Mugabe's Bargain

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe in 2008.

February 11, 1990, marked the wondrous day Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was released from prison. South Africa and the world rejoiced at the miracle of seeing the soon-to-be President Mandela free after 27 years of imprisonment — free to grace his fellow comrades, nation, and global community with what commonly became recognized as “Madiba Magic.” Mandela had an aura about him that bespoke promise and convinced us of a bright future and hope for the South African nation.

Last Wednesday, February 11, 2009, Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as Prime Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe by President Robert Mugabe. One wonders whether this 11th of February in Zimbabwe will be as promising as that famous 11th of February in South Africa.

Morgan Tsvangirai is considered a champion of the people, and he has propelled the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in a manner that has remained true to the cry of the oppressed and disenfranchised people of Zimbabwe. But it’s hard not to be skeptical of the way in which change has presented itself.

I believe a peaceful and diplomatic path has been chosen to appeal to the plight of the Zimbabwean people, who have suffered and continue to face dire circumstances. Based on the recent history, it’s not a stretch to suspect that Robert Mugabe’s actions are self-serving; one wonders about the genuineness of the shared-power scenario that he consented to after months of state-sponsored violence following the disputed 2008 elections in that country.

The people of Zimbabwe have faced human rights abuses and atrocities that would make one shudder. Innocent citizens were tortured and stripped of their every human dignity. What’s more, the political and economic crisis exacerbated a deadly cholera outbreak that would have been eliminated sooner in a more politically stable country. The militant acts of the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), under the leadership of Robert Mugabe and his cronies, must not be forgotten.

It is my hope that Robert Mugabe soon will come face to face with his conscience. Once hailed as a Christian freedom fighter and liberator of the people, Mugabe somewhere along his journey lost sight of his call to serve, protect, and lead with integrity. Instead, he turned into a devious and deadly dictator.

President Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa has suggested that this resolution of shared power in Zimbabwe serves to vindicate and prove that the path South African leadership chose in dealing with the Zimbabwean crisis was the right one. I dare to differ, for in my understanding South African leadership chose a silent diplomacy, standing back without pressurizing President Mugabe, or holding him to account for his human rights abuses.

Mugabe’s sharing of power with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is at the very least a step in the right direction. But as a native South African, I believe my nation’s government and leadership could have, and should have, played a much more active role in ensuring that Robert Mugabe felt the pressure and the heat for his vile and oppressive behavior.

It now appears that Mugabe will never stand trial or have to account for his crimes of dehumanizing his own people. It is my prayer that Morgan Tsvangirai will be able to do the work of bringing economic stability and security to Zimbabwe, in the midst of having to deal with a global community that, by and large, are suspicious of the current shared-power arrangement.

There have been reports by MDC comrades, stating their dissatisfaction at the sharing of power, and some who believe that it is all a charade. Ultimately for many, Robert Mugabe must relinquish his power, stand down, and stand trial in order for true justice, freedom, and democracy to be realized.

It is my hope and prayer that Zimbabwe’s February 11 will yield a future where people will testify of the beginning of a new day of liberation, hope, and positive change. Let us continue to uphold the Zimbabwean people in our prayers, thoughts, and actions.

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