Glimmers of Defiance In a Wary Zimbabwe Even in Mugabe
Strongholds, Discontent Evident
By Craig Timberg Washington Post
Foreign Service Tuesday, April 5, 2005; Page A14
April 4 -- As grim resignation settled over Zimbabwe's capital, there were
few visible signs that last week's parliamentary elections -- and the
resulting landslide for the party of President Robert Mugabe -- had happened
at all. Most people returned to the demanding business of surviving in one
of the world's worst economies and put aside stirring notions of change, at
least for now.
Mugabe, the vigorous and wily 81-year-old who is the only
leader this nation has had in 25 years of independence, is known here
variously as "Uncle Bob," "Comrade Bob" or simply "the Old Man." And he is
yet again seemingly in complete command of Zimbabwe. Opposition leaders have
denounced Thursday's elections, which left them with 16 fewer seats in
parliament than the 57 they once held, as fraudulent, but they have publicly
ruled out either a legal challenge or mass protests. A small protest
attempted here Monday afternoon quickly fizzled.
Yet despite the
opposition's poor showing in official results, the final days of last week's
election campaign revealed a spirit of defiance rarely seen in the five
previous years of increasingly authoritarian rule by Mugabe.
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is viewed here as the party
of urban youth, a long-term advantage in a country that increasingly is both
urban and young. Most Zimbabweans are not old enough to have experienced
white minority rule or Mugabe's leadership of the 1970s insurrection that
helped end it.
Even in the countryside -- where support for Mugabe is
supposedly strongest and where official vote totals showed his party, the
Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, with huge margins of
victory -- voters on election day flashed the opposition's signature
open-palm gesture. A group of peasant women walking down a dirt road with
sugar cane in their hands did not want to talk to a stranger, but when
pressed gently about the election, they silently showed their open
Elsewhere, former Mugabe loyalists said that his party's dominance
of the nation must end if Zimbabwe hopes to escape its international
isolation and halt a precipitous economic decline.
Four men, ranging
in age from their twenties to their fifties, stood on the side of the main
road in a rural village west of here on voting day. Each had voted for
Mugabe in all previous elections, yet on this day they spoke openly of their
dissatisfaction and their longing to see the opposition take
Even more strikingly in a nation where to support the
opposition is to risk beating and torture, two of the four men willingly
gave their names and ages to a foreign journalist, despite knowing they
might appear in a newspaper that Mugabe's party officials would read. "Most
people are suffering, no food, no jobs. . . . Maybe the MDC will win," said
Smart Madhola, 56, a security guard.
The willingness to speak out
dimmed a bit after the voting, as it became clear that the overwhelming
victory of Mugabe's party had given the president an even freer hand to
rewrite the constitution -- or do almost anything else he
But on Saturday, opposition activist Aiden Turai Mpani, 28, said
he was prepared to demonstrate in the streets, risking almost certain arrest
and beating by police, to protest election results he was certain were the
result of rigging. Asked if he really wanted to be quoted by name under such
conditions, he said confidently, "With pleasure."
Though violence was
down in the weeks before Thursday's elections, human rights groups have
reported widespread killings of opposition candidates and supporters in the
past five years. The opposition puts the total at more than 300 since it
formed in 1999.
Most Zimbabweans lack access to such reports, but they
know the brutal history of Mugabe and his supporters. They know he oversaw
the slaughter of as many as 20,000 Ndebeles, members of a large southern
tribe that had resisted his rule, in the 1980s. They know that more
recently, opposition activists often have simply disappeared or been
arrested for crimes they didn't commit. They know, as human rights groups
have long detailed, that torture and the withholding of food aid have been
common government tactics. So has threatening to burn down the house of an
opposition member -- and sometimes doing it.
On election day, a
34-year-old man in a town east of here spent several minutes explaining his
eagerness for the opposition to take power. He, too, gave his name before
thinking better of allowing it to be published. Even though he knew the
level of violence was relatively low in this election, he also knew what had
happened in 2000 and 2002.
Was he scared?
"Of course," he said
simply, "from what I saw last time."
Did he know opposition supporters
who had been beaten?
"A lot of people," he said.
These were not
isolated conversations. To be in Zimbabwe during the past few weeks was to
see unmistakable signs of widespread frustration with Mugabe. Opposition
rallies throughout the nation, even in his heartland, drew loud and
enthusiastic crowds. And there was little evidence that the focus of
Mugabe's campaign -- the supposed intention of British Prime Minister Tony
Blair to reestablish Zimbabwe as a colony -- resonated with
Those who said they supported Mugabe's party responded mostly to
the powerful issue of land redistribution. Though the violent farm seizures
carried out by the government in 2000 were widely criticized by Western
leaders, even opposition supporters in Zimbabwe are often critical of the
era that preceded them, when a tiny minority of white commercial farmers
held most of the nation's best agricultural land.
