Zanu-PF's conference: An assessment

Eddie Cross says confirmation of Mugabe as party president not a bad outcome for MDC

The Zanu PF conference has come and gone and it is possible now to review and analyze the outcome. They were faced with some really serious problems; their popularity ratings were at an all time low, their policies have failed, they are confronted with an implacable rival in the MDC, are contending with a hostile region and now their leaders health is failing. After all the hype, the outcome of the conference was a stunning failure to recognize that Zanu PF needs to change tack or face elimination. For me, this event was a prelude to suicide.

They failed to address the issue of future leadership, not because the talent is not available, but simply because they were not prepared to trust the people to elect new leadership or agree among themselves who could best take the Party forward. Instead they simply allowed Mugabe to be confirmed as Party President and as candidate in the next elections. How can you nominate a man who will be 89 when he must again campaign against all comers and lead his Party, especially when he has been ill for five years and is visibly failing. For the MDC this was the very best outcome.

They failed to recognize that their strategies for agriculture have simply destroyed our capacity to feed ourselves. They have purchased, using their own money, the entire stock of maize seed in the country - twice as much as can be actually planted. Desperate to prove that the land reform programme has not been a disaster, they hope that by distributing free seed and some fertilizer, a maize crop will emerge.

The reality is that agricultural output continues to decline - 12 years after they launched their attack on the white farmers and their staff who had been responsible for the near defeat of Zanu PF in 2000. Drive through the former commercial farming districts and all you will see are abandoned and empty farms, now derelict after a decade of mismanagement and scavenging for remaining assets. Close to the main roads you might see small huts and patches of subsistence agriculture, but little else.

Now it is indigenization - the attempt to take a majority shareholding in all major working companies. They show no interest in the hundreds of closed or failing firms. Despite the legal and political problems they face over the issue in the GPA Government they stated at the conference that they will press on - for them it has three justifications - as a source of patronage; as a political red herring; and to help stop the economic recovery and growth, something that otherwise will be attributed to MDC after 30 years of economic failure.

As far as the pressure from the region is concerned they opted for a deliberately opaque response. "The GPA has failed", they stated; "it deserves to be buried in a deep hole, we will hold elections in 2012, the sooner the better". But no defiant decision to repudiate the regions views on the GPA or efforts at regional adjudication. No attacks on the South African leadership. Instead we had the ANC saying to Zanu PF - accept the reform process and a free and fair election and we will help you fight your arch enemy.

Zanu Pf are under no illusions - they know what that would mean and they are determined not to go there, instead they came away from their Conference with no progress on any fronts. On Monday it is business as usual. Mugabe must face Morgan Tsvangirai at their normal Monday meeting, on Tuesday Zanu PF will have to face MDC in the House of Parliament, still smarting from a debate over the 2012 budget where the MDC scrum has just shoved the Zanu PF scrum right over the score line. Worse, the much feared confrontation with the President of South Africa still looms. Zuma will come to Harare to tell the players here that the region remains resolute and wants the GPA process (as amended) fulfilled in all respects before any new elections.

Zanu PF is shut up in a cul-de-sac of its own making. It is looking at the wall at the end of the road and asking itself what to do now? How to get out of the trap or over the wall without destroying everything they have done in the past five decades. The SADC/GPA election route would be suicide and Zanu PF knows it. Zanu PF would simply cease to exist in a really free and fair election supervised by the region even if they had support from the ANC.

Fearful that any elections in Zimbabwe would simply become a bloodbath as the Military used their organisation and capacity to suppress MDC activity and to force people to kowtow to Zanu PF bullying tactics, the South Africans are almost certainly going to push for another negotiated solution; a solution that leaves Zanu PF intact but provides for a transfer of power to a democratically elected President under a new constitution.

Effectively this will in fact be a transfer of power to the MDC and to Morgan Tsvangirai, but it would allow Zanu PF time to do what they failed to do this week in Bulawayo; take a close look at themselves and begin the long and painful process of change and recovery. For the military leadership it would mean retirement and oblivion, but if they can retain their dignity, they will probably accept the inevitable.

As for the economy the reality is that everyone can see that a transfer of power is underway in Zimbabwe. Big companies are ignoring the indigenization threat, the GDP is growing rapidly - next year it will hit $16 billion, up from $4,8 in 2008, revenues to the State will rise to over $4 billion compared to just $120 million in 2008 and $1,7 billion in 2009. It may be mainly "bounce back" but it again shows the resilience of the Zimbabwean economy and its capacity to rise from the dead.

The problem for Zanu PF is that wherever they are in charge, the situation is chaotic and still in a state of collapse - the railways, air Zimbabwe, agriculture. Wherever they control the levers of power, human rights abuse is rampant, the rule of law violated. The Military and the other security arms of the State still think they have a right to interfere in State affairs and to use violence as standard modus operandi. They still refuse to accept civilian control in violation of all SADC principles and protocols.

Now they have nominated a man who thinks he can defy time; as President and as their Presidential Candidate in an election they know they cannot win. But then as someone said to me last week, that is what happens when you have got your back to the wall, you cannot see the writing on the wall itself.

Eddie Cross is MDC MP for Bulawayo South. This article first appeared on his website

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