Zimbabwe needs a 28th birthday present – a new government

Today is the 28th birthday of Zimbabwe. Mr Mugabe thinks that is cause for celebration, as he seeks to take people’s minds off the runaway inflation, the barbaric acts of violence, the suffering of families with little to eat or buy, and the failure to publish the results of the Presidential ballot.
The best possible present Zimbabwe could have is a change of leadership. The country is in desperate need of a government that could get to grips with the economic dislocation, and could seek help from around the world in re-establishing a system which could deliver jobs, food and prosperity.
I understand the terrible pressures on Mr Tsvangirai and the difficulty for an Opposition leader in a situation where the armed forces and police are politicised. He is trying to get South Africa to put pressure on the Mugabe regime to force publication of the election result and demand a change of President.
The regime did publish election results for Parliament which produced a Parliament where the MDC has a majority over Mugabe’s Zanu. One way forward would be for brave Parliamentarians of the majority MDC to meet and establish an alternative centre of authority, to seek to win over the public and even some of the security forces by showing them their jobs and interests would be safe with a new government if they behave sensibly. They may need to meet over the border if the security forces are instructed to stop the Parliament meeting, or to disrupt it.
Mugabe’s constant reminder of the independence struggle now looks very dated. It also gets forgotten that that struggle was not against the UK, but against an illegal state created by some Rhodesians who cut themselves loose from the UK in the 1960s when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister. It is high time Zimbabwe had a government which could live in the present and plan for the future, rather than wallowing in misrepresentations of what happened 30-40 years ago.

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11 Comments

  1. Andrew
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Interesting observations, however I do think that the military option shouldn’t be excluded. I know that a land locked country isn’t an easy option and all the controversy surrounding regime change. However I’ am strongly of the view that even a small sized force would be able to do the job quite comfortably. Mugabe talks tough but his troops are nothing more than a rebel, at the very first sign of danger they will ditch arms instead of defending an octogenarian that they must know ruined their country. It requires a deft landing on the presidential palace, and kidnapping of the president getting him to abdicate, it happens all the time in Africa why not give another try and stop the guilt trip about colonialism when it was so manifestly better economically speaking then the present situation., even if Ian Smith went against the wishes of London and Rhodesia wasn’t a British colony strictly speaking.

  2. tim holden
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    The Labour Government looks to Africa for guidance in methods of governance. They have taken several tips from the Apartheid era of South Africa – identity cards, imprisonment without trial, creation of homelands (in Britain known as devolution). I am concerned that they might be considering an example from slightly further north – the Mugabe response to losing an election.

  3. Stuart Fairney
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    One expects nothing but tyranny from Mugabe but Mbeki has shown himself to be a failure in this crisis.

    As the Cato institute pointed out, almost no Southern African army actually defends its people from external attack, they are almost always instruments of internal repression. So one can see the cut of Mr Mbeki's cloth when he allows all those Chinese weapons into Zimbabwe.

    Please, no more aid for Mr Mbeki or the formerly angelic ANC either.

    Incidentally, as the army is the only thing keeping Bob in power, your solution is a good one. Assure the lower ranks they need not fear the new government, unless they continue to act in support of Zanu who lost the election. Take away the army and Bob is doing a Mussolini impersonation (28/4/45) within the week.

  4. David Jensen
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I cannot help thinking throughout this mess that there are significant outside financial interests in keeping Mugabe in power. There are phenominal natural resources in the country, that can wait for exploitation and whilst the price of agricultural comodities continue their march upwards and metals soar, why deplete the market prices through the release of fallow production. Once the Zim farmers come back on line with avengence and many return to their country of origin, the bread basket of Africa will reduce world food prices and the bull run in food comodities will largely be over. This is a realistic scenario. If Mugabe is removed, hundreds of millions of poor people will benefit from food price falls at the expense of a few well off traders and investors (and farmers making less) who can shift their investments into the next financial conspiracy.

  5. Letters From A Tory
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    I said right from the start that Mugabe was never going to go quietly. Now it's a question of whether he is going to go at all.
    http://lettersfromatory.wordpress.com

  6. Iain
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    So far the money we have given the states surrounding Zimbabwe in aid has bought us precious little, and in light of the failure of these African states to step up to the plate, the money we have given them is going to be money down the drain, for in accepting the despotism of Mugabe, it seems the veneer of democracy is very thin there.

