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ZANU-PF’s body language holds the key

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These are interesting times in Zimbabwe. Political analysts are battling to make sense of recent pronouncements by President Robert Mugabe and other members of ZANU-PF’s inner sanctum. A case in point is Mugabe’s condolence message to ‘the Honourable Prime Minister’, Morgan Tsvangirai on the tragic loss of his wife. Another perplexing statement came from ZANU-PF Home Affairs Minister calling for an end to violence. But perhaps most perplexing of all is Mugabe’s plea for aid. These statements, to the uninitiated, may be a reflection of a changed and reformed ZANU-PF. Taken in isolation and at face value, a call for an end to violence by a ZANU-PF Minister paints a picture of a party ready to start afresh and make the necessary amends leading to the restoration of the rule of law, human rights and democracy. However, l urge dear readers not to put much emphasis on the words uttered by ZANU-PF leaders, but instead, to look at ZANU-PF’s body language for clues on where they really stand.

That talk is cheap cannot be over-emphasized. If indeed, the President cares so much about the MDC and its Prime Minister, does his conduct towards the MDC bear testimony to such concern? A close look at the treatment of the political prisoners, comprising civil society and MDC activists at the hands of the police and prison officers who answer only to ZANU-PF will reveal a different story of brutality, torture, and untold suffering. Shadreck Manyere, the photo journalist abductee still being held at Chikurubi Prison has a totally different understanding of ZANU-PF, based on his continued persecution under the guise of lawful prosecution.

Taking Mugabe’s plea for the international community to loosen purse strings and bail out Zimbabwe, one may believe that ZANU-PF has reformed. But when one considers the conduct of ZANU-PF a different story emerges. While Mugabe is calling for international aid at the Rainbow Towers, hundreds of ZANU-PF supporters are busy invading the farms of the last remaining white farmers. And the invaders are not just small fish in ZANU-PF, some of then hold very senior posts in ZANU-PF and in government. Not a word from ZANU-PF leadership condemning such an affront to property rights and other fundamental freedoms. Instead of taking steps to guarantee and protect property rights and by so doing boost international investor confidence, ZANU-PF’s body language betrays stubbornness and an unwillingness to change that never ceases to amaze me.

By carefully studying ZANU-PF’s body language l have arrived at the inescapable conclusion that ZANU-PF wishes to ‘have its cake and eat it,’ or to have it both ways. It is quite conceivable that President Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF have made one huge mistake which is this: they assumed that MDC is the silver bullet needed to unlock international aid and that by merely having the MDC as part of an inclusive government then the international community would scramble to blindly pour in the much needed aid. Proceeding with this logic, ZANU-PF pressured and pestered the MDC to join the inclusive government. As soon as MDC was on board, ZANU-PF quickly called for aid to be given, pointing to the government of national unity as evidence of change.

At the same time, ZANU-PF firmly resisted any attempts at genuine reform. All the repressive and oppressive media laws are still firmly in place and functional. There has been no move to address openly political violence, to arrest perpetrators of political violence and ensure justice for victims of political violence. Instead, Kembo Mohadi, ZANU-PF Home Affairs Minister recently said to the nation, “Let bygones be bygones and let us focus on nation building.” What genuine, long lasting, and sustainable nation building can be done when victims are forced to forget about their wounds and pain and are denied access to justice? What national healing is possible when those who unleashed a reign of terror during the 2008 general and presidential elections walk free? What guarantees are there that, come the next parliamentary or presidential elections, the same thugs will not again unleash violence?

It is not enough for political leaders to talk about change without taking firm steps to implement that change. Change is not about having MDC as a partner in the inclusive government. Change is not about giving MDC ministers Mercedes benz cars and other so-called ‘symbols of power’. Change is about opening up political space and expanding the freedoms of all people who live within the borders of Zimbabwe. Change is about letting victims of political violence speak and listening to them and ensuring that they feel that justice has been done. Change is about bringing perpetrators of human rights violations to account in an impartial way. Change is about making sure that political leaders in Zimbabwe, as in all other respectable democracies, are accountable to the people.

While the international community demands accountability from the government of Zimbabwe, we, the citizens of Zimbabwe, also demand transparency and accountability on the part of our government. At the moment ZANU-PF’s body language is speaking loudly and clearly that genuine and wholesome change is not nigh. It appears the international community is also intently studying ZANU-PF’s body language to gauge levels of sincerity and commitment to change. This time, the proof of the pudding is required before eating. The body language of most Zimbabweans scattered across the globe with regards inclusive government developments has been quite telling; not many have been stirred to break camp and return home. As a patriotic Zimbabwean who firmly believes in the audacity of hope, l continue to look for signs of hope and life. I desperately want to give ZANU-PF the benefit of the doubt; however, a careful study of events on the ground cautions me against rush and misplaced optimism. I therefore reconcile myself to the sad and yet very real possibility that this inclusive government may disappoint absolutely.

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