Edmore Guzha, 32,
the proud owner of a 12-acre farm in an area where in the past black
Zimbabweans worked mostly as laborers, said his reason for supporting Mugabe
was simple: "He gave us land."
The day after the elections, some
opposition supporters were so confident that they dressed up in their best
clothes in expectation of a victory party. The first several hours of
televised results, which showed an initial surge for the MDC, only
reinforced that optimism.
But the next morning, vote totals for Mugabe's
party surged. These were mostly from rural areas, where the opposition --
rooted in Zimbabwe's cities -- had not expected to prevail. Still, the
extent and scale of the ruling party's victories sobered the
Seats previously held by the opposition disappeared. In some
outlying areas, results ran 2-1 or 3-1 against the opposition. Mugabe's
party ended up with 78 seats to the opposition's 41 and one claimed by an
independent. And Mugabe would appoint 30 more members, giving him a
commanding edge in a parliament with 150 seats.
handpicked observers approved the conduct of the elections, results in
dozens of districts have turned up puzzling inconsistencies.
In some, the
combined vote totals for individual candidates do not equal the supposed
number of voters who cast ballots. In others, polling place records show a
surge of voters in the final hours of balloting, a time when witnesses have
generally agreed that attendance was dwindling. All told, the opposition
contends that more than 50 seats were stolen.
On Saturday, Mugabe
summoned reporters and representatives from the state-owned television
station, the only channel most Zimbabweans can receive.
States, the European Union and every major human rights group active in
southern Africa had already denounced the poll as badly tainted. But Mugabe
had won the support of South Africa and other important neighbors, and he
appeared utterly at ease as he boasted of his party's triumph. He parried
with apparent relish with foreign journalists who -- except during a
two-week stretch before the elections -- he had harangued and threatened
with jail if they dared enter his country.
"Are you frightened?" he
challenged them, smiling as he emerged onto the front patio of his elegant
residence and sat down at a stately wooden table between two life-size
stuffed lions. He then suggested, with a widening grin, that he shared the
lions' temperament. "They don't bite, these two."
Over the next few
minutes, Mugabe dismissed charges of cheating as "excuses" that were not
"sporting." He warned that any attempt by the opposition to protest the
results would be met with "conflict, serious conflict." He said that the
government had "two or three weapons" it might deploy to calm unrest in a
nation where demonstrations are illegal unless the police have granted
prior, written permission.
Yet evidence that Mugabe's popularity was
waning did not disappear even as the necessities of daily living reasserted
At a fast-food chicken restaurant in downtown Harare, a
25-year-old woman wearing an unusually well-made outfit was eating lunch.
When a foreign journalist sought her opinion of the election results, she
warily agreed to speak and went on to defend the results as free and fair,
echoing Mugabe's contentions. Yet she declined to say how she had
When asked about her profession, the woman identified herself as a
What kind of government worker?
She worked, she explained, as an officer for the Central
Intelligence Organization, Mugabe's feared secret police, whose ranks
swelled this election year.
The journalist then joked that, given her
job, he had a good guess how she had voted.
The woman fixed him with
a gaze suggesting that in Zimbabwe things are not always as they seem, and
said, "No, you don't."
There were few grounds to be optimistic about Zimbabwe's
elections and the grim result has vindicated those who warned that Robert
Mugabe would stop at nothing to ensure that he returned to power. The fact
that the 81-year-old leader of Zanu-PF has secured the necessary two-thirds
majority means he is now likely to rewrite the constitution to bolster his
position in advance of his expected retirement in 2008. Fewer violent
incidents were recorded than in the 2000 and 2002 elections, but abuses were
rife: these included the use of food aid as a weapon against hungry voters,
the manipulation of the electoral register, wide discrepancies between votes
tallied and final results, and restrictions on political gatherings and the
media that weighed heavily on the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
The detention of two British journalists for working without official
permits underlines the lack of the most fundamental freedoms.
worse, in some ways, was the complicity of other African governments who
failed to see the issue other than in terms of land redistribution and the
black versus white struggle trumpeted by the president and his cronies. They
preferred to fixate on Tony Blair - blaming him for the row with the
Commonwealth and the sanctions imposed by the EU - rather than address why a
country that was so promising on independence in 1980 has seen such a sharp
decline into poverty, hunger, mass unemployment and an HIV/aids crisis of
tragic proportions. African election observers stayed in urban areas
while ignoring rural polling stations, but the South African mission
endorsed the vote as "free and fair" - a disturbing footnote to the fact
that Thabo Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy" has been an utter sham - and a
self-defeating one at that - as an imploding Zimbabwe will affect its
neighbours worst. The result means a grave crisis for the MDC, since any
legal challenge would be delayed and protests suppressed.
