Monday, March 12, 2007

Power vacuum looms in Zimbabwe

Moyo's statement (about the dangers of inflation) stands as a rebuke to the leaders of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, for their failure to mobilise people against the ZANU PF government.

But what he did not say, and what many people may not immediately see, is that a dangerous post-Mugabe vacuum now looms.

The implications could be dire for the nation. When – which is rather more likely than “if”, under the present circumstances – economic collapse finally prompts a political implosion that ends Mugabe’s rule, there may be no leader ready to direct the ship of state. That will leave room for opportunists to vie for power, and it is not far-fetched to imagine civil strife if the transitional process is bungled.

“The paradox of Zimbabwean politics is that everybody else claims to know what is wrong and what needs to be done to restore the economy except those in government,” a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe told IWPR. “Those who know have no political power, those who don’t are in charge,” he said.

Another analyst said political repression was making it almost impossible to effect peaceful change in the country. He said legislation such as the draconian Public Order and Security Act made it difficult for opposition parties to address their supporters so as to mobilise votes.

“Such an environment leads to frustration and could cause a revolution as happened to Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia,” said the university lecturer, who did not want to be named.

But like many observers, this lecturer questions whether the opposition is really in a fit state to take over power.

“The problem with Zimbabwe is that those opposed to the dictatorship have proved themselves [too] poor in strategy and judgement to readily fit in Mugabe’s shoes,” he said, citing the MDC’s lack of clarity on potential rallying-call issues such as land reform, and the perception that none of the current crop of opposition politicians inspires confidence.

The MDC has missed a number of glaring opportunities to assert itself, he said.

“When the government destroyed homes under Operation Murambatsvina, and Gideon Gono [Reserve Bank governor] confiscated their money in the name of currency change last year, people expected opposition leaders to come to the rescue,” he explained. “But no one came, and the opposition has been losing voters and a lot of goodwill.”....

The government’s blitz on shanty settlements and informal businesses in Operation Murambatsvina [“Operation Drive Out the Rubbish”] from May 2005 onwards left more than 700,000 people homeless while another 1.2 million were also affected, according to a report released by United Nations special envoy Anna Tibaijuka, dispatched to investigate by the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

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