Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Mugabe's totalitarian dream goes global

Zimbabwe's parliament passed the constitutional amendment bill as expected yesterday afternoon. In a matter of hours, when Mugabe signs his assent making the bill law, Zimbabweans will not be allowed to travel freely if they are deemed a "threat to national security." We also won't be able to own the country's best land nor seek legal recourse to fight the government's annexation of said land. Effectively, government will assume control of 100% of the lives of Zimbos within the country.

But this is nothing new to the people of Zimbabwe; life and all it entailments have always been the domain of the party. They control what people can hear and see in the media. They control what people need to learn and what knowledge is. They control the market forces and hence the prices of exchange of all goods. The state controls free speech. They control what one can wear and where one can live. They also have a monopoly on the "undisclosed illness" diagnosis for those among them who succumb to death. In sum, there is no aspect of life in Zimbabwe protected from the controlling hands of ZANU-PF.

Now after years defining and redifining the art of controlling a nation, Zimbabwe's determined despot is going global with his totalitarian dream. According the latest ammendment if your travels abroad don't tow the party line, you don't deserve to travel. And if the Zimbabwe government seized your land illegally (over the last five years) and you thought you could take them to task at a world court or so, Mugabe now has the domestic immunity disabling any litigation on the land issue.

Did you also notice that this amendment bill passed during the presence of an IMF team in the country to make final assesments in the run up to an almost certain expulsion of Zimbabwe and during the collapse of yet another "look east" credit facility? It is no coincidence. Robert Mugabe has totalitarian dreams for the rest of the world too (including you). Here's how it's going to be from now on; the only way to help Zimbabwe and to be her friend is according to Great Uncle Bob's plan. Nothing else. Any alternative thinking however robust and just, is nothing short of sheer madness which off course is impermissible in Zimbabwe. Thus we'll move forward.

Or not.

Maybe it's all just a dream and one that is about to turn nightmarish at that for Uncle Bob. At second glance every aspect of the 17th amendment bill furthers the cause of those who want to move beyond a Zimbabwe dominated by one party and one man.

First there's the senate. It looks like a good way to filter out the contributions of the MDC in parliament right? Maybe. This might prove problematic for ZANU-PF on two fronts. First, is the issue of elections. They are gambling that the people will choose them at the polls. That gamble depends on the fallacy that ZANU-PF has endeared themselves to the people since the March elections. Nothing could be further from the truth. So a rather nasty suprise by way of an election defeat is quite tenable. If nothing else, the senate elections will give MDC's hitherto unknown candidates national prominence that will both galvanize the party as a legitimate opposition and advance the MDC's cause on the nation's political agenda.

Second, lets assume ZANU-PF wins all 50 contested senate seats (which is highly unlikely). This would place another 50 ZANU-PF bigwigs in the (tax sponsored) gravy train immune from the harsh realities of life without the national fiscus to dip from. There's potential for internal strife in the party not only over who gets to stand in the elections, but also when those left out realize that they have no other route to power and money. Remember how bitter the battle for the vice presidency raged within the party just a few months ago? With potentially 50 coveted spots things could get really ugly in ZANU-PF.

The second goal of the amendment is to impose ZANU-PF's retialiatory minded sanctions on the MDC vis a vis travel controls. Speaking immediately after parliament passed the amendment bill Patrick Chinamasa the just-ice minister explained the travel curbs thus, "It is not patriotic for any Zimbabwean to campaign for military intervention in Zimbabwe or to campaign for sanctions." This was clearly a thinly veiled reference to Morgan Tsvangirai the MDC's leader who's been several consultative trips around the world.

Ironically, this is just what the MDC needs to help them focus their energies on the only people that can put an end to this madness; the Zimbabwean public. For months I've said the only way for the MDC to remain valid is for them to embrace and amplify the the demands of the laity. Morgan Tsvangirai in a recent awakening began a nationwide series of rallies aimed at reengaging the public. He has realized that the Zimbabwe's emanciapation will only come from within. So ZANU-PF's "targeted sanctions" will only help the MDC achieve it's target.

Finally is land ownership issue. A few days ago I opined that abolishing land ownership is the greatest vice of these amendments. I was right, but my thinking was incomplete. I overlooked the fact that the demise of the market place will precipitate a decline in revenue inflows to state coffers, and ultimately to corrupt officials' pockets. Fewer business means fewer tax sources and much fewer tax dollars. The only people ZANU-PF will hurt more than the overtaxed Zimbabweans are themselves.

Maybe the 17th amendment to Zimbabwe's constitution wasn't such a bad idea after all Uncle Bob!

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