Mugabe snatches victory again From
Jan Raath and Xan Rice in Harare
ROBERT MUGABE’S ruling Zanu (PF) party was
declared the winner of Zimbabwe’s parliamentary elections last night, amid
claims by the main opposition party of massive fraud. Even before the
victory was announced, Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change, said that he was considering a mass action campaign. “We
don’t accept that this represents the national sentiment,” he said. “The
Government has once again betrayed the people.” From the very first seat to
be decided it seemed that the MDC was destined to lose. Manyame, an opposition
stronghold just west of Harare, was awarded to Patrick Zhuwao of Zanu (PF). He
is President Mugabe’s nephew.
On Thursday night, election officials
announced that 14,812 people voted in Manyame. But by Friday morning, they
changed the total to 24,000, of which more than 15,000 went to Mr Zhawao.
The international community was quick to denounce the electoral process.
Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said it was fundamentally flawed. “Mugabe has
yet again denied ordinary Zimbabweans a free and fair opportunity to vote,
further prolonging the political and economic crisis he has inflicted on their
country,” he said. Richard Boucher, a spokesman for the US State Department,
said: “This whole process has been seriously tainted.” Kerstin Müller,
Germany’s junior foreign minister, said: “President Mugabe’s Government has
again abused fundamental principles for holding free and fair elections.”
Observers from the South African Development Community (SADC) have yet to
make an official statement. By last night, Zanu (PF) had taken 69 of the 120
constituencies being contested. With 30 seats appointed by the President, it had
a majority in the 150-member parliament. The MDC had won 35 seats, dashing
its hopes of gaining 50 seats to block the two-thirds majority that would give
the ruling party the power to amend the constitution. Jonathan Moyo, who
stood as an independent after being dismissed as Information Minister, also won
a seat. While the MDC won most seats in Harare and Bulawayo, it was
dominance of rural constituencies that guaranteed a Zanu (PF) triumph. The
opposition had feared that manipulation of votes — including stuffing ballot
boxes with fake votes — in rural areas, where there were few independent
observers, would allow the President to walk away with the popular vote. And
when only 20 seats had been decided, Mr Tsvangirai said he detected a pattern of
fraudulent activity. “President Mugabe is going to do what he wants. This is his
private property and for people even to claim that this is a democratic process,
when it is so fraudulent, is totally not acceptable,” he said. The MDC
leader said he would not go to the courts for redress, as the party did in 2000
and 2002, when nearly all its petitions were filed away or rejected out of hand
by President Mugabe’s judiciary. “We are not going to pursue that,” Mr
Tsvangirai said. “The people of Zimbabwe must defend their vote and their right
to a free and fair election.” He said he was considering a “peaceful mass
uprising”, but would not elaborate. Defeats in some of the safest MDC seats
were greeted with disbelief. Brian Kagoro, chairman of Zimbabwe in Crisis
Coalition, an alliance of prodemocracy organisations, said of the election: “It
really looks like it was pre-ordained. We thought they would do it, but we
thought it would be within margins that are believable. We didn’t expect it to
be so glaring.” Astonishment greeted the 4,000-vote Zanu (PF) majority in
Chimanimani, eastern Zimbabwe, over Heather Bennett of the MDC. She had stepped
in for her popular white farmer husband Roy, who is serving a one-year jail
sentence for shoving a cabinet minister to the ground last October. “It
stinks,” Mrs Bennett said. “Our support on the ground was massive. We addressed
over 10,000 people at a time at our rallies.” After he cast his ballot on
Thursday, President Mugabe, dismissed charges of fraud as nonsense. He said he
was absolutely confident of winning a two-thirds majority for his party:
“Everybody is seeing that these are free and fair elections.” He is now
likely to take a dim view of any protests. Now that voting is over, he could
easily withdraw his orders for the police, army and youth militia to tread
softly. Indeed, in the past two days, the police have returned to type.
Yesterday, 200 women who had been arrested in a central Harare park
for holding a prayer vigil were released from prison. Many were said to have
been treated in hospital for severe bruising from beatings inflicted in Harare
police stations. Frederick Sperling, a Swedish television journalist, was
arrested yesterday. He was stripped of his accreditation after he was found
filming on a former white-owned farm. He said he expected he would be deported.
