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Is the Zimbabwe issue still relevant?


The world media has been awash with news of stolen elections in Ivory Coast, the referendum on the possible cessation of Southern Sudan, the stand-off between North Korea and South Korea as well as the cholera epidemic in Haiti in the aftermath of the calamitous earthquake in that country.

There is also the continued conflict in the Great Lakes region, the implosion in Tunisia, and impending elections in Nigeria amongst a host of other international issues.

Then there is the issue of unprecedented floods in Australia and South Africa. Not to be forgotten is the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme and the attention it has courted from Britain, the US, Germany and France.

The nature and scope of the issues at hand is varied, complex and the ramifications have a global effect and impact. Zimbabwe and its governance problems risk being rendered irrelevant to the global agenda and that of international agencies such as the United Nations, the African Union and regional bodies such as Sadc.

Problems relating to the implementation of the Global Political Agreement and elections may pale into significance when juxtaposed with other conflict situations.

Very soon global attention may shift to yet another political settlement in the Ivory Coast or the delicate post-referendum situation in Sudan, which is the largest country in Africa.

It is time Zimbabweans began placing the Zimbabwean situation in a global context or else risk total irrelevance.

We as Zimbabweans need to be conscious of the fact that there are other trouble spots in the world and if anything the situation in our country may appear to be the proverbial “storm in a teacup” in the global context.

At times we suffer from the illusion (or is it delusion?) that the world owes us something and has to do something about President Mugabe and the “crisis,” “stalemate”, “logjam” or whichever of the numerous adjectives and superlatives that have been used to describe the situation in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwean political parties, especially the two MDCs, (of course there may be four MDCs now) and the revived Zapu have to be alive to the competiveness, speed and fluidity of global politics and attendant shifts in international power relations and dynamics.

It is pertinent but also imperative for political parties and progressive civil society to increase insight into the intricacies of global politics, African diplomacy and foreign policy imperatives of critical continental and global players so as to positively influence positioning of the African Union, Sadc and other players on issues pertaining to Zimbabwe.

Importantly, strategic thinkers within political and civic organisations need to link Zimbabwean issues within regional, continental and international context and processes .

I distinctly remember having an argument with a professor from Sierra Leone just after the 2000 elections on the state of affairs in Zimbabwe.

The learned professor argued that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe as the country had good houses, water, roads and fairly good infrastructure.

He compared Zimbabwe to some countries in west Africa which had shanty towns, no running water and dilapidated infrastructure.

It proved quite difficult to quantify the level of suffering in Zimbabwe especially when the professor raised arguments about the genocides in Rwanda and Burundi, the military dictatorships of West Africa, the Somalian and Sudanese situations and the crisis in the whole Great Lakes Region .

Such are the challenges of comparatives as they weigh heavily against our case of gross human rights violation, lawlessness, structural violence, organised state violence and repressive laws.

Whilst we present our case of lawlessness and impunity, we find ourselves contending with Somalia and the DRC where the state virtuallly has no capacity to enforce the law and is dependent on the goodwill of its neighbours and the United Nations .

The situation in Ivory Coast where Laurent Gbagbo stole elections Zanu PF-style and the referendum in Sudan have stolen the thunder from the Zimbabwean situation.

African diplomacy in Ivory Coast appears to be more robust and effective given the aggressive stance taken by Ecowas against the Gbabgo regime.

This is in sharp contrast with the “hands off Mugabe” approach taken by Sadc. Obviously, the international community would then focus its diplomatic and multilateral energy towards solvable problems rather than the seemingly intractable and cyclical Zimbabwean situation.

The question then becomes whether Zimbabwe will enjoy increased or increasing international attention, pressure and diplomatic efforts at the expense of other trouble spots in the world.

The world is moved by drama, in fact melodrama and a sense of the spectacular, whether positive or disastrous, and it may be difficult to prove comparatively whether our situation is worse than that of Ivory Coast, Sudan and North/South Korea, Haiti or the Great Lakes region.

We must remember that Sadc was jerked into action after Morgan Tsvangirai and his colleagues were bludgeoned by the police.

Besides threats of violence by Jabulani Sibanda and his cohorts, arrests of journalists and official threats from securocrats, there is nothing to substantially compare to the other contexts mentioned before.

The Zimbabwean situation is further complicated by the fact that the country boasts of one of the most sophisticated dictatorships modelled around Mafia- style organised political gangsters presided over by a circle of educated politicians masquerading as our liberators.

This coterie has blended blunt political violence through rogue war veterans and party militia with an advanced form of latter-day black colonial repression which, whilst purporting to have set the people free from colonialism, actually has them in bondage to a system which changed the colour of the oppressor but retained the repressive laws which govern the masses.

It is thus difficult to measure and project a lot of the structural violence perpetrated by the regime unlike in other countries were the violence is overt and measurable.

This of course excludes Gukurahundi which saw the army killing over 20 000 Ndebeles and the violence of 2000 and 2008 . Food for thought.

Dumisani can be contacted on dumisani.nkomo@gmail.com

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