Monday, February 03, 2003
Zimwatch: Good and Bad Omens - 3rd February 2003, 20.31

The news coming out of Zimbabwe is very difficult to read these days, although the continuous spiral of economic decline and encroaching famine move inexorably towards a drawn out and lingering disaster. Today, Morgan Tsvangirai and two colleagues were placed on trial for treason with many commentators pointing out that a possible sentence is the death penalty.

The report in the state owned Sunday Mirror that stated Robert Mugabe may retire could only have been a tentative step from groups within the regime who realise that the kleptocrats have ruined the economy. Mugabe recognised the possibility of division recently (especially as it appears to be coming from the military) but still refused to retire. Meanwhile, the situation within the country worsens by slow degrees:

Most Zimbabweans want Mr Mugabe to go, according to the results of a recent survey by the Mass Public Opinion Institute, an Harare-based think-tank. The survey found that two-thirds of respondents in a random survey wanted Mr Mugabe to immediately announce his retirement.

International pressure is also increasing. Australia and Britain are demanding punitive sanctions and the US has threatened economic reprisals unless Mr Mugabe steps down. "However we don't expect Mr Mugabe to do anything as helpful as quit his job and save the country from further ruin," Mr Nyati said. Food riots have broken out in recent weeks, inflation is close to 175 per cent and, according to the World Food Program, 6 million Zimbabweans face starvation. The Government's ability to buy off dissenters is diminishing along with its resources. Many of those threatened by famine are Zanu-PF party members.

It is in such desperate straits that opposition leaders like Tsvangirai are put to death by a regime that knows no moral limits. Such an outcome is not beyond the bounds of possibility and would demonstrate that, like Mussolini, Mugabe wishes to hang on until the end.


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