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF appeared
to have won the Zimbabwean election last night, amid allegations of
widespread fraud and intimidation.
By evening, ZANU-PF had won 55 of the
parliament's 120 elected seats, compared to 34 for the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change. Mugabe appoints an additional 30 seats, guaranteeing
a majority for his party.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai accused the
government of "disgusting, massive fraud".
As open army trucks
patrolled the streets of central Harare, people clustered silently around TV
sets in bars and electrical shops to watch live announcements of
The mood in the capital was subdued. Armed police manned
roadblocks and searched car boots.
By lunchtime, election results
were little more than lists of ZANU-PF victories. As state radio blared out
in Bredfield Hair Salon along George Silundika Avenue, a group of men sat
listening, their heads in their hands.
"The government has fraudulently
once again betrayed the people," Mr Tsvangirai told a news
"These elections cannot be accepted by anyone in their right
mind," he said. "This is disgusting, massive fraud."
In a barely
veiled signal to his followers in the MDC to take extra-parliamentary action
to topple a government that has presided over seven years of economic
collapse, widespread violence, massive unemployment and inflation, hunger
and disease, he said: "I am asking people to defend their right to vote. We
have been using the legal route and that route has failed. We are not going
to use it this time."
Mr Tsvangirai was referring to the last
parliamentary election in 2000 when, despite government violence which
resulted in many deaths and countless maimings among the opposition, the MDC
won 57 of the 120 parliamentary seats. In subsequent actions in the Supreme
Court more than 20 ZANU PF victories were overturned as fraudulent, giving
the MDC a parliamentary majority.
But the Supreme Court verdicts were
held up for five years in the Appeal Court, staffed by judges loyal to
Robert Mugabe who had been given properties confiscated from white
commercial farmers in the post-2000 government-inspired upheavals. Those
electoral appeals are still stuck in the Supreme Court and, following this
general election, are now null and void.
Yesterday, the underground
activists' group Zvakwana (Enough is enough), which is fiercely critical of
the government, sent out thousands of text messages asking "you gonna let
them rig or you gonna chase them out?"
Prime among dissenting voices to
Mr Mugabe has been that of Pius Ncube, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, who predicted the poll would be heavily
Before Easter Sunday mass last weekend in Bulawayo Cathedral, the
Archbishop said: "I hope that people get so disillusioned that they really
organise and kick him out by a non-violent, popular mass
"People should pluck up just a bit of courage and stand up
against him and chase him away."
Men have been tried for treason for
less in Zimbabwe, where it is a crime to insult President Mugabe. But
Archbishop Ncube simply ignores what he regards as unjust laws. Just a few
days earlier he said of the president: "He is a very, very evil man. The
sooner he dies the better."
Mr Tsvangirai admitted impending defeat at a
moment when the MDC had won 30 of the first 38 constituencies to declare.
But they were all safe opposition seats in the three major urban centres of
Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare. His MDC advisers decided they must pre-empt the
final outcome when party supporters reported massive intimidation and ballot
stuffing in rural Mashonaland and Masvingo, the heartland of traditional
In an electorate of 5.7 million some one to two million
"zombie votes" of dead people still on the ZANU-PF-controlled electoral
register are believed to have been cast. Among those registered to vote on
Thursday, for example, were three prominent MDC activists - Richard Tichaona
Chiminya, Talent Mabika and David Stevens. But all three are dead, killed by
senior ZANU-PF activists during the previous campaign.
organisations said the application of sheer fear was the most powerful
weapon of electoral fraud, especially in rural areas, where there was a
polling station for every 500 adults. Poverty-stricken peasants were warned
by chiefs, who had been bribed with cash and four-wheel drive trucks, that
their plots would be repossessed if a single MDC vote was found in the
Speaking in London, British Foreign Secretary Jack
Straw said the elections were "seriously flawed" and charged that Mugabe had
"yet again denied ordinary Zimbabweans a free and fair opportunity to vote,
further prolonging the political and economic crisis he has inflicted on
Last night, a South African parliamentary observer
delegation was preparing to issue a statement declaring the election free
and fair, as instructed in advance by South African president Thabo
Zimbabwe opposition may contest result April 2, 2005 -
Zimbabwe's main opposition was meeting to determine how to press
its claims that it was robbed of a parliamentary election victory. The
options before the opposition Movement for Democratic Change appeared
limited after President Robert Mugabe's party was declared the winner of
most of the seats contested at the polls.
