Beyond the endgame in Zimbabwe

In the weekly electronic letter from the leader of the Democratic Alliance, Helle Zille, she said there is now no doubt in Samuel Beckett’s famous expression, that we reached the endgame in Zimbabwe. Zille believes it is our country’s task to turn the endgame into a bold new beginning, as speedily and as intelligently as possible. By any definition of a modern state, Zimbabwe barely exists. The empty supermarket shelves and marauding militias are final unavoidable proof: the self-destructive policies set in motion seven years ago by Preisdent Robert Mugabe have destroyed the country. Mugabe’s desperate attempts since 2000 to stave off his own defeat at the polls, via land-grabs, constitutional gerrymandering and police state thuggery, have sent the economy into freefall while eclipsing any vestiges of a free and democratic process. Zimbabwe’s inflation is the world’s highest. Mugabe’s “solution” has been to print more money – thus escalating the cycle of inflation – and to order retailers to slash prices by 50%. The latest ply, which has hastened the rush to endgame, is a shocking instance of vampirism at its worst: the selfsame militias enforcing the price-slashes seize goods, and resell them on the black market. It is the same with the lad invasions, the destruction of urban squatter camps, and the repression of the country’s media, political opposition and trade unions. The crisis has been developing for many years. As long ago as the mid-80s, Mugabe masterminded the killing of thousands of opponents in Matabeleland, foreshadowing today’s wanton destruction. As a result, the apocalypse – mass starvation and a headlong flight from the country, chiefly into South Africa – has arrived. According to the United Nationa, South Africa must now brace itself for “arguably the most extraordinary exodus of people from a country not at war”. How has our government reacted? After all, in his dealings with our northern neighbour President Mbeki has long echoed the famed “special relationship” of Britain and the USA, maintaining economic links, staving off international criticism and maintaining warm fraternal ties with Zanu-PF. When SADC tasked President Mbeki last year with brokering talks between Mugabe and the opposition MDC, it was a covert admission that our government’s policy of “quiet diplomacy” had failed to set Zimbabwe on the right course. Mugabe’s contempt for the subsequent talks in Pretoria – which the South African tax-payer is funding – was confirmed when ZANU-PF failed to appear. The question remains: what can South Africa so to salvage from the wreckage a new start for Zimbabwe? Zille argues that the stronger and more widely supported the international case to arraign him, the stronger the threat of such prosecution can be used to prise Mugabe out of office. International pressure does impact on Mugabe’s hold on power. Firstly, one way to confirm Mugabe’s pariah status is to bar him from international gatherings and so embolden his associates to urge his resignation. It is as important to pressurize the international community to consider charging Mugabe for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. According to the Rome Stature – founding document of the International Criminal Court – the definition of crimes against humanity includes murder, forcible transfer of a population, imprisonment or deprivation of physical liberty, torture, persecution, and other inhumane acts causing great suffering or injury to the health of a civilian population. If his record is surveyed dispassionately, Mugabe can be found guilty of all of these. Another Commonwealth country has taken this necessary step. Last year, the Canadian Parliament set in motion a probe o try Mugabe for crimes against humanity, should he ever set foot on Canadian soil. The only thing hindering them was the diplomatic immunity afforded to heads of state. However, should Mugabe cease to head Zimbabwe, his immunity against prosecution will fall away. Mugabe has snubbed all previous attempts to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe and therefore no longer deserves to be offered this or any other alternative; he has run out of time and must now face the full consequences of his actions. Zille is of the opinion that our country must act vigorously and unambiguously if we are to begin the long, painful process of restoring a shattered country to life. The endgame is over; beginning anew will call for all our courage as well as compassion.