repercussions of this phoney poll go far beyond Zimbabwe's 12 million
people. Issues of governance and corruption lie at the heart of efforts to
help Africa through the millennium development goals. The international
community must ensure that Mr Mugabe remains a pariah and hope that he is
swiftly replaced by colleagues who will work for a better future. He had the
effrontery to thank Zimbabweans for having "voted correctly". A more
authentic voice appeared on the web-log of the Sokwanele civic action
support group. It said: "Cry beloved Africa for the crimes against humanity
perpetrated on her people."
With an election victory behind him, president now sets sights on
bolstering his clan.
By Joseph Chinembiri in Harare (Africa Reports:
Zimbabwe Elections No 25, 04-Apr-05)
Zimbabwe's president Robert
Mugabe, having guided his ruling ZANU PF party to another parliamentary
victory, will move quickly to consolidate the control of his small Zezuru
ethnic clan over the other clans that make up the larger Shona tribal
Hidden from the view of most of the foreign correspondents who
arrived to report last month's sixth Zimbabwe general election has been a
bitter intra-ZANU PF war between the Zezuru and the bigger Karanga
As Mugabe's confidence grew that the election had been fixed in
ZANU PF's favour, so the intensity grew behind the scenes of the
The daggers of Mugabe and his Zezuru
henchmen were particularly drawn to get Emmerson Mnangagwa, the once
powerful ZANU PF secretary for legal affairs, speaker of parliament and most
influential Karanga leader.
Mnangagwa, long touted until recently as
Mugabe's eventual successor as president, was to be toppled in a carefully
drawn Zezuru plot after the election. But it has proved unnecessary because
Mnangagwa was beaten in his Kwekwe constituency by a candidate of the
"We want Mnangagwa out, totally out," a senior source in
the Zezuru faction told IWPR before polling day. "We are hoping and crossing
our fingers that he loses his Kwekwe seat. If he does, that will be the end
of him. He is not going to be lucky this time."
To outsiders the
great tribal split in Zimbabwe appears to be most visibly that between the
Shonas and the Ndebele - the latter an offshoot of the Zulus of South Africa
who now largely occupy the dry western part of the country. But Zimbabweans
themselves have long known that the critical ethnic and cultural divide -
the one that will in the long run decide the fate of their troubled state -
is between the distinctly different Shona clans.
The Shona, who began
arriving from west central Africa more than a thousand years ago, share a
mutually intelligible language. But ethnically they are not homogenous.
Between the clans there is a diversity of dialects, religious beliefs and
The five principal clans are the Karanga, Zezuru, Manyika, Ndau
and Korekore. Of these, the biggest and most powerful clans are the Karanga
and the Zezuru. The Karanga are the largest clan, accounting for some 35 per
cent of Zimbabwe's 11.5 million citizens. The Zezuru are the second biggest,
and comprise around a quarter of the total population.
provided the bulk of the fighting forces and military leaders who fought the
successful 1972-80 chimurenga (struggle) that secured independence and black
majority rule. Nevertheless, the ZANU movement - since renamed ZANU PF - was
led by a Zezuru intellectual with several degrees, Mugabe, who did not do
Clan differences surfaced with a vengeance in late 2004,
after Mugabe filled every top position in the state with members of his
Zezuru clan and pushed out the Karangas.
One of the last prominent
Karangas in Mugabe's administration, Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge, is
almost certain to be sacked when Mugabe announces his new governing team. He
will be replaced by Tichaona Jokonya, a Zezuru who was formerly a diplomat
but who won a parliamentary seat in the March election.
who know that their men won the chimurenga, are angry but emasculated. How
they will react to Mugabe's consolidation of Zezuru power is at present
difficult to predict.
There are three other Shona clans - the Manyika,
Ndau and Korekore. Of these, the Manyika, from the Eastern Highlands, are
the largest with perhaps 1.8 million of the 11.5 million Zimbabwean
Mugabe intends wooing the Manyika by appointing one of their
number, Oppah Muchinguri, as speaker of parliament in succession to
Mnangagwa. In the murky world of ZANU PF internal politics, Muchinguri holds
a powerful and dangerous card. In the bloody war that preceded Zimbabwe's
independence in 1980, she was personal assistant to the ZANU guerrilla army
chief, General Josiah Tongogara.
