Bread and Circuses May Bring Mugabe Down
The most recent storm of political repression has passed through Zimbabwe, leaving in its wake a literally beaten but politically stronger opposition and seemingly impotent diplomatic outrage over the brutal treatment of Morgan Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders. The question remains: What will bring Mugabe down?
Based on a report by Martin Plant for the BBC, the answer may well be one historically familiar to those with imperial ambitions: a combination of bread, circuses, and palace plotters. Turns out that some of Mugabe's former inner circle have been meeting with opposition leaders over the past ten days.
Emmerson Mnangagwa and Solomon Mujuru, both stalwarts of the ruling party, have been meeting with Tsvangirai. Joyce Mujuru,the vice President of Zimbabwe, has been meeting with her South African counterpart and has probably gotten an earful about the potential scandal that millions more Zimbabwean refugees might cause South Africa as it hosts the upcoming World Cup.
There are already two to three million Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa, and millions more are expected to arrive from Zimbabwe. With the price of bread "doubling every day" in Mugabe's empire the relative prosperity of anywhere else looks good. Mass exodus appears inevitable. It is a question of "when", not "if".
Even before Mugabe's latest round of brutality, his usually sycophantic party had shown a brief spark of rebellion. As Plant writes:
The first indications that President Mugabe's iron grip on his party was slipping came at the Zanu-PF congress in December last year.
He asked the party to endorse his proposal to extend his presidency until 2010. The party, for the first time, turned him down.
Daily life in Zimbabwe is a fresh version of hell. Consider this from a young man fortunate enough to have a job:
We would like to go to South Africa and are definitely planning to go. I am waiting for my work permit and then we'll see what happens over that side.
I want to be able to make plans for the future. Here one cannot.
Your money erodes before you. Say that today you have 10 million Zimbabwean dollars ($177 as per the current black market exchange rate) in the bank, tomorrow it will be eight million and at the end of week it will be nothing.
How long will he wait for a permit? How many others will flee, not having the ghost of a South African work permit, employment, or a week long supply of what passes for money?
Zimbabwe's discontented politicos will gain powerful allies to the south as the World Cup approaches. At the moment, Mnangagwa and Co. would very much like to maintain their party's grip on power, and merely talking to the opposition does not constitute a viable anti-Mugabe coalition. But the dictator's political control over his own party shows definite signs of weakening.
Bread is too expensive. The circus promoters-including South Africa's President Mbeki- grumble. And the captial city buzzes with rumor and intrigue. Can the end of this regime be far away?
Yes- still too distant for the millions of suffering Zimbabweans.
But the end of Mugabe is not as remote as it was yesterday, and will draw yet closer on every tomorrow.