by PETER BRUCE
Peter Bruce on what is going on in Zimbabwe; the SABC and ANC; Chilcot’s report into Britain’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq and an optimistic take on Brexit.
Is this the end game for Robert Mugabe? As thousands of people stayed away from work on Wednesday and protests spread unopposed in the cities, Mugabe and his cabinet or politburo colleagues hid away, trying to dream up a miracle to make reality go away. That reality is that he has run out of road and he has run out of money. It is probably a good thing now that Zimbabwe is our neighbour. President Jacob Zuma and his supporters can watch close up as poor policies, ego, hubris and corruption claim their prize — the utter destruction of an economy. Of course, Zuma and his cronies are in no mood for lessons. They already know everything. But here is a short collection of coverage from Zimbabwe of its own death throes starting, of course, with an attempt to switch off social media so that your people can’t communicate with each other about the crisis they are living through. Hlaudi Motsoeneng would fit right in: A WhatsApp blackout in Zimbabwe was no match for massive protests against Mugabe’s failing economy. The fact is that politics and life in Zimbabwe have become existential — will you be paid or not? Does the government have the money? Probably not. Police are erecting roadblocks now specifically to extort money because the state can’t pay them:Zimbabwe businesses closed during stay-away. And I liked this though I have to be honest and say I didn’t really understand it all. Editing in Zimbabwe is obviously in crisis as well. Still, these are brave people trying to survive one of the worst governments in history: Zimbabwe Burns as Politburo Creeps Into Hiding.
With Motsoeneng in mind, you’ll have seen reports that the ANC has hit back at the censorship at the SABC. I was briefly cheered by that, but Business Day political editor Natasha Marrian burst my bubble this morning by reminding me that while it used to be true that the ANC as a party would control government, that is no longer the case. The Zuma faction of the ANC controls the party, so Motsoeneng and the nobs at the SABC are perfectly safe when they show, as they have, two fingers to ANC communications committee head Jackson Mthembu (who is also the party’s chief whip in parliament) for dressing them down: There is more to the SABC crisis than meets the eye.
The Chilcot report into Britain’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq has been published, after seven years of taking evidence and sifting documents. It is 2.6m words long. It spares Tony Blair, the prime minister responsible for following George W Bush into that most disastrous war (and the subsequent nightmare it has unleashed in the Middle East and the terror it has brought to Europe) from criminal accusation. But it unpicks a litany of failure at every level of decision-making in Britain. The online magazine Salon has a useful summary of the report: “Not justified”: The biggest findings of Chilcot report, which blasts British role in catastrophic Iraq war.
This commentary by the great military historian and journalist Max Hastings (he was also editor of the Daily Telegraph) is the best of the lot. He doesn’t spare Blair but neither does he spare the senior UK military officers who were champing at the bit to go to war. To quote Hastings, appropriately in this Brexit hour, “We shall again — perhaps often — find ourselves led by a prime minister who allows poor judgement, megalomania or moral fervour to lead him or her towards reckless courses.” Yep, they will. So will we, no doubt: How our ruling class betrayed us.
Talking of Brexit, I thought this writing from Simon Jenkins, an editor and columnist I have always admired, was sobering. He voted to Remain in the EU in the UK referendum on the matter on June 23. I would have too. But now it’s done and the Remain cause is lost, he has a refreshingly optimistic take on what leaving could do to shake up Britain’s stuffy and self-satisfied body politic: Ignore the prophets of doom-Financial Mail