A defiant President Robert Mugabe used his 85th birthday celebrations yesterday to insist that land seizures would continue, and called for the country's last white farmers to leave. "Land distribution will continue. It will not stop," Mr Mugabe told a rally in his home area of Chinhoyi, north-west of the capital, Harare. "The few remaining white farmers should quickly vacate their farms as they have no place there."
Mr Mugabe's stance does further damage to the credibility of Mr Tsvangirai, who became Prime Minister a fortnight ago after yielding to overwhelming regional pressure to take his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) into a coalition with Mr Mugabe. The MDC has demanded the release of political prisoners, including Roy Bennett, the MDC treasurer and deputy agriculture minister in the unity government, who has been charged with treason. But he and more than 30 others remain behind bars.
The opposition has also failed to dislodge Gideon Gono, the central bank governor whose reckless printing of money has rendered the Zimbabwe dollar worthless and fuelled the highest rates of inflation the world has ever seen. Further damage to the economy is likely to result from two other developments: more land seizures and attempts to gain control of the few foreign enterprises still operating in the country.
Since the coalition government was formed, invasions of white-owned farms have surged, with about 40 having having been seized, according to a farmers' support group. As for foreign-owned businesses, Mr Mugabe signed a law last year to transfer control of mines and banks to local entrepreneurs in the name of black empowerment. Yesterday he said the government would press ahead with the policy. Such measures make it even less likely that foreign donors will help rebuild the Zimbabwean economy. Last week the MDC's secretary-general, Tendai Biti, given the thankless job of finance minister in the unity government, appealed vainly for US$2bn (£1.4bn) in emergency economic aid from SADC leaders meeting in Cape Town. (1)
Which poses the question - if Tsvangirai and the MDC are defunct, who and what will serve as the opposition in Zimbabwe? Simba Makone (2) seems to be the most likely contender, but he is- is ex-ZANU-PF, a member of the party's politburo until he announced his presidential candidacy in February last year. Maybe I'm cynical, but that does not endear him to me.
1 - 'Mugabe: Last white farmer should leave,' by Raymond Whitaker, published in THe Independent, 1st of March, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/mugabe-last-white-farmer-should-leave-1634743.html)
2 - The wikipedia biographpy of Simba Makone, viewed 1st of March, 2009. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simba_Makoni)