Does anyone give a hoot what that idiot Mugabe (TIM) is up to now? Where does his stance on the Commonwealth leave us - and those we have recruited as F&C soldiers from that State - now? Should HMG be looking to take a more direct line or at least express its views without fear of the Former Colonial Power card being played? Here's some local comment on the situation Zimbabwe now finds itself in... Comment from ZWNEWS, 7 December Of buses, dogs and presidents "Two stories exemplify the disparity of views in dealing with the Zimbabwe crisis. The first is the view of democrats within Zimbabwe and was first told by John Makumbe at the launch of the Crisis in Zimbabwe initiative in August 2001. Zimbabweans are on a bus travelling from Troutbeck to Nyanga, a notorious down-hill stretch that has claimed many lives before. The driver starts to speed up and, at first, all the passengers urge him to go faster, but it takes a short while before they realize he is drunk, and so they change their calls to slow down. It takes a little longer before they realize that he is also mad and unresponsive to their cries. When will the passengers realize that they had better get their hands on the wheel, feet on the brakes, and remove the driver? The story is as apposite today as it was two years ago. The second story is attributed to one of the SADC Presidents and was related by a senior MDC spokesman to whom the story was told. Now the problem is not a drunk and crazy bus driver, but a big dog trapped on a room, with all windows and doors closed. Try to make the dog leave the room and in all probability he will bite you, so get smart and make the dog happy. Feed him and pet him, and he will leave the room without a fuss. These two views characterize the crisis in a very distinct way. Zimbabweans know the driver is mad and the time is too short for reason, but clearly, whilst there are fears about the forthcoming accident, there are also fears that the process of removing the driver will equally cause an accident. African leaders see rather the problem of the biting dog and believe the dog can be trained, or at least conned into leaving. The difference between the two stories reflects a gap in reality between the story tellers. The problem was succinctly summarized by a senior MDC spokesperson last weekend. In answer to questions about removing either the driver or the dog, there are some clear conditions laid out by Zanu PF. Amnesty for all, the land process in all its aspects will be left untouched, and the government shall be recognized as legitimate: meet these conditions and substantive talks can begin. The dog has some very clear views on what will stop it biting. It is evident that issues related to accountability have very high priority for Zanu PF, which, on its own, is validation that many abuses have taken place. Why worry about accountability if you have nothing to fear? The position of the MDC is rather different. Their call is for open and unconditional dialogue. The mandate for this dialogue is relatively straight forward: firstly, a return to a democratic order, an "open space", which will allow the holding of free and fair elections. This will require the repeal or non-application of draconian laws [POSA, AIPPA, etc], and the setting up of a wholly independent electoral commission. Secondly, negotiations should focus on the holding of elections as possible after the creation of the "open space". The focus is not on pre-conditions nor on prescribing the future, but merely on process. The MDC is clearly less interested in feeding the dog than in stopping the crash. It seems however that the big dog theory leads African leaders into all sorts of illogicalities, and may even have attenuated and exacerbated the Zimbabwe crisis. Look at several of their decisions, best exemplified by a number of South African decisions. The South African Parliamentary Observer Mission to the 2002 Presidential Election noted a large number of irregularities and unacceptable practices, but still came to the conclusion that the election was "legitimate". Making the same observations, the so-called "minority parties" - actually all the other parties - came to exactly the opposite conclusion. The decision of the ANC members was not illogical if they were worried about the dog biting, and, thus, later on, it is not "illogical" to call for the MDC to drop their petition. There are further "illogicalities" that derive from the dog metaphor. The positions of South Africa and Nigeria on the suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth illustrate this well. Firstly, these two countries support the views in the Commonwealth Observer Group report on the Presidential Election, which is rather illogical given the views of their own observer groups. Nonetheless, on the 19th March 2002, Nigeria and South Africa joined with Australia in suspending Zimbabwe from the Councils of the Commonwealth. The suspension was to remain in force for one year, and required the Zimbabwe Government to do a large number of things. By the time of the six month review, the Zimbabwe Government had done none of them, even denying the validity of the suspension. The South African and Nigerian Governments refused to deepen the pressure, and instead gave the Zimbabwe Government another six months grace. At the end of the twelve months, they then asked for the suspension to be dropped as the period had run out, and were somewhat disgruntled when the Commonwealth decided to keep the suspension in place until CHOGM. More "illogically", the South African Government then asked for Zimbabwe to attend CHOGM. How could Zimbabwe attend a Council from which it was suspended without the suspension being lifted? Start looking for the big dog and you find the answer. So who fears the dog? Not Zimbabweans, who are much more concerned with the bus driver and stopping a crash. It is the SADC Governments that fear the dog, and perhaps with good cause, for it will not only be Zimbabweans that get bitten. It might be that the dog is mad and will go around biting everyone it sees, and, if this is the reasoning of the SADC Governments, perhaps they have more in common with Zimbabweans and their problems with the mad, drunk bus driver. How does this all relate to reality? If we give up on the dog theory, and accept the bus driver problem, then we can give up on all the "illogicalities". We can see all the evidence for the driver not being in control, and we can accept that a good test of this would come from the election petition being mounted by the MDC. We can then accept that Zimbabwe has done nothing to warrant its return to the Councils of the Commonwealth. We can accept the position of the MDC that process must happen: open and unconditional dialogue is the only way forward. Actually, if we have the right authority, we can tell the dog to sit, heel, and then go outside."