Friday, February 13, 2009

So Much For Power Sharing

A Zimbabwean opposition party (so called because though they have majority support they have not held any political power until now) leader has been arrested on his way to taking the oath of office as a minister in the new coalition government there.

It was only Wednesday that Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe and head of the ZANU-PF party, swore in Morgan Tsvangirai, a long-time leader of opposition to Mugabe's rule, as Prime Minister. After months of wrangling following elections last summer that were fraught with ZANU-PF voter suppression and violence (and whose results as a consequence must be seen as a remarkable political mandate for Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change), the two heads of the major political factions were on what looked like it might be a peaceful transition for Mugabe and an end to policies that had isolated Zimbabwe, destroyed its agriculture and engendered hyperinflation up to 11,200,000 percent.

Mugabe was a key figure in the transition between post-colonial, racially segregated Rhodesia and modern Zimbabwe. But his policies have been partisan, cronyist, confrontational internationally and domestically, and generally detrimental to his nation. ZANU-PF's governing style has looked more often like organised crime than the functioning of a political party with any claim to legitimacy.

Mugabe may have been the right leader for Zimbabwe once. But his policies have led the nation to destitution and isolation. Tsvangirai's victory last summer - despite his withdrawal from the process in protest against ZANU-PF's violent voter suppression - is a clear statement by that land that new leadership is needed. For a moment there it looked like Zimbabwe might get something like that.

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