Last night Mr. Mugabe nearly gave the entire country a heart attack. In the late afternoon a ZTV outside broadcasting unit was driven into State House where Mr. Mugabe and the Military Commanders were negotiating his departure from Office. After Saturday when millions of Zimbabweans took to the streets to call for his retirement and then the Sunday meeting of the Zanu PF Central Committee at which he was summarily dismissed from the leadership of the Party and replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, we all expected a humble and contrite Mugabe to announce he was stepping down.
We waited from 19.00hrs to 21.00hrs for him to come on TV live and when he did the setting was quite bizarre. He was sitting behind what looked like a coffin draped in a white sheet, behind him were two flags and on either side, were the Commander of the Armed forces, General Chiwenga and on the other side a rather rotund Catholic Priest. An apt setting for the last rites with both executioner and Priest present. Then there was an honor guard of what must have been 20 senior Army Officers in one long row.
What then followed was equally bizarre. He spoke for about 25 minutes, losing his way and not reading well, but it was a rambling discourse and only vague references to the massive protests on the streets on Saturday and no mention of the Zanu PF meeting that morning or his change of status – in fact the only thing he said about the future was that he would “chair the Zanu PF Congress in a few weeks time”. What was quite clear and perhaps this was the main reason for this farcical exercise, was that this is a very old man, barely able to read, obviously senile and with little understanding of the situation, and clearly in deep denial.
What perturbed me was the statements at the Zanu PF Central Committee meeting that Zanu PF would not do any deals with the MDC T and would not form a national Government in any sense, they would carry on as before, simply with new Zanu PF leadership. My view is and has always been, that this is simply not sustainable – Zimbabwe is in a deep political, social and economic crisis and unless arrested in the very near future, this is going to do irreparable damage to the economy which already can hardly function. Our national debt is now over 200 per cent of GDP and cannot be serviced.
The Treasury Bills held by Commercial banks exceed their capital by a wide margin and the State is unable to either service the interest or to redeem them at face value. Inflation is already at hyperinflation levels and accelerating fast. Discounts on all local forms of money are rising and now stand at between 40 and 80 per cent. Earnings on exports are being converted into local currency at official rates and this will lead to a collapse of the firms involved. The fiscal deficit this year could be US$2,2 billion with revenues of $3,8 – completely unsustainable.
These structural problems cannot be addressed without a return of confidence and reengagement with the international Community. A Zanu PF government made up of individuals drawn from the Party simply cannot fulfill those conditions. They will simply change the guard at the top and our problems will become that much worse. Isolation and economic decline will continue.
So Zanu has to force Mr. Mugabe from power, the time for games and theatre are over. They cannot go back and neither can Mr. Mugabe and his allies. The country will not accept the status quo and real trouble could be around the corner if this does not happen. But the MDC T cannot allow regime change that does not address our problems, both political and economic. We do not need an unreformed Zanu PF regime that has beaten and killed our members for 17 years, stolen elections and failed to implement the reforms needed for free and fair elections. We have every right to demand change and right now Zanu PF cannot get out of its conundrum without us. Interesting days.
Eddie Cross is MDC MP for Bulawayo South. This article first appeared on his website www.eddiecross.africanherd.com