Page last updated at 09:02 GMT, Tuesday, 24 June 2008 10:02 UK

Zimbabwe awaits day of reckoning

By Allan Little
BBC Today Programme

Morgan Tsvangirai (22/06/08)
Morgan Tsvangirai has had to battle to be heard by Zimbabwe's neighbours
A couple of years ago I asked Morgan Tsvangirai whether it was helpful when British government ministers publicly condemned Robert Mugabe.

He winced slightly and there was a slight shake of the head. "I've asked them not to do it," he said. "It backfires."

When Britain speaks on Zimbabwe it carries the enormous weight of its colonial past.

Long after his name ceased to resonate in British politics it is still possible to go to Zanu-PF rallies in Harare and hear a blood-curdling denunciation of Harold Wilson, and the pernicious treacheries of the 1960s and 70s.

This is of course understood in the British government, which wants the conflict to be between Robert Mugabe and the world in general.

So what can the world agree on?

Britain will press the European Union for more effective sanctions targeted against regime members and their families - the freezing of assets, travel bans, that kind of thing.


Economic sanctions are probably meaningless in a country that no longer has a functioning economy anyway. No-one is going to press for the electricity to be cut off.



Zimbabwe's opposition wants neighbouring countries to persuade Robert Mugabe to step down. So how are relations changing?


South Africa's leader Thabo Mbeki remains the key mediator. He has not criticised Mr Mugabe, despite pressure from the ruling ANC.


Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa called Zimbabwe a "regional embarrassment", before suffering a stroke on 29 June.


Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is one of Robert Mugabe's closest allies. He has urged Mr Mugabe to end the violence.


Botswana said Zimbabwe's 27 June run-off vote was so flawed by violence that it could not be considered legitimate.


Namibia is an ally of Robert Mugabe. It wants to re-distribute white-owned farms to black villagers. It has not criticised the violence.


Mozambique has hosted some white farmers forced out of Zimbabwe when their land was seized. It is seen as sympathetic to the opposition.


Tanzania's ruling party has a history of backing Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. Its foreign minister has condemned the violence.


DR Congo's President Joseph Kabila is an ally of Robert Mugabe who sent troops to help his father, Laurent Kabila, fight rebels.


Malawi is seen as neutral. But 3m people from Malawi are in Zimbabwe and many were badly hit by the farm invasions.

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UN unity is unlikely. Russia views Western motivations with deep suspicion, and resource-hungry China is developing a lucrative relationship of its own with Africa. It already arms and supplies the Zimbabwe armed forces.

So what about Zimbabwe's neighbours? The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) has always insisted the problem is theirs and that what is needed is an African solution to an African problem.

A couple of months ago they called an emergency summit in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, and invited Morgan Tsvangirai to speak.

The meeting began at 1600 and was expected to end within a couple of hours. Instead, they sat - in closed session - through the night, finally issuing a joint statement after 0500. Surely, we all thought, they were arguing about something of substance.

A week later I saw Morgan Tsvangirai and asked him what had been discussed. "From 4pm till midnight," he said, "they were arguing about whether to let me speak."

In the end they listened to him. But agreeing to listen was as far as it went.

Living in fear

The leaders of Zambia, Tanzania and Rwanda have at last condemned Robert Mugabe explicitly.

But what about the others? What about the one who matters most - South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki?

Some who know both men believe Mr Mbeki is intimidated by his neighbour. Robert Mugabe's liberation credentials are so much sounder than Mr Mbeki's.

Five permanent members: US, China, France, Russia, UK
10 non-permanent members: Belgium, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Indonesia, Italy, Libya, Panama, South Africa, Vietnam

Mr Mugabe fought a bush war against colonialism; Mr Mbeki went into exile in Zambia. M Mugabe went to jail for 10 years; Mr Mbeki went to Sussex University.

Do not underestimate the psychology of Africa's liberation tradition.

Robert Mugabe is now cocooned with a group of men who came through the liberation struggle with him.

One is Emmerson Mnangagwa, who oversaw Zimbabwe's intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo and is thought to have amassed a private fortune from the plunder of Congolese mineral wealth.

Perence Shiri, the commander of the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade, is another close Mugabe aide. He played a commanding role in the Matabeleland massacres of the 1980s.

When opposition leaders talk of allowing Mr Mugabe to retire with dignity, these men know that this magnanimity does not extend to them; that a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe will expect a holding to account.

Mr Mugabe, in a sense, is their prisoner. They will not let him go quietly, leaving them exposed to revenge.

Fear is the means by which they stay in power - the people's fear of them.

But they too live in fear, fear of the reckoning that the people will, themselves, one day, demand.

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