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By Ebrahim Harvey
The fact that world-renowned icon of peace, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, recently urged a military overthrow of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe - if he refuses to step down - is the clearest signal yet of the futility of pursuing options which have borne no fruit.
The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference also added their voices last week to the growing calls for Mugabe to be removed by force.
The crisis in Zimbabwe is so desperately bad, deep and total that the option of a swift and concerted military overthrow must now be seriously considered.
After having, over a protracted period, exhausted every possible national and international effort at resolving the political impasse such an option I argue is now necessary to consider and execute.
It is palpably and painfully clear that the lengthy but half-measured, tentative and indecisive efforts of South Africa, the Southern African Development Community and the AU have all failed to help resolve the political crisis.
As has all the efforts and appeals of the UN and other international agencies. More of the same is very unlikely to deliver a different result any time soon.
Mugabe has brazenly and repeatedly shown the world that he intends to continue to cling to power by all means he finds necessary and at whatever cost to Zimbabwean society.
This is in the midst of a socio-economic crisis that is having a terribly devastating and destructive impact on the entire country and particularly poor communities
Just last week he had the temerity to say - after all the destruction he has already brought to the country - that "Zimbabwe is mine" and that other African countries don't have the courage to overthrow him militarily.
So severe is the political, economic, social, health and humanitarian crisis simultaneously occurring that those who have the power to do so must immediately begin to consider the option of a military overthrow.
It has been reported that even the printing presses cannot keep up with inflation and that NGO officials warned of the worst outbreak of anthrax in three decades as a result of desperate people eating the meat of infected animals.
There are so many factors pointing to the depth of the crisis such as the reported collapse of the health service, a dysfunctional monetary system (with the highest inflation rate in modern history), schooling non-existent in many areas, many towns - including the capital, Harare - without water, blackouts for days on end, the collapse of other essential urban infrastructure.
There has been the deadly outbreak of cholera that has claimed hundreds of lives already, rioting soldiers looting the little left in some stores, major hospitals closed for lack of doctors and drugs, parents who cannot pay for lunches or bus fares and teachers not paid enough just for their transport.
What more evidence is needed to show the calamitous crisis and justify an overthrow of a state that is responsible for this situation?
The Mugabe government's bizarre accusation two weeks ago that Britain is spreading cholera in Zimbabwe through "biological warfare" and that it is a "calculated racist attack" was brutally cynical, deflective and a manifestation of why it has lost all credibility.
The cholera outbreak is a direct result of the collapse in many areas of basic water and sanitation infrastructure.
It is the surest sign of just how deep the social crisis in the country is and how urgently regime change has become necessary.
Hence, in the grip of this destructive crisis, time is of the essence in finding a resolution to it.
Swift and successful military action is the only option that can bring a degree of stability to Zimbabwe in order to begin the gigantic and intimidating task of repair and reconstruction, to a country that is being steadily destroyed by feuding.
The feuding is between Mugabe, the police and military on the one hand, and Morgan Tsvangirai and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and wider civil society on the other.
Even the carrying out of the task of reconstruction will be a long, difficult and painful process but the longer it takes to begin it the harder will it be and the longer will the present worsening mass hunger, starvation, misery, death and destruction continue, especially within the context of the current crisis in the world economy, which will negatively affect recovery.
Zimbabwe is by all accounts now most perilously poised, with more dreadful consequences in store but also with serious implications for southern Africa and Africa.
Having defined the key strategic imperative the magnitude of the crisis necessarily gives rise to the next question - which institutions and countries can and will be willing to undertake what could be a swiftly executed task, depending on the strength of the coalition of forces?
Given the lack of resolve of the African actors and the terrible social and human tragedy unfolding in Zimbabwe the UN should seriously consider military action which seeks to end the bloody and megalomaniac tyranny Mugabe has perpetrated upon Zimbabwean society for years.
Mugabe - under the false rhetoric of anti-imperialism - has manifested the worst excesses of a decaying and ultimately reactionary African nationalism in power.
Nothing has betrayed his anti-imperialist posturing more than his brutal repression of the trade union movement and broader civil society in Zimbabwe.
He has simply exhausted such posturing to the extent that the left inside and outside the country have little or no sympathy for the quagmire he finds himself in today.
It will also be false for some on the left to oppose a military invasion and overthrow of Mugabe on the grounds that there would be parallels between it and that of colonialism and imperialism in Africa.
The unprecedented and destructive crisis in Zimbabwe - which today places it on the verge of total collapse - makes such action imperative if it is to be saved from such a tragic fate.
With all their own weaknesses and failings the ascendancy to power of the MDC will be a welcome relief for Zimbabweans.
The case for further sanctions is inherently flawed because it will probably still not succeed in getting Mugabe - given his ruthless determination to remain in power at all costs - to capitulate.
Its biggest drawback is that it will certainly hurt more and in fact kill many more people through hunger, starvation and sickness, the inevitable consequences of more extensive and intensive sanctions.