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So much promise, yet so little delivered

NEVER has an election promised so much and delivered such debilitating hopelessness as Zimbabwe’s just-ended parliamentary poll, again won controversially by the ruling Zanu PF.

The

hope was that the outcome would by and large reflect the true wishes of the people by showing a convergence of opinion between rural and urban voters about the state of the economy. This would have narrowed the gap between the victors and losers and made a political settlement possible between the two major political parties.

This would in turn have allowed Zimbabweans to find common ground as a nation to move the country forward. Instead what emerged is a widening divide. Mugabe and his party remain banished to the communal lands, albeit with more seats, while an effete MDC has retained its base in the towns.

President Mugabe and Zanu PF cannot, on their own, win us the goodwill and international support we need, or repair the damaged economy. Yet an outright MDC victory was as inconceivable as it was impossible under the current legal and political framework. Nor would that victory have counted for much in the immediate future. The reconstruction of the country that Zanu PF has plundered over the past 25 years will need considerable sacrifice over many years.

The truth is that whether we like it or not, Zimbabweans will have to accept the overwhelming influence of Zanu PF in our daily lives. Even armchair radicals in the MDC who think there should be no compromise with Mugabe and his party have not been able to propose a viable option. If anything, Mugabe has ruled the country as if there were no opposition and as if everything was normal since his disputed re-election in 2002.

Yet that is our tragedy, that a liberation war hero who started with so much promise has turned out to be a millstone around the nation’s neck. He has no vision for the future, yet he will not allow others the right to succeed or fail in running the country. Instead he wants the dubious distinction of presiding over his country from independence to death.

In his address to the Zanu PF central committee on Sunday, the president indulged in his favourite blame game. He sought to accentuate the rural/urban divide by describing voters in rural areas as loyal while so-called urbanites were judged as “habitually fickle” and “hostile” according to how they voted.

Without offering any programme of how his party would use its majority to get the country out of its economic morass, Mugabe said an MDC victory had the “ghastly prospect of reinstating white politics, white dominance, … white gods and white values”. While it embodied these values, “any understanding with it (MDC) remains inconceivable”, he declared. But unity of purpose is what the country needs more than this posturing.

There is no denying that Mugabe knows why his party lost in the urban areas. People don’t have adequate transport, shortage of accommodation is acute, poverty is widespread and unemployment is at an all-time high of close to 75%. All these problems are multiplied in rural areas, which makes their vote curious.

“Roads sorely need maintenance. Refuse collection has all but stopped, turning our once clean townships into mounds of reeking refuse dumps. Our previously bright streets have becoming straight dark corners for criminals,” he said.

Mugabe blames all this mess on MDC councils whose powers were long ago usurped by his government. Instead of a broad policy of reconstruction and how it would be funded, Mugabe’s vision was limited to peri-urban farming projects and small-to-medium enterprises to reduce poverty and unemployment. Foreign currency would come from the export of minerals, he said.

We have all heard this before but we have not seen the foreign currency. We cannot hope to attract foreign investment by pursuing a vituperative foreign policy that seeks to befriend a few outcast nations while alienating the rest of the world.

We cannot expect outsiders to cooperate in our economic recovery when we are not ready to work together as a nation. And so long as Mugabe remains the driver of the country’s foreign policy, we are doomed. There is no hope of the country getting the balance-of-payments support it needs, there is no chance of foreign direct investment.

The Homelink initiative has no chance of success so long as Zimbabweans in the diaspora are aggrieved about being deprived of their right to vote.

The country has lost all the goodwill that could have hauled us out of this quagmire. We need a political settlement so that we speak with one voice.

So long as one booming voice, devoid of substance and locked in the mantras of the past, continues to claim to speak for all Zimbabweans, we shall fail as a nation. That is the message from the 2005 poll.

Is it possible to use our experience of the past 25 years to give our independence a new meaning and hope?

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