 2014, the likely consequence of this happening will be an intensification of the present problems of the ANC – weak and unpopular governance and a lack of coherent goals. This is rather unfortunate, because about that time (looking at watch) South Africa should be facing some really serious economic – and therefore, social – problems.

 

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2009: An Electoral Odyssey.

September 4, 2008

 

So — who’s going to win the South African general elections, now not more than nine months away? Stupid question. We know that the elections will be a walkover for the ANC under any circumstances whatsoever. Why, then, should there be anything at all interesting about them?

The interesting thing is that Zuma has managed to do some damage to the ANC. Will this translate to electoral weakening? The ANC is a structure and an organisation, but it is also a symbolic body for which people vote. Has Zuma’s behaviour done significant harm to that symbolic stature which Mbeki maintained, cossetted and improved on?

The corporate propagandists who supported Zuma have taken a big risk — a remarkable thing for corporate capitalists to do, since (contrary to their propaganda) they hate nothing more than risks. The risk is that Zuma might take their money and their support and then go on to be a normal ANC leader instead of a corporate hack. In that case, big problems, for all they can do is smear him, and Mbeki has shown that ANC leaders need not fear media smears. On the other hand, Zuma is greedy and corrupt, and therefore perhaps may be, himself, no more than a corporate hack. He is certainly surrounded by them. In that case, the ANC may go down, and the DA — which, all kidding aside, is the party really backed by big business in South African today — go up. But will it happen like that? Come, let us reason together.

The 2009 election is a General Election (the municipal elections will happen in late 2010 or early 2011) meaning that the national and provincial governments will be elected. Let us consider the provincial governments and see how many of them are likely to be affected significantly by the conflict between Zuma and the people who formerly supported Mbeki — one might also say, perhaps in a partisan spirit but nevertheless accurately, between the people who are violating the ANC’s constitution and those who are not violating it, or at least are violating it in insignificant ways. How much has Zuma’s gerrymandering and internal electoral fraud, along the lines of Tony Leon’s behaviour in the DA, actually damaged the ANC’s chances?

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa’s most populous province, is quite likely to improve its performance under Zuma. The Zulus will turn out for a Zulu — this is tribalist, but not complete nonsense, for Zuma has played the tribalist card and a lot of Zulus, smart or not, are falling for it. To a lesser extent, the same is probably true of Mpumalanga, no small province population-wise.

The Eastern Cape, the North-West and Limpopo were all Thabo Mbeki provinces. No doubt some of the leaders and the membership are disgruntled at having lost out at Polokwane and having been humiliated and bullied incessantly ever since. However, these are provinces where ANC support is extremely strong — we are talking 80% or so — and also where the support is tenacious. People will not walk away from their party just because their faction has been defeated; that would be both cowardly and unpatriotic.

That means that five of South Africa’s most populous provinces are not going to be lost by the ANC. That means, effectively, that South Africa will be governed by the ANC after the 2009 election. There will be no startling surprises. There may be a slight decline in the Eastern Cape (though the ANC is rock-solid there) because of the unfair treatment of the provincial Premier, and some declines in the Limpopo (where Zuma gerrymandering has been clumsily obvious) and slightly less in the North-West. But none of this will influence the actual outcome.

That leaves four provinces. Nobody seriously thinks that the Free State is going to experience any major changes. The Free State is dominated by the Bloemfontein cabal, and this cabal trimmed its sails to the wind and went for Zuma even though it had been appointed by Mbeki. People are not going to be upset by anything that is happening there. The Free State will continue to be solid for the ANC. Six provinces for the ANC; game, set and match. Zuma, therefore, will be able to say that despite all the problems his leadership has won the election (and his acolytes are already setting up Mbeki’s supporters for the blame if anything goes wrong.)

So that leaves only three places where other parties might conceivably do anything effectual. That is, Gauteng, the Northern Cape, and the Western Cape. As Alex would say in A Clockwork Orange, “What’s it going to be then, eh?”.

These are three areas where the Democratic Alliance has a certain strength and no other party apart from the ANC has major significance. This is, in a sense, great for the plutocracy. They can pretend that their party has a chance in these provinces, and that having a chance in these provinces means that they will someday have a chance of taking control of the country. Unfortunately for the plutocracy, both of these pretenses may be mistaken.

Gauteng is a very small but populous province which went solidly for Zuma at Polokwane. In proportion to its population, its ANC membership is very small — which means it is easily controlled, especially since it is highly urbanised. Its ANC vote has climbed steadily since 1994 when the ANC won a majority, though it is still not nearly as high as in the provinces mentioned earlier. Therefore, on the one hand the Zuma disruption has barely affected Gauteng organisationally, and on the other hand, Gauteng, by its nature as a province and as an ANC organisation, is easily restructured if problems seem to be coming. Gauteng also has a solid black majority.

