How team of rivals could still save Zimbabwe
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai agreed last Friday to form a power-sharing government with longtime President Robert Mugabe.
(Page 2 of 2)
Showing competence will reassure foreign donors that Zimbabwe is safe for aid and investment again. Tsvangirai's demonstrating access to foreign sources of money could attract members of Zimbabwe's political elite, who long regarded Mugabe's ZANU-PF as the only show in town.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Increased foreign aid may help to bring many of the public services such as schools and hospitals back into operation. All this aid money will be conditional, of course, on promises Mugabe's regime will allow free political expression, or at least avoid the brazen repression of political dissent. If Mugabe needs capital more than a bashing of heads, then Zimbabwe's political climate is likely to open up.
The country's schools and health centers have been shut for the greater part of last year as teachers and health personnel respectively went on strike demanding better pay and working conditions. Towns and cities have no running water. Nearly a year's worth of refuse clutters potholed roads, neglected by unpaid civil servants.
Ozias Tungwarara, a Johannesburg-based expert for the Open Society Institute, says the key factor for Zimbabwe's recovery is free expression. "Tsvangirai has to ensure that there is popular participation in political and economic decisionmaking," he says. "The system where government is unaccountable to anyone is what got us to where we are."
Constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku calls MDC's decision to join a coalition government with Mugabe "catastrophic." Repressive and corrupt habits by Mugabe's government will not die right away, and MDC may soon find its credibility tarnished, he says. "A few months down the line, MDC will see that they have been taken for a ride."
He says by joining the power-sharing government, Tsvangirai has legitimized Mugabe, who's accused of gross human rights violations and ruining the country's economy during his 28-year tenure.
The two leaders' warring personalities will bring the country back to stalemate, Mr. Madhuku adds. The power-sharing government will be one "with two different people who can't work together to produce a position outcome."
Yet, Mugabe may need Tsvangirai to shore up his sagging legitimacy. The Mugabe who obliterated a rival liberation movement, ZAPU, before swallowing it into ZANU-PF in a 1987 Unity accord, is a much weaker man today.
Regarded as a pariah by much of Europe, and kept at arm's length by a growing number of African leaders, Mugabe now wants international recognition and access to funds from institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, says one Harare-based commentator.
"He will quickly see to normalize relations with the West so that they will be morally compelled to support the inclusive government," the commentator says, speaking on condition of anonymity. "This is a critical moment for Mugabe to save his disintegrating party. ZANU-PF needs this unity more than the MDC."
• A correspondent who could not be named for security reasons contributed to this story from Harare, Zimbabwe.