With election results expected to be released shortly I am not at all optimistic about the chances of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. But hopefully I will be proven wrong and The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) will succeed in overthrowing the ruling ZANU-PF government. Nothing would delight me more than hearing that voters were able to withstand the intimidation, violence and bloody-mindedness of the government to voice their opposition and contempt for Robert Mugabe’s brutal regime.
This though is a Herculean task, Mugabe after overseeing policies of mass starvation is using food as an electoral weapon threatening to withdraw supplies to those who fail to support him. To add to this horrific form of electoral blackmail the MDC also has to win somewhere near two-thirds of the seats on show to gain control (only 120 seats are up for election, Mugabe appointing the other 30 members of parliament). Also having a press that is so pro-government it would make Piers Akerman blush makes it even more difficult for the opposition to debunk ZANU-PF’s spurious claims.
There are however some signs that the MDC are gaining some footholds in the regional areas that were previously Mugabe strongholds. Though whether this translates into votes will be determined by whether the people are able to withstand the implicit threats of violence and vote how they desire. That a nation that was one of Africa’s most prosperous nations has been reduced to a country that now has a life-expectation averaging in the early thirties should be a shocking indictment on just how profoundly the ZANU-PF has failed in its obligations of governance. As Doris Lessing noted recently during a BBC interview, the conditions of the average Zimbabwean are actually worse than they were under the yoke of colonialism.
But if you want a more interesting perspective from the ground, maybe you might want to visit the Zimbabwe Blog. Or if you enjoy reading imbeciles you can always visit our old friend John Laughland who reckons Robert Mugabe is almost as pleasant company as his ole mates Savo Milosevic and Islam Karimov – its of course all an evil Western conspiracy ran by “Auntie Blair” – what would those election observers know about counting, they can’t even add up 2+2. If you want a more humorous perspective you can also click on this, just make sure the sight of the disturbing image doesn’t spoil your lunch.
In concluding what I find really disappointing is not just the response of the global community, but more particularly the failure of certain African leaders to unite in opposition to Mugabe’s slaughter. While it is difficult to expect much from some of the governments that were established through coups, my opinion of Thabo Mbeki drops yet another notch. For with greater political will it should have been relatively easy to ridicule Mugabe’s anti-colonialist rhetoric for the electoral desperation it so obviously is. Hopefully, as the late Arthur Miller used to love to say “the chickens will come home to roost”, but when this will be unfortunately I do not know. I wish the MDC well.
PS – Nic White also has some thoughts at 52nd State
PPS – The Civic Action Support Group web-site claims relayed information from the Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) that the MBC has claimed 30 seats to ZANU-PF’s 7, MBC with 59.4% of the vote, Zanu-PF 38.6%. This has dropped from the early 80% vote for MBC, whether this is the result of early booths favourable to MDC or due to influence from Mugabe’s thugs I don’t know, but you can read all about the many irregularities at the Zimbabwe Blog I linked to. Hopefully if this result stands up it will place such a moral mandate that Mugabe’s whole house of cards could suddenly collapse much quicker than anticipated. But I’d put out the caveat that at the moment information is scarse and unreliable and living in a surreal environment where non-complicit journalists and NGOs are unwelcome it is very difficult all these hours after the polls to really have an accurate picture of what has happened.
The Guardian also has a report which unfortunately confirmed my fears that the MDC lead could be attributed to the urban booths which tend to support the opposition.
Opposition officials accused the government of delaying the counting process and orchestrating the announcement of results, saying they had done so to create an impression of an early MDC lead in order to bolster claims that the election was free and fair.
Electoral officials said around 10% of voters had been turned away from polling stations in six of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces, either for lacking proper identity documents or being at the wrong voting centre. An independent poll monitoring group put the number of voters turned away at as high as 25%.