The Movement for Democratic
Change has shied from confrontation after past street protests were
violently crushed, preferring to fight its battles in the courts - now
packed with judges sympathetic to Mugabe.
Much will depend on whether
Zimbabweans believe their votes were ignored, and whether that moves them to
protest or leaves them bitterly resigned.
"The government has
fraudulently, once again, betrayed the people," Movement for Democratic
Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai said.
"We believe the people of Zimbabwe
must defend their vote and their right to free and fair
Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front has
so far won 69 of Parliament's 120 elected seats, compared to 35 for the MD
Change and one to an independent candidate, according to partial results
announced by the national election commission.
leaves the party one seat short of a two-thirds majority Mugabe has been
seeking to cement his rule and give him power to change the
Mugabe appoints another 30 seats, ensuring his party a
majority. The opposition may not even match its showing of 57 seats won
during the last vote, in 2000.
Mugabe, one of Africa's longest
serving leaders and the last on the continent who has ruled his country
since the departure of a colonial power, had hoped Thursday's poll would
give a stamp of legitimacy to his increasingly isolated and autocratic
But Western diplomats and independent rights groups said it was
skewed by Mugabe's long history of violence.
As an example of
irregularities, Tsvangirai cited the race in Manyame, 40km southwest of
Harare, where Mugabe's nephew was declared the winner. Election officials
announced on Thursday night that 14,812 people voted in that constituency.
But early on Friday, they changed the total to 24,000 and said Mugabe's
nephew got more than 15,000 votes.
Under international pressure to
produce a credible result, Mugabe's security forces and supporters ratcheted
down violence in the last weeks of campaigning and on election
But human rights groups, the United States and the European Union
said five years of brutality already had tilted the electoral playing field
in favour of Mugabe's party.
"This whole process has been seriously
tainted," US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
London-based rights group Amnesty International decried the arrest of some
250 women activists who tried to hold a prayer vigil in downtown Harare
shortly before the polls closed.
Some were beaten and severely
injured before they were released, Amnesty said.
Zimbabwe Election Support Network, which deployed 6,000 observers
nationwide, said as many as a quarter of those who tried to vote were turned
away because they did not appear on the voter roll or failed to present
proper identification. Electoral officials acknowledged there were problems,
but disputed the group's figures.
Mugabe had rejected complaints about
the election as "nonsense."
Observers from neighbouring countries largely
sympathetic to Mugabe said that the election was conducted in an "open,
transparent and professional manner."
They did, though, express
concern about the high number of people who were unable to cast
The 14-member Southern African Development Community also
endorsed the 2002 presidential election that Western observers called
Mugabe tried to rally support after the opposition's
strong showing in 2000 parliamentary with a land reform program aimed at
righting racial imbalances in ownership inherited from British
Thousands of white-owned commercial farms were re-distributed to
black Zimbabweans in an often violent campaign that has crippled the
country's agriculture-based economy, also hit by drought.
government also cracked down on dissent, arresting critics and shutting down
a series of independent newspapers.
The architect of Zimbabwe's
repressive media laws, Jonathan Moyo, was the only independent candidate to
win a seat as of late Friday.
Mugabe dismissed the former information
minister after Moyo challenged the president's authority over the
appointment of the country's first woman vice-president, a position that
could put the holder in line to succeed the 81-year-old leader.
MDC leader gives followers barely disguised signal to overthrow
By Benedict Unendoro in Harare (Africa Reports: Zimbabwe
Elections No 24, 01-Apr-05)
Zimbabwe and the southern Africa region
has been plunged into deep crisis after opponents of President Robert Mugabe
conceded on April 1 that the ruling ZANU PF party was on its way to a
crushing two-thirds majority parliamentary election victory.
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition MDC, said the victory had been
achieved as a result of massive and widespread electoral fraud by Mugabe and
ZANU PF. Tsvangirai gave a barely disguised signal to his followers to begin
extra-parliamentary action to topple a government that has presided over
seven years of economic collapse, widespread violence, massive unemployment
and inflation, hunger and spreading disease.
"These elections cannot be
accepted by anyone in their right mind," an angry Tsvangirai told reporters
in Harare. "This is disgusting massive fraud.
