It has been raining for two weeks in Harare, with only an occasional respite for the city’s graceful avenues to drip dry. For a country that has gone without heavy rain for several years, this is a turnaround. Doubtless President Mugabe, who at the beginning of the year took control of the Met Office’s forecasting service, will take the credit. The real reason for this bountiful precipitation is Cyclone Japhet, a band of low pressure that has moved in from the Indian Ocean and marauded across Mozambique before bringing its torrential cargo west into Zimbabwe.
But almost everything has become political here and the cyclone is no exception. A recent letter-writer to the anti-Mugabe Daily News took heart from the floods in Muzarabani, a low- lying plain in the north of the country, where the opposition MDC have never been allowed to campaign, as Mugabe’s Zanu-PF militias are so violent. Under the headline, “God is punishing the people of Muzarabani,” the letter read: “God has made the area inaccessible, not only to the opposition this time, but to almost everyone. They asked to be all by themselves and they will be by themselves until they repent…”
Alas, the tumultuous weather patterns of the last fortnight are not yet reflected in the political situation. A week may be a long time in Westminster, but a year doesn’t get you far in Harare. Twelve months ago, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who had recently been charged with treason, lost a widely disputed presidential election to Robert Mugabe. The political scene today has not progressed much.
Morgan Tsvangirai’s trial for treason, which started in February, has in the space of a few weeks descended into farce. It opened amidst violent scenes as riot police cracked down on MDC supporters, diplomats and journalists trying to enter the court, and the prospect of the death penalty loomed before Tsvangirai and his two colleagues. But slowly the prosecution’s case has unravelled and their star witness, Ari Ben Menashe, who alleges that the accused attempted to hire his firm to assassinate Mugabe, has resorted to calling Tsvangirai “nuts” and begging the judge to let him go home to Canada.
Meanwhile, government ministries take out advertisements in newspapers wishing the president a happy 79th birthday-“A principled and committed leader, you have consistently put country before self…” while state television calls on journalists to stop criticising and start “nation…