Several years ago, Robert Muldoon observed accurately that Robert Mugabe was famous only for running around the jungle shooting people.
The three decades since his emergence from the jungle have shown him ruthlessly capable of doing anything to remain in power, so the announcement by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai following the weekend's poll that "Zimbabwe will never be the same again," seems premature, if not wholly optimistic.
That said, it's worth wondering what change if any would be represented by a change of power in favour of Tsvangirai's opposition Movement for Democratic Change. An article by Tsvangirai in a recent Wall Street Journal suggests the change would be profound -- not only is his he more aware of the reason's for Zimbabwe's collapse than are those African leaders who seem mystified at the basket cases they've made of their own countries, but Tsvangirai knows precisely what to do about it:
Out of the many reasons for Zimbabwe's decline, three stand out. First is the ruling regime's contempt for the rule of law... The government of Zimbabwe must be committed to protecting persons and property; and the restoration of political freedom and property rights is an essential part of MDC's economic recovery strategy...
The second reason for Zimbabwe's decline is the government's destruction of economic freedom, in order to satisfy an elaborate patronage system.
The MDC is committed to slashing bureaucratic red tape and letting domestic and foreign entrepreneurs improve their lot and, consequently, Zimbabwe's fortunes. We will open economic opportunity to all Zimbabweans. Unlike the ZANU-PF dictatorship, which has destroyed domestic entrepreneurship, we consider the business acumen and creative ingenuity of the people to be the main source of our future growth.
The third factor responsible for the country's decline is the size and rapaciousness of the government. Today, that size is determined by the requirements of patronage... The MDC plans a complete restructuring of the government, including a reduction of the number of ministers to 15. The government will have to live within its means. It will not be allowed to inflate its way out of trouble... Most state-owned companies are woefully inefficient, a strain on the budget and a much-abused vehicle for ZANU-PF patronage. They will be privatized or shut down.
And he's been saying this for years - here he is in 2003 making the case that freedom and prosperity are linked:
The key to starting an economic recovery is the restoration of the rule of law, a peaceful situation in the country, a situation of law and order. Confidence-building measures have to be carried out so that all the potential players can be reassured that recovery is intended and under way. There needs to be a clear signal that respect for individual rights and for property rights has returned.
Hot damn, there's hope for Zimbabwe yet. Based on those words, and presuming that he means them, if Tsvangirai can't get the authority and the support necessary to implement his programme in Zimbabwe, I'd be damned happy to have him implement it here.