Throughout recent weeks, Zimbabwe’s coalition government has been pleading its case to the international community. The launch of this “charm offensive” emphasized the reforms undertaken since the creation of the unity government this winter, but does not offer evidence that the unity government is headed toward political reconciliation and lasting stability and democracy.
Despite the presence of Robert Mugabe inside the leadership structure, officials, most notably Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, are urging the world to take a chance on the intensely fragile new government. In an impassioned piece in last week’s the Times, Tsvangirai acknowledged the imperfections of the current structure, but focused on the promise of a unity government that constituted, in his words, “a workable agreement and by that I mean that it can help to alleviate the suffering of the Zimbabwean people and allow the country to move forward peacefully to a new constitution and fresh elections.” Glimpses of hope have splashed across newspapers: Everyone seemed to get along during last weekend’s World Bank sponsored government retreat at a posh resort in Victoria. There is food on grocery store shelves, teachers are going back to work, and the cholera outbreak seems to actually be calming down. Their country, officials seem to insinuate, now has a government that can move Zimbabwe forward, but it needs the help of the international community to rebuild that which crumbled due to abhorrent mismanagement and corruption.
Useful reforms have been made, most notably through the shift to the use of the U.S. dollar and South African Rand, but such movements do not demonstrate the needed universal attachment to lasting reform and democratic governance. Infighting continues, with Mugabe and Tsvangirai continually at odds over the ongoing seizure of white-owned farms. ZANU-PF hardliners are obviously not taking their loss of power well. A story in the New York Times on Friday focused on the way in which hardliners from Mugabe’s party, the ZANU-PF, are perpetrating violence in an effort to secure their own political asylum. Other disturbing reports note that there are rumblings that these same hardliners may also have organized a new group aimed at dismantling the unity government. Furthermore, many are afraid of how current disagreements over development of a constitutional process might play out, as well as what might happen when Mugabe — who recently purchased a home in a wealthy Hong Kong suburb — is no longer part of the equation.