Just weeks before independence,
Tongogara died in a mysterious and as yet unexplained car accident in
Mozambique. Muchinguri has never spoken about the circumstances of
Tongogara's death, which is cloaked in mystery, suspicion and rumour. Mugabe
has kept Muchinguri close to him, and her elevation will further secure her
It will also help quell discontent in Manicaland, whose
representatives at the ZANU PF electoral congress last December cast their
votes for Mnangagwa against Mugabe's chosen Zezuru candidate, Joyce Mujuru,
for the newly created state post of second vice president. The Manyika
provincial chairman of ZANU PF, Mike Madiro, was subsequently expelled from
the party along with five other non-Zezuru provincial
Assuming Muchinguri does become speaker of parliament, every
other top post in the land will be held by Zezurus.
vice president, Joseph Msika, is a Zezuru. Defence Minister Sydney
Sekeramayi, who is also Mugabe's spymaster, is a Zezuru, as are the chiefs
of the three main security forces.
Armed Forces chief General Constantine
Chiwenga - whose highly combative wife Jocelyn threatened to eat a white
farmer at the height of the 2000-2004 farm invasions - replaced a veteran
Karanga fighter, General Vitalis Zvinavashe.
The Air Force chief is
Air Marshal Perence Shiri, former commander of the notorious North
Korea-trained Fifth Brigade, which in 1983 swept though Matabeleland
destroying entire Ndebele villages and murdering more than 20,000 civilians.
Shiri, also known as Black Jesus, christened his campaign against the
Ndebele with a Shona word, Gukurahundi, meaning "the early rain that washes
away the chaff before the spring rains".
Mugabe has since rewarded Shiri
- who replaced a Karanga - with three confiscated white farms.
national police chief is Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, a Zezuru who has
publicly declared his personal unwavering support for Mugabe and ZANU
Further enhancing his grip on power, Mugabe has placed control of
the electoral process since 1985 in the hands of his fellow Zezuru - Tobaiwa
Mudede, the all-powerful registrar general. Mudede has been in charge of all
Zimbabwe's electoral bodies and has been widely accused of rigging all
elections for the past 20 years in favour of Mugabe, who has rewarded him
with two former white-owned commercial farms.
The judiciary also is
in the hands of the Zezuru. Godfrey Chidyausiku, a Zezuru, was appointed
chief justice in 2001 after Mugabe toppled his predecessor, Anthony Gubbay,
one of the last white Zimbabweans on the bench. With Chidyausiku's
appointment came the gift of the 895-hectare Estees Park farm, north of
Harare, newly confiscated from its white owner. Chidyausiku has ensured that
all judges conform to Mugabe's decrees and has appointed two Zezuru
relatives as High Court judges to help him.
One of Zimbabwe's most
independent judges, Justice Benjamin Paradza, a Karanga, was forced out of
office. Justice Moses Chinhengo, another Karanga constantly criticised by
Mugabe's ministers for his independent judgments, resigned in disgust and
said, "I hope that in future I will be able to serve Zimbabwe in another
capacity as the call of duty may demand."
The Karanga are concentrated
mainly in the Masvingo and Midlands provinces. Ironically, outgoing Home
Affairs Deputy Minister Rugare Gumbo, a Karanga from Mberengwa, several
hundred kilometres west of Masvingo town, is being groomed as one of the new
Karanga ZANU PF "godfathers".
During one of the periods of internal ZANU
bloodletting in its pre-independence exile years in Mozambique and Zambia,
Gumbo was imprisoned in an underground dungeon from the mid-1970s until in
1980. His political comeback was engineered by the late vice president Simon
Muzenda, a powerful Karanga, who Mugabe always used to cool anti-Zezuru
sentiment among the Karangas.
Joseph Chinembiri is the pseudonym of
an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.
Uproar over Goniwe call to censure observers Hopewell
Deputy Political Editor
OPPOSITION parties have lashed
out at the African National Congress (ANC) chief whip for demanding
disciplinary action against MPs who did not endorse the findings of the
South African parliamentary observer team in Zimbabwe.
Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said ANC chief whip Mbulelo Goniwe
risked embarrassing himself and wasting Parliament's time because the MPs
reflected the mandate and political views of their respective
The furore follows an election that Labour Minister
Membathisi Mdladlana, the head of SA's observer delegation, said reflected
"the free will of the people of Zimbabwe", but which the Southern African
Development Community observer mission said had some
Goniwe urged that Parliament reprimand two of its
observers "for undermining its mandate".
Vincent Gore of the
Independent Democrats (ID) and Roy Jankielsohn of the Democratic Alliance
withdrew from the mission on instructions from party
Holomisa lambasted Goniwe as well as
the two dissenting MPs for causing an "unnecessary political sideshow",
saying if they had a different view about the elections they should have
written a minority report reflecting their
Jankielsohn said there were disagreements
about his leaving the mission two days early and he was told to pay back his
travel allowance for that period by Goniwe.
