Just watching right now, but there's trouble brewing in Zimbabwe. Samizdata is reporting that the MDC (the chief legal opposition group) or some part of it, is calling for a direct confrontation with Mugabe. The newspaper Zimbabwean cites this radio speech by Tendai Biti, an MDC member of parliament.
“I can’t tell you - and the hundreds of Central Intelligence Organisation officers who I know are listening to me right now – about who is going to provide the leadership, who is going to do what, and so forth – but what I can guarantee you is that the anger is overflowing in the veins of the average Zimbabweans. They will defend themselves. The time for smiling at fascism is over.”
There are persistent rumors of impending 'something' in the air. Zimbabwean Pundit has this report from a source in-country about something called 'Stay Away'.
“We had to go to FOUR different stores just to find bread today. Because of the displacements during Operation “Murambatsvina” (cleanup), hundreds of thousands of people have nowhere to stay or prepare their food, so they clamor for the bread when they can find it cause they don’t have cook it any further before they can eat it. Even those of us who lived through the war (of liberation) have never seen anything like this before. It is unbelievable I tell you.
Harare is cold, and people are suffering. You will not believe Mbare Musika (long distance bus terminus and popular informal market) if you went there now; it looks like they dropped a bomb over there. There’s congestion as people try desperately to leave the city and the debris from demolished stalls is all over the place.
I think this time the Stay Away will succeed it’s not like the other times. The war vets (chief culprits of violence and pandemonium during the government sanctioned farm invasions) are livid about the cleanup. They had their makeshift homes destroyed during the blitz too. People lost everything. That has made them frontliners in the calls for protests against the government.
People around the city (Harare) are well aware of the planned protest. The independent media and cell phone text messages have been the main way that the message has been passed on. There have also been a lot of fliers handed out in the city here. People are definitely aware. The Herald and ZBC—Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation (both government propaganda) continue to belittle the stay away but I think anyone who had any doubts, now knows the reality that this government is cruel. How can anyone with a heart do this to their own people?”
I don’t think I’ll be able to get into town for work on Thursday and Friday. The combi (minibus—informal transporters) people have already told us that they will not be plying their routes during the stay away. Everyone seems set to be involved this time. I don’t know if I can get into town. I might go to work but if I have problems trying, it’s not worth it. What do you want us to do? This is too much man, we are suffering here.
What is this Stay Away thing? SW Radio Africa carries this announcement from its organizers.
Please note that the Stay Away on Thursday and Friday is official - it has the support of all major civic bodies in the country. They are calling for a solid two-day stay away from work to protest in a manner that will not expose people to the violence and intimidation of the Police and the Army. Just stay at home - do your buying on Wednesday and then take a 4-day break. Do not go out if you can avoid it as there may be trouble and the safest place for you is at home.
Please note that this is not the only action being taken - there are several initiatives being run at the same time. Further action is planned for next week and you will be informed of this as decisions are taken and the relevant information can be released to the public. We are not prepared to take this nonsense anymore. The country is collapsing and with it our companies and jobs are in serious jeopardy. The Police and the Army are just as fed up but they want to see what you feel about this situation. The Stay Away is your first shot at this. Lets act together as we did before.
My own simpleminded take on all this, without the benefit of special knowledge or experience in southern Africa is that the opposition to Mugabe will be nonviolent for now, but is unlikely to remain so for long. The reason: food. The Washington Post reports that Zimbabwe's granaries are empty and the only prospect of replenishment is international food aid. The UN is on the case: when Mugabe's in need, the UN will heed.
Zimbabwe, facing fears of widespread famine, has welcomed the resumption of international food donations that could feed up to 4 million people, U.N. officials reported Wednesday. President Robert Mugabe had curtailed such aid last year, saying the country could feed itself.
After meeting with Mugabe in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, U.N officials said the delivery of several hundred thousand metric tons of food would begin as soon as supplies were collected and routed to Zimbabwe. The food will be directed to schools, orphanages and work programs because Zimbabwean officials have objected to the creation of centers that would distribute food to the general population, the officials said.
Mugabe's ploy puts the West in the classic dilemma of either propping up a despot with taxpayer-funded food aid or withholding it, whereupon the Left will immediately yell "Bush is using food as a weapon!". For example, last year the Christian Science Monitor ran an opinion piece from a Mennonite Pastor denouncing malnutrition as a "weapon" in the context of Cuba. Why should it be different from Zimbabwe:
Ever since President Carter's discredited sanctions preventing grain sales to Russia, most US politicians have disavowed the use of hunger as a weapon. In 2000, George W. Bush said in a presidential debate, "We shouldn't be using food as a diplomatic weapon." For good reason: Food embargoes don't work. Aiming "weapons of malnutrition" at Cubans will only weaken America's moral standing in an era of great challenge to its foreign policy. The correct path for US-Cuba relations goes in a different direction.
Unfortunately for the Left, even if the evil Bush administration meekly handed Mugabe all the grain he could glom there's a good chance his despicable and corrupt regime would simply sell or hoard it. One way or the other, what is nearly certain is that conditions will continue to worsen. The second probability is that Mugabe will not react gently to Stay Away. He has gotten away with so much, so often from the spineless "International Community" -- you know the one that provides unparalleled "legitimacy" -- that he will odds-on overdo his response. What then? I think Professor Stanford Mukasa, a Zimbabwean teaching journalism at a US college had it right when he said that Zimbabweans could not expect the cavalry to ride over the hill, massacre or no.
“Zimbabwe is not sitting by the rivers of Babylon,” he said. “Many people outside the country cannot understand why there has been an absence of anger for so long. We know how ruthless and brutal the Mugabe fascist regime can be… they are terrorizing the population. But the international community is looking to the people of Zimbabwe … to stage a spontaneous uprising. The question is – can they do it on their own or do we look to civil leadership to play that role?”
Well, maybe not the US Cavalry but George Bush has been looking for a few good men. At a meeting with Thabo Mbeki recently, President Bush said:
the South African leader gave him a briefing on regional efforts to help end the political crisis in Zimbabwe, where Washington says April legislative elections were neither free nor fair. "Obviously, we are concerned about a leadership that does not adhere to democratic principles, and obviously concerned about a country that was able to, for example, feed itself and now has to import food as an example of the consequence of not adhering to democratic principles," he said.
President Mbeki says he told Mr. Bush that African leaders are working with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and opposition leaders to encourage them to look at changing the constitution and the legislature to create the political basis for a stable, democratic system. "What is really critically important is to see in what ways we can support the opposition party and the ruling party in Zimbabwe to overcome their problems," he said. "And clearly one of the critically important things to do is to make sure that you have the political arrangements that address matters of the rule of law."
This suggests that GWB is looking for a regional partner that can actually intervene in Zimbabwe if it falls to pieces, but that Mbeki isn't biting, for now. All the same, I wouldn't be surprised if the U.S. European Command, which has responsibility for Southern Africa, isn't drawing up some contingency plan on what it will take to support the RSA if it has to go into Zimbabwe. Bottom line: things are going to have to get a lot worse before Mbeki and the "International Community" get themselves in gear. But when they do success will depend on the groundwork that is even now being laid by the USA. Given Mugabe, it is just a question of when.