By Gershom Ndhlovu
The handshake between Zimbabwe’s political arch-enemies Robert Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai is just that, handshake. How many such handshakes has the African continent seen and agreements arising from such just unravelling because one part has not fulfilled its end? Many.
One such handshake was between long time Angolan political foes President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and UNITA leader, the late Jonas Savimbi shook hands at various fora signifying the end of hostilities but each time, one group or the other broke the truce and took to arms.
Savimbi was the worst culprit at breaking truces until he got what he deserved, death at the hands of government forces. Symbolically, no bullet has been fired between MPLA and UNITA since then.
The most famous handshake was the 1994 one at State House in Lusaka at the culmination of talks led by the indefatigable diplomat Ivorian Alioune Blondin Beye who died in a plane crash midway when dos Santos and Savimbi shook hands and there was hope in the rest of the world that Angola was truly and finally on the path to peace. But nay, Savimbi had other ideas. He went back to the bush to continue fighting.
The question for Zimbabwe is how genuine are the parties to the Memorandum of Understanding? The problem in Zimbabwe is that some people in the ruling ZANU-PF, particularly defence and security chiefs may not be genuinely interested in a settlement that would mean them losing their clout.
Again, it is difficult to trust President Mugabe because he may be going in these talks just to buy time for himself and his cronies who are under intense international pressure in the manner they handled the last elections which they clearly stole from the MDC and what with text-book “changing” inflation levels?
This is the same Mugabe who emasculated ZAPU and its leader Joshua Nkomo in the 1987 agreement after many of its supporters were killed in the infamous Gukurahundi purge which saw over 20,000 Zimbabweans mostly in Matabeleland dead at the hands of the North Korean trained Fifth Brigade. The commander of that brigade, then Colonel Perence Shiri, now General, is still authoring the MDC annihilation script.
The MDC with its rallying cry, “Chinja Maitiro” or, loosely translated, change your ways is doomed to be a has been political party while the ZANU-PF leadership will continue to not only plunder Zimbabwe, but suppress the Zimbabweans even more than colonialist Ian Douglas Smith ever did.
The point, surely, is that the international community led by Britain and America should not take their eyes off the ball on the Zimbabwean pitch because an African solution seems to have been found. That lull will prove to be fatal when the rest of the world wakes up to find that Mugabe is firmly in power, Morgan Tsvangirai is a diplomat in an Asian outpost and the killing continues.
The truth of the matter is that SADC facilitator, South African President Thabo Mbeki has not succeeded in his efforts to seek a political solution in Zimbabwe. Success can only be measured if ZANU-PF starts respecting results of elections whose polls are freely cast and results swiftly announced and winners and losers take their respective places.
The realistic thing is for the International Criminal Court prosecutor to place Mugabe on the wanted list like it has done to Sudanese president Hassan Al Bashir for the mayhem in Darfur where thousands of people have died.
Still on Zimbabwe, I wonder on whose side that country’s first true freedom fighter, Mbuya Nehanda, who in the 1800s said “my bones will rise” is because ZANU-PF keep on claiming her name even as they brutalise the people.
I am very sure that when Mbuya Nehanda fought the whites then, she did not have in mind the situation currently obtaining in Zimbabwe today. What would be shocking to her is that black Zimbabweans are killing fellow black Zimbabweans and stealing from them the same way whites stole land and cattle from them.
I was shocked and saddened to receive a message on the passing on of Post columnist Joseph Chanda whom I had the privilege of working with at the Zambia Daily Mail in Ndola when I was Chief Reporter and he was a correspondent.
What separated Joseph from other correspondents was his determination to get a story where others did not see one. He went on to get a job at the Times of Zambia Ndola before he moved on to the Post.
Behind the scenes, we continued exchanging e-mails on some of the write-ups we both did—my comments on his columns and his comments on my columns. RIP, mate.