Before the election,
Gore stated that conditions were unlikely to render the elections free and
The ID said yesterday that it would fight any ANC
attempt to stifle dissenting views on the outcome of the Zimbabwe
Call for Tsvangirai to resign after poll By
Christopher Thompson in Harare 05 April 2005
opposition party is in crisis as the fallout from a heavy, if disputed,
election defeat at the hands of President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF turned to
criticism of its campaign and tactics. Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is expected to face calls to stand
down in favour of its spokesman, Welshman Ncube.
Mr Tsvangirai has
attacked the "rigged result" and called for a rerun but has so far been
unwilling or unable to mount mass popular protests in the wake of a poll
called "phoney" by the European Union and dismissed as flawed by the United
Eric Bloch, a regional political analyst, said there was growing
resentment and "tremendous disillusionment" with the party among MDC
supporters over his handling of the election. It will now need a period of
"extensive restructuring" to survive, he told The Independent. The ruling
Zanu-PF took 78 seats from a possible 120, with the MDC taking 41. That was
17 seats less than in 2000 and the result gives Mr Mugabe the power to
change the constitution and install a successor without first having to call
elections, as presently necessary. It is feared that Mr Mugabe will use his
majority to bring in a senate system of government, which was rejected in a
Mr Tsvangirai has come under fire for failing to
sufficiently capitalise on spiralling inflation, widespread unemployment and
food shortages. His policy of threatening to boycott the elections back in
September 2004, only to do an about turn in February this year, led to far
fewer MDC voters registering than anticipated. This was reflected in the low
turn-out of MDC support, especially in rural areas, where Zanu-PF dominated.
Analysts said the MDC had, in part, been a victim of its own early
Since 2000 Zimbabwe went from bad to worse, principally because
of Mr Mugabe's controversial land-reform programme, which saw the economy
contract by 30 per cent.
Instead of harnessing popular support by
presenting alternative policies, the MDC campaigned on an anti-Zanu-PF
ticket. Consequently the opposition was perceived as a party of protest
rather than a credible alternative. Its open-door approach to international
financial institutions, such as the IMF and World Bank, did not play well
with an electorate that has painful memories of the "structural adjustment"
of the 1990s.
Business calls for dicussion with Mbeki on Zimbabwe
Business leaders have urged Thabo Mbeki, the South African
president, to discuss Zimbabwe's economic crisis with them to seek
solutions. Business Unity South Africa (Busa) says business in particular
has a vital stake in seeing Zimbabwe resolve its acute economic
Busa says the inter-dependence of the two economies was
highlighted in a recent study assessing that the Zimbabwean crisis had cost
the SADeC region R17 billion between 2000 and 2003.
South African embassy in Harare has denied knowledge of the alleged brutal
treatment of 67 citizens held on mercenary charges. Kingsley Sithole, the
embassy spokesperson, says nobody has brought the allegations to their
attention. A Johannesburg newspaper reported yesterday that the men had been
without running water for nearly a month and were covered in
Sithole says the men are visited by embassy staff once a week, and
the latest complaints have not been shared with South African
Annan worried over Zimbabwe poll Monday, April 4, 2005 Posted:
11:22 PM EDT (0322 GMT)
UNITED NATIONS -- The Secretary-General of
the United Nations, Kofi Annan, has said he is concerned over aspects of
last week's parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe.
process has not countered the sense of disadvantage felt by opposition
political parties who consider the conditions were unfair," a spokesman for
Annan said in a statement released last Monday.
Annan believed the
government of Zimbabwe had a responsibility now to build a climate of
confidence that would be essential for national unity and economic recovery
in Zimbabwe, the statement says.
He called on all sides to engage in
constructive dialogue in the period ahead.
opposition on Sunday demanded new parliamentary elections under a different
constitution, saying voting could never be free and fair under the current
President Robert Mugabe's party scored an
overwhelming win in a poll Thursday condemned by all but his closest African
neighbors as severely flawed.
Citing major inconsistencies in the
results, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai maintained Sunday that his
Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC, won 94 of Parliament's 120 elected
seats -- and not the 41 announced by electoral officials. MDC officials did
not specify how they calculated the figure.
Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe
African National Union-Patriotic Front, ZANU-PF, claimed 78 seats. One seat
went to an independent candidate, according to official results. Under
Zimbabwean law, Mugabe gets to appoint another 30 seats, giving his party a
more than two-thirds majority, to fill out the 150-seat
Opposition leaders and independent rights groups said years
of violence, intimidation and repressive laws skewed the election in
Mugabe's favor -- a view echoed by Britain and the United States.
long as we run elections under the same set of conditions, there is no way
that elections will be free and fair," opposition spokesman William Bango
Tsvangirai did not specify how a new constitution would be
drawn up or new elections conducted. David Coltart, the opposition's
spokesman on legal issues, suggested the United Nations might have to step
Huge discrepancies reported The opposition and independent rights
groups have complained of huge discrepancies in the results -- particularly
in the government's rural strongholds. In at least one area, the number of
votes counted exceeded -- by more than 15,000 -- the number of people who
cast ballots, according to figures announced by the electoral
By Sunday, the electoral officials had only released turnout
figures for six of the country's 10 provinces. They refused to explain the
reason for the delay.
The opposition charged the government had
stuffed ballot boxes after turning away its observers at some polling
stations. The ruling ZANU-PF rejected the accusation, saying opposition
leaders had failed to produce evidence of their claims.
accept the verdict of the people," ruling party spokesman William Nhara
He said South African President Thabo Mbeki and Mozambique's
President Armando Guebuza were quietly pressing Zimbabwe to form a
power-sharing government -- a move rejected by Mugabe.
"We don't need
them to govern," Nhara said of the opposition. "This country is not at war,
we are not in crisis, and we had a fairly democratic election."
81-year-old Mugabe rejected criticism of the latest polls Saturday and said
he hopes to stay in power until he is 100.
Neighboring countries largely
supportive of Mugabe's increasingly isolated regime endorsed his party's
Observers from the 14-nation Southern African Development
Community issued a statement congratulating Zimbabwe on "peaceful,
transparent, credible and well managed elections, which reflect the will of
But observers from the African Union were more cautious.
Delegation chief Kwadwo Afari-Gyano said the vote was "technically competent
and transparent." But he stopped short of calling it free and fair, noting
serious problems with the electoral roll.
The country was plunged
into political and economic turmoil when Mugabe's government began seizing
thousands of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to black
Zimbabweans in 2000. Combined with years of drought, the often-violent land
reform program has crippled agriculture -- the country's economic
Zimbabwe's economy has shrunk 50 percent during the past five
years, and the unemployment and poverty rates are at least 70 percent.
Politics The Sum of White Fears:
Zimbabwe by Wayne Wides on Monday 04 April 2005 at 23:49:09
I know, I know! It's the old cliché about how South African whites fear
South Africa may turn into the next Zimbabwe. Yes, there's plenty of counter
evidence to this stance. Witness the already higher rate and expenditure on
land reform locally along with better economic policies and fundamentals
than was ever accomplished in Zimbabwe. And yes, no doubt Zimbabwe's
questionable election played a role in it being re-elevated into the local
But before dismissing it outright as another
example of white resistance or racism, it is worth looking at just what
helps push it along - because therein are also some valid criticisms against
existing policies even as they fuel this negative white outlook and
It first begins with the question of AIDS.
Thabo Mbeki and Manto Tshabalala Msimang may have publicly accepted AIDS'
nature and the need to spend some money to confront it, but the Financial
Mail had a small article recently. One which tried to work out the rationale
of existing ANC elites attitudes and lack of prioritisation of
Granted, many 'verkrampte' English and Afrikaans speaking
whites alike will think it's a good thing to have a high black death rate
from the disease, so as to slow population growth rate. But others realise
that since AIDS will rip the heart out of the 18 to 35 year old, and
economically productive, generation it'll leave many of the next generation
illiterate and impoverished. That will be another lost
That then has become the push start for a bigger
conspiracy theory about the ANC elite that Mbeki is part of. A theory that
claims the ANC's past ridiculous, and currently dubious, approach to
confronting AIDS' spread indicates they have a bigger and more sinister
plan. That's supposed to be about ensuring that their voter base doesn't
become too inclined to think too differently in future to vote them out for
another black political party, by both subtly impoverishing them while
uplifting them by paradoxically promoting dependence on the State. The
recent M&G headlines about treatment of the public primary and secondary
school teaching profession also only fed this perception.
may sound crocked but it also supposedly ties into how Black Economic
Empowerment, or the transfer of white ownership of capital and assets in
companies into black hands, has generally been conducted mostly for the
benefit of a privileged few. BEE in itself is not exactly a very
capitalistic notion, but a large body of whites and capitalists alike accept
its socialism as the price for stability and as penance for the past. But
it's mostly because they recognise an impoverished racial majority would not
take well being told to rely solely on a significant passage of time to see
them naturally achieve the same standards of living.
this is also my own political sin - one of political expediency. Like them I
do see BEE as being a 'quick and dirty' bridging measure, but not a solution
in itself as relying solely on it to achieve parity in the private sector
will inevitably result in failure. It is a temporary panacea and it should
not be promoted as a 'big fix' as many proponents tout it.
the manner in which a large number of BEE deals have always had either ANC
linked or ANC Youth League figures involved has raised questions about why
this ANC linked elite has repeatedly been the major recipient of the wealth.