"I am asking people to
defend their right to vote. We have been using the legal route and that
route has failed. We are not going to use it this time."
was referring to the last parliamentary election in 2000 when, despite
massive government violence which resulted in many deaths and countless
maimings among the opposition, the MDC won 57 of the 120 parliamentary
seats. In subsequent actions in the supreme court, more than twenty ZANU PF
victories were overturned as fraudulent, giving the MDC a parliamentary
But the supreme court verdicts were held up for five years in
the appeal court, staffed by judges loyal to Mugabe and who had been given
properties confiscated from white commercial farmers in the post-2000
anarchic government-inspired upheavals. Those electoral appeals are still
stuck in the supreme court and, following the March 31 general election,
have become null and void.
What Tsvangirai plans in place of the
legal route, which many of his top officials previously acceded to only
reluctantly, is not yet clear. One near-certainty is that MDC MPs will not
this time take their seats or salaries in a parliament seen as totally
subverted and corrupted by Mugabe and ZANU PF.
criticised for his weak leadership, may have to consent to the calls of
leaders of civil society for an attempted revolution similar to those of
Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. Prime among these civic voices has been
that of Pius Ncube, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's
second city, who predicted the poll would be heavily rigged.
Easter Sunday mass last weekend in Bulawayo Cathedral, the Archbishop said,
"I hope that people get so disillusioned that they really organise and kick
him [Mugabe] out by a non-violent, popular mass uprising ... People should
pluck up just a bit of courage and stand up against him and chase him
Tsvangirai admitted the impending defeat at a moment on April
1 when the MDC had won 30 of the first 38 constituencies to declare. But
they were all safe opposition seats in the three major urban centres of
Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare. His MDC advisers decided they must pre-empt the
final outcome when party supporters reported massive intimidation and ballot
stuffing in the key rural areas of Mashonaland and Masvingo, the heartland
of traditional Shona tribal support for ZANU PF. In an electorate of 5.7
million, some one to two million "zombie votes" of dead people still on the
ZANU PF-controlled electoral register are believed to have been
Among many other electoral fraud weapons, human rights
organisations, opposition supporters and media analysts said the application
of sheer fear during this election campaign was the most powerful and
subtle, especially in Shona rural areas.
were warned by communal chiefs that their agricultural plots would be
repossessed if a single MDC vote was found in the ballot boxes.
may be a mystery to the outside world how ZANU PF can impose such a
draconian hold on its rural people. It is doubtful that the majority of them
support ZANU PF, but, more than their urban relatives, they have borne the
brunt of Mugabe's mismanagement of the country. It is in these rural areas
that such necessities as bread, sugar and the staple maize are either
available through ZANU PF officials or not obtainable at all.
last year, international non-government organisations such as Oxfam, Care
International and World Vision donated basic food for survival, but they
were expelled by Mugabe who said they were supporting the MDC, leaving the
government as the sole guardian and distributor of food supplies.
the last election campaign these rural areas were subjected to heavy
intimidation and violence by ZANU PF men who had also coerced the same
population during the 1970s war of liberation against Zimbabwe's former
white Rhodesian government.
That war and the events of 2000 are still
implanted in the folk memories of the rural people of Shona tribal lands,
where the majority of Zimbabweans live. Intimidation was as a rife as ever
during the election campaign, but it went unnoticed by foreign observer
teams and journalists who hung around the cities rather than penetrating the
less comfortable and more dangerous countryside.
In Shona rural
areas, ZANU PF commissars had long ago divided the people into cells of 500
each and placed one polling station in the territory of each cell. All the
ZANU PF militants and the Green Bombers, Mugabe's personal storm troopers
from the National Youth Militia, then had to do was to tell each and every
largely illiterate peasant, whose traditional loyalty is to the local chief,
to go to the polling station in their cell or ward. The chilling message
delivered, out of sight and earshot of election observers and the foreign
press, was that the community as a whole would bear responsibility if a
single MDC vote was found in the ballot box.
The implication was that
extreme violence would follow on the whole community from the Green Bombers
and ZANU PF organisers if an MDC vote appeared. Control was easy because
vote counting was carried out at the polling station under pro-Mugabe police
and army officers. Among other threats available to chiefs and headmen, who
allocate communal lands for agriculture, was withdrawal of plots essential
for bare survival of the peasantry.
