Wednesday, August 27, 2008

London Times sees weakened Mugabe

The Times of London’s editorial today – “Mugabe mauled” – contains some very good news.

The Times begins - - -

For millions of Zimbabweans, that angry look was enough to send an exhilarating message of hope. Robert Mugabe had been thwarted for the first time in years. He had insisted on opening Parliament with traditional pomp and his familiar denunciations of the West, despite a promise that he would not do so unless a power-sharing agreement was reached with Morgan Tsvangirai.

Yesterday his hubris was answered - with jeers, catcalls and slogans denouncing Zanu (PF) by jubilant MDC members. The 84-year-old President raised his voice, glowered and raced through his final lines. His humiliation was broadcast live on television, plain for all to see.

This may not have been Zimbabwe's Ceaucescu moment. The Romanian dictator similarly was shocked and angry at being jeered as he delivered a speech to the crowd in December 1989; within three days he had been forced out of office and was shot dead.

But it is clear that Mr Mugabe and his security forces have been out-manoeuvred at last. Police tried to ensure that the President's party would still control the legislature, despite the Opposition's victory in the parliamentary election. They seized two MPs and waited outside Parliament to arrest 17 more MDC supporters, to deny Mr Tsvangirai a majority.

But they forgot to bar the back door. Inside, Zanu (PF) leaders also thought that they could count on the votes of a breakaway MDC faction. But they did not realise that a secret ballot would protect all those, including some of their own party, determined to respect the election result.

For the first time in 28 years, Mr Mugabe now has to contend with a hostile Parliament. The Opposition has already spoken of repealing repressive legislation, curbing state abuses and denying money for measures proposed by the President. Mr Mugabe is unlikely to accept this setback.

His instinct, and that of his cronies who see their position threatened, will be to deploy his bullyboys in a brutal new assault on those MPs who have had the temerity to thwart him. He will also attempt to bypass Parliament, ruling by decree and using the special powers that he has awarded to himself.

Nevertheless, the MDC's triumph in capturing control of Parliament is of huge strategic and psychological importance. . . .

The rest of the editorial’s

I’m delighted to learn of anything that weakens Mugabe’s hold on Zimbabwe and its people.

He’s a monster. In a more just world he would long ago have been executed for his crimes, which include the systematic murder of his opponents and the starvation of thousands of Zimbabwe’s innocent people.

I don’t know enough to comment in much detail on what the Times’ editorial reports.

Perhaps the opposition actions and wider protests the Times describes are not as significant as the Times believes. We’ve often read that Mugabe was just about to be overthrown, only to subsequently learn he’d bested his opponents, in some cases even tightening his grip on power.

But anything that speeds the day he’s removed from power is welcome. Let’s hope the Times has it on the money.

I hope some of you can say more.