Friday, January 1, 2010

Frenemies of the State.

The Atlantic's Joshua Hammer has an excellent article leveraging an insider's perspective on the farce of the ZANU-MDC coalition government in Zimbabwe. First, a hit-tip to Mr. Hammer for the clever "Mean Girls-esque" title, that is not only is a wonderful play on the modern vernacular, but down to its very core, an accurate vehicle that describes the internal dynamic in this uneasy coalition government, where the MDC is very clearly, the junior partner.

As a staunch advocate of the MDC, I thought it was a strategic mistake for them to agree to join ZANU in a "unity government." Mugabe is a gangster, kleptocrat, and butcher. The last twenty-nine years of his rule are a testament to that. He is also an incredibly gifted manipulator. Co-opting, discrediting, and absorbing legitimate opposition is his super-power. One only need look back to how Mugabe's Shona-based ZANU completely discredited and absorbed Joseph Nkomo's Ndebele-based ZAPU, following a series a massacres in Matabeleland with the intent of solidifying a one-party state. Mugabe succeeded.

It struck me as a huge blow to the moral credibility the MDC held as a legitimate opposition to Mugabe. I wasn't present from the diabolical levels of violence visited on MDC supporters by ZANU during the last few elections and can appreciate their collective fatigue. However, by venturing into a"unity government," the MDC exposed their Achilles heel, where entrenched ZANU apparatchiks can impede MDC progress and erode their credibility by shifting internal blame for the faults of governance away from ZANU and towards the MDC. A example of this is found in this paragraph:

"But Coltart has learned that fixing the system is not so easy when Mugabe—or Mugabe’s surrogates—are looking over his shoulder. The Education Ministry’s permanent secretary, a Mugabe loyalist who “views all the teachers as MDC sympathists,” Coltart says, has thrown up bureaucratic roadblocks such as mandatory police checks; as a result, only a few hundred teachers have been rehired. “It’s not a pleasant process, and if I wasn’t a determined, stubborn type of fellow, it would be harrowing,” he told me."

It is important to be mindful that ZANU retained control of all major portfolios involving the military, defense, and intelligence gathering, while the MDC was given control of secondary portfolios like health, education, etc. In essence, the MDC have set themselves up to wash away all of the traction they gained through extreme adversity and sacrifice during the last decade.

All things being equal, Mr. Coltart sounds like a righteous bad-ass and man whom all Zimbabweans should thank for his dedication and fortitude. Godspeed, sir!

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