Many details of the massive fraud
employed by Mugabe will emerge in coming weeks, but the above was the main
method, long planned, by which he secured his huge
"Five-and-half years of savagery have left a legacy of fear,"
said Andrew Moyse, head of Zimbabwe's Media Monitoring Service, one of the
country's few surviving human rights organisations. "Violence this time only
needed to be implied. If you beat a dog every day for five years there comes
a time when all you need to do is show him the stick and he will do as he is
By late April 1, ZANU PF was well on its way to a two-thirds
majority which will allow Mugabe to change the constitution and strengthen
his iron rule. Meanwhile, the South African parliamentary observer
delegation, the most influential of the observer groups permitted to enter
Zimbabwe, was preparing to issue a statement declaring the 2005 Zimbabwe
parliamentary election free and fair, as instructed in advance by South
African president Thabo Mbeki.
Benedict Unendoro is the pseudonym of
an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe Crisis May Continue, Despite Ruling Party Win
By VOA News 01 April 2005
Election officials in
Zimbabwe say the ruling ZANU-PF party is leading with a majority 62 of the
120 seats contested in Thursday's election. The opposition Movement for
Democratic Change is trailing with 35 seats, but is hinting it may not
accept the result.
Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of Zimbabwe's main
opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said the poll
result is not acceptable because of what he called massive fraud. Mr.
Tsvangirai tells VOA he does not believe the result is a true reflection of
the people of Zimbabwe, because, he says, some of them voted out of
"Well, we were hoping that, given the fact that there was some
degree in the reduction in the public violence that the people would be
allowed to express themselves. But we know there has been so much overt
activities taking place, to intimidate, and that's why the residual fear in
some of the constituencies," he said.
President Robert Mugabe has
dismissed claims of fraud as "nonsense."
Thursday's vote was conducted
smoothly, with no incidents of violence. But a Southern African regional
observer mission said it was concerned that some voters were turned away
from polling stations.
The Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC,
appears to have held on to almost all the urban seats it won in 2000, but to
have lost ground to President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party in rural
Mr. Mugabe's former information minister, Jonathan Moyo, is the
only one of a group of those who ran as independents to win a seat. Mr. Moyo
was kicked out of the ruling ZANU-PF for defying a party directive not to
stand as an independent. He had been dropped from the candidate list for
organizing a meeting unsanctioned by the party leadership.
is experiencing its worst economic and political crisis since independence
in 1980. President Mugabe's sometimes-violent land reform, and the elections
of 2000 and 2002 mired in violence, led to deterioration in relations
between Zimbabwe and mostly western countries.
Mr. Tsvangirai says the
way the election was conducted will make it difficult for Zimbabwe to mend
the broken fences. "(Mr.) Mugabe's looking for legitimacy. He's going to
fight for it, but, unfortunately, he's using the wrong means to achieve it.
And, it doesn't matter what African leaders do to help him achieve that
legitimacy. No one in his right mind, will restore that legitimacy," he
The MDC leadership is meeting Saturday to chart a way
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is announcing the results as
they trickle in. It has said that the announcement of results will not go
beyond 48 hours after polling stations closed at seven pm local time on
Rice Praises Zimbabweans for
Demanding Change Through Their Vote Secretary of state says election process
was neither free nor fair
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a
statement issued April 1, congratulated Zimbabwe's voters for turning out in
great numbers to vote in parliamentary elections March 31 -- even though she
said the election was "heavily tilted in the government's favor."