    It also shows the danger of cronying politicians into our diplomatic service, for with Mbeki completely failing to do anything about Mugabe, what we needed was to have our High Commissioner in SA to put some pressure on him. (words left out) Our High Commissioner in SA is Paul Boateng, and from reports I gather he has gone native words left out).

  7. David Eyles
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Yes, but what do we do to help them? Do we sit back and do nothing or do we intervene; and if so, then how?

    My memories of Nigeria in the early '80s are that this vast continent is still blaming the white man for all its ills. Mugabe does this constantly and even uses the idea that we are preparing to invade and re-establish colonial rule as another scare tactic to keep himself in power.

    Even though this idea is utterly ridiculous, it has a deep well of currency in the African psyche. It makes any help that we may wish to give utterly fraught with charges of recidivist colonialism and will provoke antagonism – at least amongst some. Meanwhile, China exercises commercial power in the region unchallenged, which fills the vacuum we have left.

    So how do we help to re-establish democracy in Zimbabwe whilst remaining invisible?

  8. Freeborn John
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I was reading through the Zimbabwean constitution. It is strange that a dictatorship can have a constitution so obviously modeled on that of the USA even amended to include a few choice clauses such as “The President shall take precedence over all other persons in Zimbabwe”. If it is more than a piece of paper Mugabe can rule for a while but the House of Assembly ‘should’ be able to deny him the funding he needs to pay for his police and army.
    http://www.kubatana.net/docs/legisl/constitution_

  9. Rose
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    What happened all those years ago was that the most brutal terrorist, backed by the Chinese, and a ruthless mixture of Maoism and Roman Catholicism, managed to see off the less brutal terrorist backed by the Russians, Nkomo, and the people's democratic choice, Bishop Muzorewa. The electoral intimidation that worked back then works now, so why should he change? Ian Smith understood all this, and Lord Carrington has now had the grace to admit it, though he chose his words ambiguously. It was appallingly handled by Wilson at the time. Would Lord Home have done better? When it came to Mrs T, Lord C, and Lancaster House, PC dishonesty on the world stage was diplomatically unavoidable. A little gem of a country with no inflation, the bread basket of Southern Africa, with well-run schools and hospitals, and no crime, has been turned by fashionable opinion into a hell on earth. What did her delightful people do to deserve this?

  10. James Strachan
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Very sadly, there is little prospect of progress in Zimbabwe whilst the South African government, led by Mbeki, are determined to defend Mugabe.

    The latest news is that a shipment of arms from China to Zimbabwe has arrived outside the harbour of Durban. The arms include 3.5 million rounds of ammunition, mortars and bombs, and rocket propelled grenades. Just what you need to fight your own people and, apparently, ordered three days after the so-called election.

    The South African government, supinely, says that they must allow transport of these arms to Zimbabwe despite the terms in their consitution which specify that arms must not be sent to areas in conflict or where the arms may be used against civilians.

    It seems that Mbeki and Mugabe both have life membership of the Hotel Intercontinental, Lusaka, drinking club.

  11. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    I that all MDC members of Zimbabwe’s Parilament should meet and form a government containing ministers from theMDC who unlike Zanu-PF won the parliamentry election . They should pass motions calling for a full inquiry into voting fraud & bullying of electors by militia’s , the publication of presidential election results , they should suspend military funding untill the present dictator leaves office and threaten army officers with trials for treason if they try try to disperse the Parliament by force . Holding this Parliament abroad in South Africa might be wise or at least near the border so that if Mugabe tries to use force then they can escape harm. They could also pass a vote of no confidence in Mugabe and pass a motion censoring the electoral commission for going ahead with recounts that amount to fraud and a motion calling on civil servants to go into purdha untill Mugabe is exiled. The MDC MP’s just meeting as the elected Parliament , debating & voting through all those motions would look much more legitimate than Mugabe’s tyranny. They could pass a Bill pledging pay rises to soldiers & officers who rallied to the cause of democracy and court martial to those who sided with Mugabe. The exiled opposition leader could even have his election as President confirmed by a vote in this Parliament . By having an elected rebel Parliament creating an alternative government and source of authority the UN , EU , USA et al could give it international recognition and it would have massive support from inside Zimbabwe from people sick of this evil man . That would I think do it for Mugabe as soldiers , policemen , Zanu-PF members et al would be forced to realise that the dictators days where ending as his nation burns . If South Africa’s cowardly President will not try to stop the slaughter and terror then Zimbabwe’s Parliament must act to save that poor nations folk from anymore agony.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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