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Arrests show Mugabe is desperately clinging t -

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Arrests show Mugabe is desperately clinging to power: expert

The World Today - Friday, 6 June , 2008 12:31:00

Reporter: Eleanor Hall

ELEANOR HALL: The pre-election crackdown in Zimbabwe, which earlier this week saw Opposition leader
Morgan Tsvangirai detained, has now spread to international diplomats.

Overnight, police allegedly forced a convoy of US and British diplomats off the road and then
detained them and beat up their Zimbabwean driver.

The presidential run-off vote later this month could see the end of the regime of Robert Mugabe,
but the dictator appears desperate to hang onto power.

Zimbabwe specialist, Dr Geoffrey Hawker from Macquarie University, joins us now to talk about the
latest incident.

Dr Hawker, thanks for being there.

GEOFFREY HAWKER: Good to be with you.

ELEANOR HALL: Now earlier this week there was the detention of Morgan Tsvangirai now this treatment
of diplomats and their driver, how do you read this? Is this a sign of desperation by the Mugabe
regime, a regime in its death throes?

GEOFFREY HAWKER: I think it does show that the forces around Mugabe that he's promoted over the
years and the police and the security services are now coming out of the shadows if you like. And
they're showing their muscle, they're showing their determination not to be moved.

ELEANOR HALL: President Mugabe is out of the country, so you're saying he is not orchestrating
this?

GEOFFREY HAWKER: I think we've seen the signs beginning to emerge that those in those forces behind
him for so many years are now coming out and taking a much more prominent role.

And of course Mugabe is the one facing the presidential election, but it's now becoming very clear
that those other elements in Zimbabwean society are really starting to take the running. Yes, I
fear so.

ELEANOR HALL: There's been talk for a long time though about divisions in the party and the
military over Robert Mugabe. Why would they remain loyal to him if the political wind were to be
blowing the other way?

GEOFFREY HAWKER: I think they don't quite see it that way. They see if they remain firm as they
would see it, they'll stay there. That Tsvangirai won't succeed and that they'll stay in their
positions.

What they fear of course, is some sort of retribution if the Opposition of the MDC should get up.
They think, well Mugabe is an old man, he might get some sort of dispensation to go into
retirement. They won't. They're likely to face some sort of retribution or accounting if it goes
against ZANU-PF.

I think that is what is motivating them and of course I know in the West, we look at the forces,
the military forces, we think those of the lower end are badly paid, they're discontented, they're
not happy.

But of course the upper echelons, they feel they're confident in retaining the loyalty of the
troops. They're not about to show any lack of confidence in that.

ELEANOR HALL: More than 30 MDC members have been murdered in the last three weeks, several MPs and
senators have been detained, there is an extraordinary level of political violence isn't there?

GEOFFREY HAWKER: There is. It's sporadic if you like, low level in its not mass confrontations on
the streets. But it's extremely consistent across the country and of course it's very intimidatory
towards the Opposition forces. And that is what it's designed to do; to scare people, to worry
them, to make them stay at home.

ELEANOR HALL: So what confidence do you have that the vote will go ahead reasonably fairly at the
end of this month?

GEOFFREY HAWKER: Well one has got to retain a bit of optimism, otherwise one despairs. I notice it
said, it was President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa that with a phone call secured Tsvangirai's
release just a few days ago. And it is still South Africa that holds the key.

If the election observers from the region come in and monitor the poll as they did in March, then
that is going to make a significant difference. That's still being negotiated at the moment, it's
not clear what the outcome is. I do cling to that.

If the regional observers are there in the polling booths, we may yet see a result that, if we did
see a fair result, would see Morgan Tsvangirai elected.

ELEANOR HALL: Although Robert Mugabe's wife is reported to have told a rally last week that
President Mugabe will never leave office voluntarily. What would happen if he just refused to go?

GEOFFREY HAWKER: Well then we would see the confrontation that so many have feared, and that exists
at that sporadic level at the moment.

Yes, it's the forces, their own family around Mugabe, and the military forces that are now coming
out and making these very provocative statements. And of course we can't feel anything happy about
that.

ELEANOR HALL: Is there a case for greater international intervention in Zimbabwe?

GEOFFREY HAWKER: Well it's not a realistic matter. There's no likelihood of troop intervention or
anything of that nature. That's off the cards. It's diplomatic pressure, it's economic matters.

That's all that's going to happen. It's really ... all the West is saying is South Africa, do the
job, the development community, do the job. That is all we're going to see from the West.

ELEANOR HALL: You mentioned the development community, the regime has shut down all international
aid operations in the country, what's behind this?

GEOFFREY HAWKER: Yes. You mean the regime itself? That actually goes back, they've sought to do
that before and closed down foreign NGOs (non-government organisations).

That's the xenophobia if you like, of the Mugabe regime. That they fear that any form of aid,
assistance from outside coming in through non-government organisations and the like is the sort of
a fifth column in infiltrating the country. That's just their xenophobia and paranoia about the
foreign intervention.

ELEANOR HALL: And just briefly, Dr Hawker, do you have confidence that at the end of this month or
next month, there will be real change in Zimbabwe?

GEOFFREY HAWKER: I couldn't possibly say I've got confidence. We've had too much movement the other
way for that.

But I do think still it is possible to see a peaceful resolution if those neighbouring countries
are there in the polling booths later this month. That's about all we're left with at this stage.

ELEANOR HALL: Dr Geoffrey Hawker from Macquarie University, thanks very much for joining us.