said the United States "applauds their determination to keep democracy
alive," and hopes Zimbabwe's government will "hear and respect" the voters'
call for a change in the failed policies of the past so that Zimbabwe can
"retake its place as an honorable member of the world
Following is the text of Rice's statement:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman April 1,
Statement by Secretary Condoleezza Rice
from Elections in Zimbabwe
Despite years of repression and intimidation,
the Zimbabwean people turned out in great numbers to vote in yesterday's
parliamentary elections. The United States applauds their determination to
keep democracy alive. Results are still coming in, but it is already clear
that many Zimbabweans have rejected the government's failed policies and are
calling for change. We hope the government will hear and respect these
Although the campaign and election day itself were generally
peaceful, the election process was not free and fair. The electoral playing
field was heavily tilted in the government's favor. The independent press
was muzzled; freedom of assembly was constrained; food was used as a weapon
to sway hungry voters; and millions of Zimbabweans who have been forced by
the nation's economic collapse to emigrate were disenfranchised. On
election day itself, more than ten percent of would-be voters overall, and a
disproportionately higher ratio in the most hotly contested constituencies,
were turned away from polling stations due to irregularities with the voter
The United States calls on the Government of
Zimbabwe to recognize the legitimacy of the opposition and abandon policies
designed to repress, crush and otherwise stifle expressions of differences
in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's leaders have a responsibility to address the
political and economic problems that have wrecked what only a few years ago
was one of Africa's success stories. By restoring democratic institutions
and respecting the wishes of its people, Zimbabwe can retake its place as an
honorable member of the world community.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs,
U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
Mugabe wins poll denounced by West as a sham By Peta
Thornycroft in Harare (Filed: 02/04/2005)
President Robert Mugabe's
Zanu-PF won a parliamentary election according to official results released
yesterday but it was denounced by the opposition and western powers as a
With 84 of the contested 120 parliamentary seats declared, Zanu-PF
took 51, with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change winning
The ruling party needs only 46 seats from Thursday's poll to obtain a
simple majority in the 150-seat parliament, where 30 additional members are
It was his sixth electoral victory since becoming
independent Zimbabwe's first leader in 1980.
president, who has overseen a dramatic decline in his country's economy and
human rights, was also on course to win the two-thirds majority needed to
change the constitution and with it the rules of succession.
Tsvangirai, MDC president, was apparently undismayed by his party's expected
inability to block the two-thirds majority.
"It's become a Zimbabwe
ritual. This time we won't go to court as it would be a waste of
"The courts sat on the last parliamentary challenges for five years
and on the presidential election since 2002. So there's no point.
haven't seen many of the South African observers but it is clear the South
African government wants the Zanu-PF regime to continue and there is nothing
we can do about that."
South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, is Mr
Mugabe's key supporter and trading partner.
In a statement issued by
the Foreign Office, Mr Straw said: "What is clear is that the elections were
seriously flawed and that Mugabe has yet again denied ordinary Zimbabweans a
free and fair opportunity to vote.
"Credible observers have noted that
although there was less violence than during the 2000 and 2002 elections,
harassment and intimidation by the ruling party and the government
More than 250 women protesters arrested at a "peace" vigil in
a public garden in the city centre on Thursday were released in Harare
yesterday, some with serious injuries.
A doctor from a government
hospital who examined them yesterday and who asked not to be named, said
eight had been admitted to hospital for treatment.
director of Amnesty International's Africa Programme, said: "Police beat
several of the women during and after arrest. Some were beaten on their
buttocks after being made to lie on the ground. Others were beaten while
getting out of police vehicles.
"Several of the women are elderly and
others had children taken into custody with them."
treatment typified the routine repression meted out by Mr Mugabe's
The past five years have seen a crackdown on dissent. Restrictive
security and media laws were passed, opposition leaders jailed, and a number
of independent newspapers shut down.
The country was plunged into
political and economic chaos when Mr Mugabe's government began seizing
thousands of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to black
Zimbabweans after the last legislative poll in 2000. Combined with years of
drought, the often violent programme has crippled agriculture - the
country's economic base. The independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network,
which deployed 6,000 observers nationwide, said that as many as a quarter of
those who tried to vote before 3.15pm on Thursday were turned away because
their names did not appear on the voter roll or they failed to present
The MDC nearly unseated Mr Mugabe when it fought
its first parliamentary election in 2000 and Mr Tsvangirai lost the even
more violent presidential poll two years ago.
About 25 per cent of
more than 8,000 polling stations were without full-time independent
Nearly 24 hours after voting ended at least half the results
were still outstanding from the National Logistics Committee, which is
staffed by Mr Mugabe's cronies and which is off limits to the
Mugabe's time is up: he should go Saturday, 2 April
IF EVER there was nation and people seemingly overdue for a poplar
uprising of the kind that has swept autocracies from power in Georgia,
Ukraine and elsewhere in recent years it would be Zimbabwe. From its
independence in 1980 as an economically viable, nascent democracy, the
country has been brought to its knees by the quixotic but artful rule of
Robert Mugabe, its populace cowed into submission by threats and bullying,
its economy ruined by cronyism and corruption, and its international
standing close to that of other pariah states like North Korea and Syria.