Only FirstRand's recent BEE deal, with its total lack of the above parties'
names in the list of beneficiaries, has seemed to defy that rule. It is
similarly distressing though that when adopting a policy that is essentially
socialist that it has defied the very essence of socialism - the
distribution of such wealth equally and created a strange bastardised form
instead. Again, only FirstRand's BEE deal did it properly in this
And this is the next component of whites underlying fears
and conspiracy theories - why have such an unequal disbursement of wealth in
BEE when the philosophy behind it is supposed to be one of at least
'semi-equally' uplifting the poor black masses? The answer proposed in
mutters seems to be that is yet another example of the ruling black elite
entrenching their power for the future via the economy itself.
Throw in the ever tightening rules against ownership on gun ownership and
other whites suggest that is the black elite's attempt to consolidate their
power militarily through the State being the only entity to wield weapons.
All of which culminates in the example of Zimbabwe and Mbeki's reaction to
both its decline and Mugabe's rule. The whisper around many a coffee table
when it comes to the subject is that perhaps, just perhaps, Mbeki knows
fully well what is going on is wrong. Yet he takes enjoyment at watching
what is unfolding and it is a warning gesture to South African whites as
That's the final cue to catapult into why Zimbabwe haunts the
white South African psyche: the conclusion drawn from the above that when
the ANC elite seek control across the social, economic and political
spectrums. And when the black masses become unhappy per the scenario, the by
then un-opposable ANC elite will work instead through the systems it
controls and the conditions that exist to turn the unhappy supporters gaze
to local whites as happened in Zimbabwe.
The above is actually
not new, and is in fact a retooling and retelling of original existing fears
that the National Party played on in its day. But it would allay it a lot if
going forward BEE was subject to rules disbursing its wealth to
non-politically connected blacks. Similarly, if AIDS the AIDS orphans
problem were being properly tackled, if South African teachers and doctors
alike weren't being treated with such disrespect by the State, and if the
focus on cutting crime was instead on the criminals rather than law abiding
citizens wielding legal weapons it would actually allay many whites'
But one of the greatest paradoxes would involving Cosatu
breaking away from the ANC. If they became the basis of a political
opposition actually capable of keeping the ANC more honest the socialist
party might actually get quiet approval from the majority of whites as well.
Even if initially they raise the specter of a disfigured economy with their
ANC accused of 'bully-boy' tactics on Zim
Independent Democrats claim decision to deem poll free
and fair was never in doubt April 5, 2005
They didn't say it in quite as many words, but if you
believe the Independent Democrats, ANC chief whip Mbulelo Goniwe and
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe may have something in
In the latest salvo in the row over South Africa's
parliamentary observer mission to Zimbabwe, ID MP Vincent Gore accused
Goniwe of "bully-boy tactics", "a blatant attempt to stifle debate" and a
"feeble attempt to railroad a predetermined decision" through a multiparty
forum in order to obtain some form of legitimacy.
allegations that Mugabe himself has been accused of on many occasions by his
Gore withdrew from the observer mission three days
after arriving in Harare to observe the parliamentary poll along with his
counterparts from other parties.
In a statement yesterday, he
said the ID had withdrawn from the mission after it became clear that the
environment in which Zimbabwean voters found themselves would not allow them
to cast a free and fair ballot.
Moreover, senior South African
government ministers and ANC members had "before, during and after" the
election made it clear that a decision had been made that the poll would be
viewed as free and fair regardless of the circumstances on the
"The Independent Democrats, in clear conscience, could not
be part of a rubber-stamping process and therefore decided to withdraw from
Noting that Goniwe had prior to the mission's
departure said he would not allow a minority report, Gore said: "Evidently
the chief whip has little regard for values such as freedom of expression,
as enshrined in our constitution."
Gore said his party
would not accept the "blatant attempt to stifle debate and dissenting views
on the crisis within Zimbabwe".
Democratic Alliance chief whip
Douglas Gibson said yesterday Goniwe was clearly embarrassed about his
party's dismal performance on the issue of Zimbabwe's election.
"In an obvious attempt to distract attention from the election, described by
Mr Goniwe as free and fair, he has chosen to launch a personal attack on DA
MP Roy Jankielsohn, who was part of South Africa's parliamentary observer
Gibson noted that Goniwe had twice on television accused
Jankielsohn of deserting his post, and said he should refund parliament for
the costs of the trip.