What all this means is that Gauteng is not a place where the DA is likely to get much traction. The Zuma situation will not bring them much advantage. Meanwhile, by the nature of the place, with the black population growing much faster than the white (africans continue to flood to the cities from the rural provinces surrounding Gauteng, while whites are emigrating) and the DA continuing to treat blacks as lepers because their current support-base is racist and their funding-sources are mostly whites — well, it’s not a good prospect. The DA would do well not to try too hard, wouldn’t it?

But in fact it has to, for internal reasons. The dominant portion of the DA was rooted in the old Prog party, from which all actual progressives and democrats were purged in the late 1980s and early 1990s in readiness for a conscienceless merger with the apartheid National Party, which eventually happened in 2000. While the National Party was a national party, the Progs were based, in essence, in two places: Joburg and Cape Town, with the Joburg section being dominant because it controlled the money and hence controlled the debate. (Most of the purged “lefties” were from the Cape.) Interestingly, exactly the same was true of the National Party, except that in its case the right-wing dominant centre was Pretoria, and the liberal weak centre was Stellenbosch — and there, too, the “oorbeligtes” were purged.

Well, what this means is that the DA has to pretend that it has a powerful position in Gauteng even though it doesn’t, because this is the only way for the Joburg faction to regain control. At the moment, it still commands the money, but Helen Zille (Cape) and Susan Botha (Free State) command patronage and votes. In the 2000 election it actually thought it would take Johannesburg, and when it failed, its handmaiden Tony Leon set in motion the calamity which lost it control of the Cape. Having learned nothing (read Leon’s autobiography; it is quite surreal to see how he continues to live in a bubble of 1975 consciousness without even realising it) it will want a lot of money ploughed into Gauteng electoral politics. That is lucky for Zuma.

The Northern Cape is an interesting place; it is the only place where the Democratic Alliance has ever collaborated with the ANC, something which surely could never happen nowadays. It is enormous and almost uninhabited. Control of the province would obviously be better than nothing, but it is not very much. It would also require a lot of work, not just money, slogging all over the place. The big centre of ANC authority is Kimberley, which went solidly for Zuma at Polokwane. However, there is clearly a lot of resentment at the continuing rule of Zuma’s boy John Block, especially from africans who feel they deserve more patronage.

The province is divided between africans and coloureds (whites are a small minority as usual); in 1994 the divide was fairly even, and came out electorally as between ANC and NP. Subsequently, however, the ANC’s coloured vote has climbed and the NP’s coloured vote dipped, partly because the province had a fairly honest leader (he even stayed in a township instead of a white suburb) and partly because of the decline of the NP nationally. As a result, the ANC has got into a strong position, and the Zuma disruption has not been so great; no leadership changes, despite the resentment of the schlentering in the recent election (rumour has it that the ANC secretary-general Mantashe declared anti-Block branches not in good standing, then quietly allowed pro-Block members from those branches to show up to vote at the provincial conference, thus ensuring Block’s safety). The DA could undoubtedly do better, but it would take an enormous amount of work to win, and there is no sign that the DA considers the province worth the prize. After all, there is no national newspaper coverage coming out of the province.

In this sense they are not being altogether stupid; a genuinely progressive party would want to take over a province to show the country that it can do better than the central government. But this is not the case; the DA does not have any new ideas to offer. It just wants power, to better serve the interests of its capitalist bosses, trample on the workers and oppress the blacks, apart from the rich ones who are actually members of the party. (Oh, it probably wants to rob the defenceless widows and orphans too; forgot that for a moment.) Sigh.

So that takes us to the Western Cape, the only place in South Africa where the ANC could conceivably lose out. The DA’s victory in Cape Town has gone to its head a little, compelling it to fail to notice its smashing defeat in the Western Cape in 2004, where previously the DP and NNP (the lacklustre remarketing of the NP) had a solid majority, and also to fail to notice that in the 2006 municipal elections the DA’s share of the vote fell and the ANC’s rose. Therefore, the DA thinks it can win the Western Cape. Is it smoking something it shouldn’t, or is there really a chance?

Before Zuma came along it was a no-brainer. The DA in the Western Cape would have been lucky to get anywhere, especially with its Cape Town Mayor apparently in bed with apartheid spooks and organised racketeering (not only truck-hijackers but also vigilantes). Luckily the Western Cape Premier appears to have handled things badly (unless the Cape High Court, which found for the Mayor, was just bought off; the Western Cape judiciary is strikingly corrupt even if Justice Hlope is left out of the equation). The ANC should have walked the 2009 election.

