Catriona Laing, Britain’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, has often found herself being criticized by Mugabe and his regime on the one hand and by ordinary Zimbabweans and the opposition on the other. Her troubles are those of a smoking-pipe which is being burnt one end and chewed the other; there is no escape!
Ever since the EU decided to soften its stance with the Zanu PF regime in 2014 by removing everyone except Mugabe and his wife from the targeted sanction, the British have been under constant fire from both sides of the political divide in Zimbabwe. (Whilst it is true that the decision was a collective EU decision; pushed by the Belgians, in this case, who were desperate to resume trading with Zimbabwe for her diamonds. It might just as well have been a unilateral British decision, as far as most Zimbabweans are concerned.)
The targeted sanctions were imposed in 2002 for Mugabe’s failure to hold free, fair and credible elections. The tyrant blatantly rigged the 2013 elections and the opposition and all thinking Zimbabwean expected the sanctions to therefore remain in place. The Americans confirmed the elections were rigged and therefore they will not lift the sanctions. The EU accepted the elections were rigged and retained the sanctions for a while but then decided otherwise much to the annoyance of those fighting for democratic change.
Mugabe and his regime have always maintained the sanctions were imposed as punishment for the regime’s seizure of white owned farms although the sanctions were imposed in 2002, two years after the farm seizure had started. With time, the regime started blaming sanctions for Zimbabwe’s economic collapse which hit rock bottom in 2008 with the unemployment soaring to 80% plus, empty shop shelves, world record hyperinflation of 500 billion per cent, etc.
The truth is Zimbabwe’s economy was already in trouble, long before the sanctions were imposed, because of mismanagement and corruption. The chaotic farm seizures and stupid decision to solve economic problem by print money only made the bad situation even worse!
Mugabe rigged the 2013 elections but has since failed to rig economic recovery because the regime has done nothing to address the fundamental problems of mismanagement, corruption and lawlessness. By rigging the elections, the regime has only confirmed that it still has no respect for the rule of law.
It has now over two years since the EU removed everyone expect Mugabe and his wife from the sanctions list and, if the regime was right that the sanctions were the root cause of the economic collapse, the economy should be firmly on its way to rapid economic recovery. The opposite is happening; more and more companies have closed, unemployment is now 90% plus, etc. The regime continues to blame the sanctions and the British for the country’s economic woes!
The question is what is to be done here other than engage Mugabe and Zanu PF, because like it or not they constitute the government?
“They (British) say let’s bail out this regime, because things might get worse and clearing the mess might be more expensive,” complained Tendai Biti, leader of PDP and former Minister of Finance in the GNU. “For Christ’s sake, things reached rock bottom a long time ago. Ask the 79% of Zimbabweans living in extreme poverty. Ask the 91% who don’t have a job… It’s absolutely nonsense, it’s ghoulish.”
Well that is rich coming from the man whose MDC party failed to implement even one democratic reform in five years of the GNU. Zimbabwe would not be in this political and economic mess if MDC had implemented the reforms and thus ensured the 2013 elections were free, fair and credible.
“The Brits should let Zimbabwe determine their own destiny. As far as we are concerned, Mnangagwa is the same if not worse than Mugabe,” said Promise Mkwananzi, the leader of Tajamuka.
Forget all the Zanu PF propaganda, scapegoating, excuses, etc.; it is Zimbabweans have been determining the nation’s destiny these last 36 years. Just because you do not like the hell-hole the nation now finds itself in does not mean someone else landed us here.
Well many people would agree with Mkwananzi that “Mnangagwa is the same if not worse than Mugabe”; Mkwananzi and his Tajamuka friends have remained stanch supporters of corrupt and incompetent oppositions leaders like Tsvangirai, Mujuru, Biti, Ncube, etc. Tajamuka is Shona for enlightenment. If all the enlightenment Mkwananzi has got is seeing Mnangagwa and Mugabe for the corrupt and murderous tyrants they are but would not see Tsvangirai and others for the corrupt and incompetent village idiots they are even with all the historic evidence there for all to see; then what hope is there of the country ever getting out of this hell-hole!
One of the biggest mistakes the West has ever made was to give Zimbabwe’s leaders the impression that they were great statesmen. The British showered Mugabe with praise and even honoured him with a knighthood. Tsvangirai is big headed but his ego ballooned out of all proposition when he met President Obama and other world leaders in 2009. Zimbabwe’s political situation has become intractable because democratic reform, which is what the nation needs, means everyone being held accountable – something Mugabe, Tsvangirai and many of the other egocentric minions have found impossible to swallow!
Regime change is a perfectly acceptable and even expect result of free, fair and credible elections it is something that sends a cold chill down Mugabe’s spine hence the reason he has done everything in his power including cheating, vote rigging and even murdering his opponents to ensure there is no regime change. Tsvangirai has used long since scrap the clause in the MDC-T’s constitution limiting the party president’s term to ten years.
So Zanu PF does not want democratic reforms because they will never win free and fair elections. The opposition want reform but fear them too because they are corrupt and incompetent and therefore will never compete. So all talk of democratic reforms by the West makes both Zanu PF and the opposition jumpy.
My advice Ambassador Laing is that the British and the West at large is be as clear as a bell that the only democratic reforms worth implementing are those that will deliver free, fair and credible elections; that is good for the country and that is what the ordinary people want.
Madam if you are going to be criticized you may just as well be criticized for saying the truth. “Kana wadya gudo chidya gono!” as we say in Shona. (If you forced to eat the baboon, then eat the fat male and not a sick and bony one!)