Through it all, Mugabe has consistently thumbed his nose at international
critics and worked assiduously to strengthen his hold on power while
simultaneously enriching his Zanu-FP party cronies. Mugabe is almost unique
in the world in having held power for so long (25 years), and never
hesitates to play the race and colonial cards against his many critics - and
though he might be derided in some quarters as a Marxist dinosaur, he is
still a potent political force, as Zimbabwe's current parliamentary
These elections, like the previous parliamentary
and presidential elections in 2000 and 2002, have been marked by accusations
of rigging electoral rolls, ballot- box stuffing and other voting
irregularities. Intimidation of the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change and its supporters has been rife throughout campaigning. As well,
foreign observers from the US, Europe and the Commonwealth have been refused
entry to oversee the poll, and more than a million Zimbabweans living
overseas have been denied the right to vote. But unlike those earlier
elections, when intimidation was more overt, this time there's been the
semblance of electoral fairness, with an "independent" electoral commission
and court set up to oversee the election. Mugabe has even allowed the MDC
some air time on Zimbabwean TV. Unfortunately, this probably does not
indicate that the 81-year-old president is mellowing with age.
he has said in the past he will not seek re-election at the 2008
presidential election, he remains coy about more immediate plans for
retirement - "My retirement comes at its own pace". The question of his
eventual going is naturally a cause for discussion in Zimbabwe. Some of that
talk has focused on electoral reforms that were introduced last year which
allow the Constitution to be altered if Zanu-PF wins a two-thirds majority
in Parliament, and which it's widely believed will be used to revise the
rules about presidential succession. At the moment, should Mugabe either
resign or die in office, the Constitution requires new elections to be
called within 90 days. There is speculation that Zanu-PF, with an eye to
keeping hold of the presidential reins post-Mugabe, wants to change the
rules to allow the president to name a successor who would then complete the
remainder of Mugabe's term. To help ease Mugabe out of power, it's rumoured
Zanu-PF is looking to create a new post of new prime minister so as to give
Mugabe more of a ceremonial role.
To block Zanu-PF's plans, the MDC
will itself have to win two-thirds of the parliamentary seats, a tall order
given Zanu-PF already has a guaranteed 30 MPs in the 150-seat Parliament.
It's not without a chance, however.
In the 2000 election, when voter
intimidation and violence were rife, the MDC would have won control of the
Parliament had it not been for those extra seats. Despite the strong
likelihood of voter apathy leading up to yesterday's election, MDC leader
Morgan Tsvangirai was confident of his party's chances of thwarting
Zanu-PF's designs, particularly given the ruling party has its own problems.
Mugabe's reluctance to groom any successors, and indeed sideline any
possible opponents, has seen many former loyalists drift away. And, having
called in his chips in 2002 with supporters who benefited from the
Government's appropriation of white-owned farms in the late 1990s, Mugabe
has little left with which to bribe or cajole supporters into winning him
votes, other than the trappings of office.
He has little to offer
ordinary Zimbabweans, other than promising to continue his program of
seizing land from white farmers for redistribution to poor blacks. While
this is an emotion-charged issue in Zimbabwe, a sober assessment of land
reform would conclude that it has done little to improve the lot of ordinary
people. Many once-productive farms now lie fallow, and foreign exchange
earnings have dried up as result.
True to his Marxist form of old, Mugabe
has offered plenty of propaganda this campaign, accusing the MDC of being a
Western stooge, and yet again directed invective at Zimbabwe's former
colonial master, Britain - but one wonders whether there are many votes left
to be won with such cliched and outdated electioneering.
efforts of Zanu-PF to cloak these elections in respectability, the
international community rightly remains skeptical. The European Union has
already judged them phony, and hinted at taking further unspecified steps
against the Government. Any such international action needs to be carefully
considered, as Mugabe has shown a genius for using international
condemnation to shore up support for his regime from neighbouring
In the event of a lopsided Zanu-PF win, the best thing the
world can do is to publicise the illegalities, and offer sympathy and
support for opposition figures willing to take up non-violent protest
against a government that by any measure is bankrupt of ideas, commitment
and honesty and whose time is up.