But kicking Premier Rasool out on trumped-up grounds has posed a problem. Rasool’s issue was always that he was a coloured Premier in a province where the majority of the ANC’s vote is african, but where they need the coloured minority of the ANC’s vote to win. The african majority doesn’t like the coloureds, who return the compliment, so the only glue holding them together is leftist party solidarity, which, together with ten rand, might get you a small cup of coffee in a cheap Cape restaurant. Nevertheless people liked Rasool and voted for him; now that he’s been replaced by Brown, who despite her name is almost colourless, there should be a smaller turnout. On the other hand, people from the Eastern Cape continue to flood West in search of jobs, and, not finding any, will probably blame the Cape Town DA government and therefore vote ANC.

While the Zuma disruption has done more damage in the Western Cape than anywhere else, and the DA has a better chance there than anywhere else, the fact is that the DA has not done anything to promote any confidence. As usual, it is campaigning entirely on the fact that it hates the ANC (and, although this is delivered in coded terms, that it hates blacks and thinks that the whole country is doomed). The politics of resentment does build solidarity, but it doesn’t build dynamism; people are often inclined to sink into apathy, or vain searches for unrealistic solutions. (This is why the obviously fraudulent “Independent Democrats” did well in the 2006 elections; now that they are more obviously a front for the DA they will do less well.)

As a result it is perfectly possible that, starved of money by the Gauteng elite and disrupted by being pulled in too many directions at once (including the fact that the Party’s leader was once an anti-apartheid activist and probably still feels a dim, submerged guilt at leading a party largely consisting of the fruits of apartheid), the DA will lose the Western Cape. It might even manage to do worse than it did in 2004. That’s scary, of course, because it would put Zuma in a wonderfully strong position.

However, since Zuma’s backers are also the backers of the DA, if you track the financial chains of command back far enough, perhaps that doesn’t really mean much of a change.


Zimbabwe — The Galaxy Holds Its Breath.

April 3, 2008

No, of course it doesn’t. What difference does it make to most of the people in the world if Zimbabwe continues under its present corrupt and incompetent government or passes on to a corrupt and incompetent government headed by different people with different priorities? It will certainly make a difference to some of the people in Zimbabwe, but, The Creator fears, not so much as it ought to.

The election has come and gone and the Parliamentary results have dribbled out; previously the MDC almost won, now they have (together with their supposed bitter enemies, the other party calling itself MDC and the Makoni-ites) a Parliamentary majority. Good luck to them; ZANU (PF) have arguably been in charge way too long. As has ZANU (PF)’s leader; if he loses his Presidency then it will be, one suspects, no bad thing. The Presidential results have not yet been released, however, and it is perfectly possible that Mugabe himself has done better than ZANU (PF), which would provide the supporters of the MDC with a conundrum; how to dominate the country when the country’s President and Parliament are from different parties?

The solution being called for by the MDC, white South Africans and the West is for Mugabe to step down anyway, even if he has won the Presidency, because — well, because President Bush resigned when the Democrats won control of the Congress in 2006, just as President Clinton resigned when the Republicans won control of the Congress in 1994. Oh, they didn’t. Well, anyway, Mugabe must resign because Western political activities in Zimbabwe for the last ten years have been devoted to getting rid of Mugabe, and the West badly needs a triumph, these days.

To be fair, the Creator thinks he should probably step down — he’s eighty-four and kind of feeble. He was probably planning to step down if ZANU (PF) won the election. Let’s suppose he does step down. Then what?

Then the biggest flipping orgy of racist cheering you’ve heard since Muhammed Ali hit the canvas will rise up from every racist mansion and Presidential palace on the planet. It’s hateful, and it’s boring, and it’s worthless. These are not people who give a stuff about the people of Zimbabwe. Some of them are angry that Mugabe dared to defeat dear old Smithy, some of them are cross that Mugabe filched white farmers’ property, and some of them are annoyed because Mugabe wouldn’t take orders (for a while, at least). Pay such people no attention.

In fact, pay as little attention as possible to anything in the media. Various journalists predicted that the poll would be rigged to ensure that Mugabe would win. They made this prediction on the basis of no information but enormous amounts of prejudice, whether racial or political. These journalists declared that the election would not be free or fair. None of these journalists has yet announced their rejection of the MDC’s victory. In other words, all of these journalists, chief among them Peta Thornycroft, are lying, corrupt hypocrites whose journalism is worth nothing whatsoever. The MDC’s politicians also told comparable transparent lies, but one expects that from politicians; from journalists one should expect at least a consistent and well-constructed lie, but we don’t get it.

Now Zimbabwe has been promised a massive injection of cash the moment they kick Mugabe out. The West is famous for breaking such promises, but probably at least some will come in. They are talking about ten or fifteen billion rand, which is a cupful compared with the buckets which are actually needed for Zimbabwe’s resurrection. However, this will probably enable Zimbabwe to stumble on for a year or so with an illusion of success. The real question is, how can non-illusory success be accomplished?

