Some of my fondest memories are of safaris in Zimbabwe, and since March the power sharing agreement seemed to be working. It’s all coming apart, now.
Who would have thought that the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, would today be Zimbabwe’s prime minister? Or even more unlikely, sharing government with the same man who had beat him to a pulp?
But that’s what happened last March, following the UN-managed elections which Tsvangirai won beating the aged dictator, Robert Mugabe. Problem was Mugabe wouldn’t concede power, so as seems trendy today, the two adversaries formed a coalition government.
No one thought it would work. For the first few months, the only country in the world that recognized the new government was South Africa, which had mediated the agreement.
A few months later, more governments recognized the coalition as it seemed to be holding. Each side divvied up the ministries pretty fairly, although Mugabe kept all those with hard weapons. All ministers got Mercedes.
By July some of us felt Tsvangirai was capitulating to the dizziness of power. Nothing was really happening in Zimbabwe to move the country out of its xenophobic, racist ways. Near random land distribution was still uncontrolled. The country printed its first one trillion dollar bill. Mining was still dead. All the country’s great resources were still not being used, and all that was keeping it alive was South African aid.
And most telling of all, refugees kept flowing out of the country.
But then, remarkably to this person anyway, by September there seemed to be some hope. For the first time ever it looked like tobacco was actually being replanted (the country’s dominant crop). A few new pieces of equipment arrived at the Hwange Coal Mine. And EWT started to get promising little notes from safari operators throughout the country.
So – we thought maybe – Africa has worked magic, again. David and Goliath are playing cribbage.
Yesterday, it came apart.
Tsvangirai confirmed to a South African radio station (where he is on a lecture tour) that Mugabe has issued an order forbidding any of Tsvangirai’s party members – including ministers in the current government – from leaving the country.
Presumably if Tsvangirai returns, he’ll be under house (country) arrest. Mugabe’s move follows a cabinet meeting Tuesday that Tsvangirai’s party boycotted. And to make matters worse, it looks like some of Tsavangirai’s coalition, including Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, may be shifting over to Mugabe, who after all holds all the keys to all their Mercedes.
In my opinion, this is the beginning of the end. No protestor alive has paid his dues more than Tsavangirai, who has been beaten unconscious several times by Mugabe supporters, jailed innumerable times, and who even lost his wife this year in a car accident that remains incredibly suspicious.
Maybe the wounds are just too deep. Maybe Tsavangirai believes the time is ripe to fracture the coalition. Maybe someone knows that finally Mugabe really is dying.
There’s no bread on the shelves in Harare. But there are lots of new Mercedes.