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17.03.2009 Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's Last Chance

By Cameron Duodu -
Zimbabwe's Last Chance

The agreement signed by President Robert Mugabe and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) represents Zimbabwe's last chance to recover as a nation that can look after its citizens.

For the bottom has fallen out of the Zimbabwean dollar — so much so that it is devalued almost on a daily basis. Last week, ten zeros were dropped from the currency's notation, which meant a devaluation of a type not seen anywhere in the world since Germany in the 1930's.

In the face of such awesome happenings, to insist, on the one hand, that one's party fought for and won independence and therefore should be the only one to govern, and the other, that one's party had won this year's elections and should therefore be the only one to rule (MDC), was empty words.

What is required is to unite the nation to fight for survival. And by making Tsvangirai prime minister, while retaining the presidency himself, Mr Mugabe is giving the nation a chance to make an appeal to the outside world for assistance that will be listened to.

If Tsvangirai sets out on a mission to the IMF and the World Bank, as well as to Western capitals, as soon as he is established in office, assuring them that economic prudence will be the order of the day under his tutelage, there is every chance that the conditions will be created for aid to flow in, and once aid begins to become available — to repair infrastructure and shore up the balance of payments — foreign investment will also become ready to flow in.

The agreement signed last week Monday is by no means ideal. Mr Mugabe will control the armed forces and Mr Tsvangirai, the police.There will be a cabinet presided over by Mr Mugabe and a council of ministers chaired by Tsvangirai.

To prevent the Zimbabwean government becoming a two-headed horse which will pull in two directions at once, the two parties ought to be ready to co-operate in reality for Zimbabwe's sake. Agreements are just words on paper. What is important is the spirit behind them.

I think Tsvangirai and Mugabe can get on, for Zimbabwe's sake, despite the terrible bitterness that their two parties harbour against each other. When I visited Zimbabwe in 1991, Tsvangirai was then the Secretary-General of the Zimbabwe Trade Union movement, and when I interviewed him, he exhibited great willingess to use the trade unions to help in solving Zimbabwe's economic problems, which were quite tough even then.He can easily go back to that co-operative spirit, for he has seen how the economy can be run to the ground when there is no stability in the country.

The speeches made by Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai at last week's signing showed clearly that they understood the nature of the agreement. There are things in it that neither of them "liked", they acknowledged, but they would try and make it work. Mr Tsvangirai must have touched a nerve in Mr Mugabe when he showed the term, "turning swords into ploughshares" — words that Mr Mugabe uttered in 1980, when he took on the reins of power from the illegal Smith regime – and appealed for co-operation in nation-building.

If Mugabe could tolerate Smith and his followers, who had hunted and killed many of Mr Mugabe's comrades; if Mugabe could "consult" Smith (an acknowledgement made publicly by Smith himself) then he can surely find it in him to work with Tsvangirai and make the agreement stick.

For, make no mistake, the past few years have seriously dented the image of Mr Mugabe, not only as a freeom fighter but as an intelligent man.