First things first. The MDC needs to identify what the problems are so as to solve them. It would appear that they have not as yet bothered to do this, which is embarrassing and supports the Creator’s suspicions that the MDC are not really a serious political party but, like Violetta Chamorro’s sleazy crooks in Nicaragua, merely a gang of compradors out to do the bidding of their foreign bosses. Let us pretend that this is not the case and ask what they need to do.

The big issue is getting the currency sorted out. The power of the state depends on its control of capital. While the currency is worthless the state is disempowered. So, sadly, the big issue is bringing the inflation rate down. How to do this? No, not by increasing the interest rate to 100 000% and await developments! Something a bit more serious than that.

Print many billions of New Zimbabwe Dollars. Declare a state of emergency and seize control of all banks in Zimbabwe from the Reserve Bank on down. (Ignore the street currency traders.) Announce that Old Zimbabwe Dollars may be exchanged for New Zimbabwe Dollars at a rate of, say, 100 000 to one, and that after a certain date Old Zimbabwe dollars are worthless. (Too bad for the street traders.) That temporarily sorts out the currency crisis. Zimbabwe dollars are not tradeable, so for the moment, you have no problems with the currency leaving the country.

However, the MDC would have the banks. Go through the banks with a fine-toothed accountancy comb looking for currency exchange fiddles. You would find plenty. No doubt some of them have been worked by foreign countries seeking to harm the country, but no doubt a hell of a lot have been worked by ZANU (PF) politicians and corporate moguls — including moguls who back the MDC. Play no favourites. Arrest everybody who’s done anything bad and send them to jail if they won’t, or can’t, sort the problem out. (Of course, be careful not to undermine the mammoth fiddles which have been worked to finance the country’s electricity and fuel stores. Just make sure you know all about them and know that the people working them know that you know.)

With the currency sort of on an even keel (Zimbabwe has enough exchange controls and financial regulations to make it possible to hold it there by command if necessary — obviously these controls have only been applied where it suited the moguls and the crooks) — you need an inventory of state assets. No doubt plenty has been stolen by ZANU (PF) and their merry friends in big business. Get that stuff back. The MDC would control the Central Intelligence Organisation, who are easily as unfriendly as they sound and have plenty of quiet cellars equipped with manacles and dentist’s drills. Get busy with them. Put money in thy purse — and make sure it’s in the country’s purse. If any MDC officials start squirrelling stuff away, have them shovelling shit in the Central Prison before you can get an American to pronounce Tsvangarai correctly.

That should take care of at least a couple of months. Now, what do you do about the maintenance of vital apparatus and the land issue? You now need an inventory of all the stolen farms. Some of them have genuinely had people resettled on them and you shouldn’t kick them off, no matter who had them before. But some of them are just lying fallow, controlled by lazy politicians and businessmen who couldn’t resist the lure of the land but couldn’t be bothered to do anything with it. See if you can get any of the Zims who were chucked out to come back and try to get them going again. Be careful — it takes years and a lot of money to build up an irrigated, mechanised commercial farm and many of the white Zims inherited their commercial farms and don’t know much about starting from scratch. But you could also try to get some agricultural experts — hell, even South Africa might be willing to help — and a teeny bit of capital. Main thing would be to show that you were getting started on reversing the calamitous consequences of the “Land Reform and Resettlement Programme”.

And ZANU (PF)? Well, who cares about them? They can get with the programme or they can refuse to get with the programme. Some of them would end up in jail for currency crimes or theft of state property. Maybe some of them might end up charged with crimes against MDC members or other victims of intimidation. But that’s not the big issue. The big issue is saving Zimbabwe from ruin.

How would we know if the MDC weren’t pursuing the big issue?

Well, let’s think. If the MDC starts screaming about human rights and how Mugabe and his cronies need to go to the Hague Court, they are trying to distract the public’s attention from their failure to do something concrete. If the MDC rush about selling state enterprises to foreigners at ridiculously low prices and claim that this is saving the country, they are fools. If the MDC leadership all move into big houses and start riding big ZANU (PF) style cars, they are crooks. If they hand the administration of the Zimbabwean economy over to the International Monetary Fund, as Mugabe did in the 1990s, they are creepy liars. If you see a mass of articles about how well-dressed, youthful and exuberantly attractive the new Zimbabwean leaders are, and how the golf courses in Harare are now better-watered than before and the shops are filled with Western cocktail dresses and Harrods food hampers — assume the worst.

But the Creator is willing to give the MDC a chance. Which is more than the Western media were willing to do for Mugabe’s merry men.