December 5, 2008

Concerns over possible state of emergency

On Thursday, Dec 4, Zimbabwe declared a national emergency over the cholera epidemic and the collapse of its health system. Now many are expecting a full-scale state of emergency, overtaking the thus far abortive negotiations for a unity government and further cementing the Zanu-PF regime in power. This would also enable him to deal with his main threat, the widespread parallel currency market that is thwarting all attempts by the Reserve Bank governor, Gideon Gono, to control hyper-inflation. A further rationale would be the apparent dissidence in his army, after unruly soldiers took to the streets of Harare and other centres over the past week, breaking shop windows and attacking and looting money changers, as well as fighting the police in the capital.

However, in this respect things may not be as they appear. There are two views doing the rounds in Harare about the current situation - that the Mugabe regime may use real tensions in the military, or that the soldiers’ unruliness has been engineered to open the way for the state of emergency and to start up a new strategy led by the military for getting rid of currency changers.

The notion that the soldiers’ ‘riot’ in Harare, off and on since last Friday, has been engineered by Mugabe was first suggested by Dumiso Dabengwa, the former home affairs minister in Zanu-PF who broke with the party earlier this year and is now instrumental in re-constitution the Zapu party, based in Bulawayo.

But whether or not Mugabe, the Joint Operations Command (JOC) and the Zanu-PF politburo still retain a firm grasp on the reins of power, it is clear that the economic and social situation has never been worse.

Meanwhile the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice on Friday effectively dismissed the unity talks between Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change. “There has been a sham election, then a sham process of power sharing talks”, she said on a visit to Denmark. The responsibility for getting rid of Mugabe rested with his Southern African neighbours, she said.
SA continues to insist the talks have value and the parties are due to meet again in a few weeks to discuss further the constitutional amendment 19 that would allow MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to become prime minister.

However, events on the ground are steadily encroaching and the regime in Harare seems focused on another end. A state of emergency, accepted by SADC because of health, famine and security issues, would effectively abort the negotiations and cement the Zanu-PF regime in place. Parliament, where the MDC has a majority, would be left without a role. (SouthScan)

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