Zimbabwe needs a national unity government

By 
  • May 2, 2008

{mosimage}To many, the electoral crisis in Zimbabwe is a case of a greedy dictator and his ruling party refusing to give up power to a democratically elected opposition. Zanu PF and president Robert Mugabe have led the nation since independence from Britain in 1980.

On March 29 Zimbabweans chose a new president and parliament. It is now confirmed, after a month, that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and its allies won a majority but, at the time of writing, results of the election had not been released.

Nobody accepts the official explanation that there were irregularities that warrant recounts and a possible re-run.

The question that needs to be answered is: “What will it take for Mugabe to let go?” The answer is a government of national unity.

Mugabe and his top officials fear an MDC government like a mouse fears a cat. First, Mugabe and some of his top security officials, particularly Air Force Commander Perence Shiri, face the possibility of being tried, within Zimbabwe or outside, for human rights atrocities dating back to the early 1980s when Mugabe authorized and Shiri executed the killings of more than 20,000 innocent villagers in Matabeleland during the so-called dissident era. The two, and others, have been in charge of other atrocities, including the current killings, torture and detention of opposition members.

Besides these crimes, Mugabe fears the wrath of the people whose lives he has literally destroyed by implementing disastrous economic policies and allowing himself and his favoured ones to plunder the economy to the point where inflation is higher than 155,000 per cent, unemployment is estimated at over 80 per cent and a quarter of the population is in exile.

So, if the MDC comes into power, Mugabe knows that its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, will expose everything the 84-year-old dictator did and he will ensure his own political survival by making Mugabe and his cohorts pay for their “sins” to the nation.

That’s why Mugabe is holding onto results and trying to push for an election re-run and floats the idea of a national unity government. This would allow Mugabe to stay on as president for a limited time during which he and his officials will do much damage control and create a safe escape route from prosecution and, possibly, persecution.

As long as the opposition accepts the concept and signs onto it, it will have accepted all the responsibilities of the government — past and present. Whatever happens afterwards, they will have to share the consequences.

Although the opposition has so far refused to even entertain this idea, in reality, they might not have much of a choice because even in defeat, Zanu PF is a very rich and powerful adversary.

Even worse for the MDC, the country is split right in the middle in terms of national political support and that leaves a lot of room for people’s allegiance to be swayed the Zanu PF way even before the new government begins to consolidate its authority.

Thus, unless Tsvangirai and his party have a master plan to unite people, then they would be advised to engage Zanu PF in some significant way, at least in the short term.

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