Robert Mugabe was hailed as the liberator from the illegal white regieme thirty years ago, but with senility and/or megalomania that seems to hit all dictators, he has gradually destroyed democracy, then rule of law, and now the economy.
The majority tribe in Zimbabwe, the Mashona, have no militaristic tradition, but they do have a proverb: Remember, even a tiny snake has a fang.
And after years of quarreling, the opposition (or rather those remaining behind, since much of the opposition has fled for economic reasons and safety to South Africa) are starting to unite in opposition.
The prayer rally last week united the opposition, the unions, the student leaders and the churches.
And by attacking the peaceful rally, the police have managed to start a firestorm of internation protests, put Zimbabwe on the front pages of major newspapers and cable networks, and even designated a “new Mandela” in the badly injured Morgan Tsvangarai, whose battered face is now the symbol of the fight for freedom in that country.
President Mugabe is now under seige, and threatening furthur crackdowns on any more demonstrations. But he may be under siege by those in his own party, who have been pressured into affirming his plans to continue in the presidency rather than appoint a successor.
Another source of pressure is from South Africa. So far, S.A. president Mbeki has supported Mugabe and opposed any intervention. LINKHowever, the sight of their fellow union members being attacked has resulted in the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions pressuring that government. The South African Council of Churches has joined their voices to pressure the government to end their silence and intervene with political pressure to find a peaceful solution to the situation which is destablizing the entire region with the constant outflow of refugees. There has also been demonstrations of refugee Zimbabweans in Johannesburg stating their support to end the Mugabe regieme.
It is doubtful that any armed intervention by either South Africa or the African Union will occur, but there is hope that Mbeki’s close ties with Mugabe will enable him to encourage resignation and free elections.
However, with rumors of discontent in the military and police the danger of a coup is increasing. However, Mugabe has trained unemployed youth as “junior security forces” who have been increasing their harassment and physical abuse/beatings of businessmen and others suspected of disloyalty to the government. So there is a very real danger that the country could descend into anarchy.