"The truth of the matter is that Roy
Jankielsohn carried out an exemplary role both before and during the
election. When the grossly inadequate programme and arrangements permitted,
for which Mr Goniwe must take some responsibility, Mr Jankielsohn at his own
expense travelled to meetings and sought additional contacts with Zimbabwean
Gibson added that after the election there was no official
programme for the last two days of the visit.
Goniwe to apologise to Jankielsohn, "who performed splendidly throughout the
more than two weeks he spent in Zimbabwe".
"Because of Mr
Jankielsohn's reports, the South African public was far better informed than
would have been the case had one relied upon Mr Goniwe and his party for
information," Gibson said.
Goniwe was not immediately available for
comment. - Group Political Editor.
Editorial: Zimbabwe needs a real election, and
Calls for a new federal election have been
increasingly loud over the last week here in Canada. Some members of the
opposition parties are hoping that apparently damning evidence given at the
federal sponsorship inquiry-a publication ban has prevented the release of
what, exactly, the evidence is-may be the straw that breaks the Liberals'
backs after years of various corruption scandals that have yet to see them
voted out of office.
Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, there are also loud calls
for a new election after the ruling ZANU-PF party earned huge gains in a
parliamentary election that the opposition says was plagued by intimidation
and threats. Canada just might get that new election; Zimbabwe, which is in
far greater need of one, almost certainly will not. If only there were some
way we could give them ours.
There was little or no open violence
during Zimbabwe's election, unlike previous votes in 2000 and 2002, but it
nonetheless seems likely that the process was anything but free and open. A
report by the independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network said that the
election was conducted in "a climate of fear," that "traditional leaders
threatened their subjects with eviction and sometimes unspecified action
should they fail to vote for the ruling party," and that "intimidation
included the politicization of food distribution."
While an observer
group from South Africa-American and European Union observers were not
allowed to enter the country-gave its approval to the elections, Dianne
Kohler, one of its members, disassociated herself from the statement,
saying, "This sham of an election has been one of the most cynical electoral
frauds perpetrated on the international community in electoral history." And
President Robert Mugabe has openly declared that he will have police put a
stop to any demonstrations against the election
Unfortunately, legitimate or not, the results proved
disastrous. ZANU-PF's electoral gains give President Robert Mugabe control
of over two-thirds of Zimbabwe's parliament-enough that he can now
essentially amend the country's constitution at will. He's already signaled
that he intends to do so, in multiple dangerous ways. The 81-year-old
intends to replace the sections of the constitution that would require a
presidential election should he die while in office, preferring that one of
his deputies would automatically succeed him. He also wants to create a
Senate that he would appoint personally (the obvious joke about Canada's
Senate is out of place here), which would make it virtually impossible for
the opposition to pass reforms even if it did eventually gain control of the
parliament's "elected" House.
Zimbabwe is in a terrible situation right
now. Violence, unemployment and food shortages are commonplace, while HIV
and AIDS continue to exacerbate the situation. The country is in desperate
need of change, but if the election results are allowed to stand, that
change could be a very long time in coming.
Will Zimbabwe change Blair's Afro-optimism? April
By Richard Dowden
Zanu-PF's election victory
is a reminder that Africa's politics have their own particular
dynamics, writes Richard Dowden
Suddenly the upbeat "let's
celebrate Africa" mood and British Prime Minister Tony Blair's grand plans
to save the continent have hit reality: African politics.
Zimbabwe, the overwhelming victory of Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF in Thursday's
parliamentary elections is a stark reminder that Africa's politics have
their own particular dynamics.
For Zimbabwe it is the worst
possible result. The next election there will be the presidential one in
2008 and between now and then the country will remain in limbo, its economy
in ruins, its people racked by HIV/Aids and its government shunned by
But the collapse of Zimbabwe is a minor setback to
the Afro-optimism and Blair's commitment to change Africa.
really serious blow is the reaction of the rest of the continent.
The official South African observer mission declared the result "the will of
the people" on Saturday, even while other observers were trying to check out
allegations of massive fraud.
The other African observer missions
will almost certainly say there were "irregularities", but that the election
was basically free and fair, a vast improvement on the 2000
Africa does not support Western policy towards Zimbabwe.
In fact, many African politicians regard it as a "tiff" between Zimbabwe and
Britain caused by British concern for its own "kith and kin" there - the
Even President Ben Mkapa of Tanzania,
hand-picked by Blair to serve on his Africa Commission, says that what has
happened to Zimbabwe is "the price of transformation".
hard to find a single African leader who is willing to criticise
All this bodes badly for
the New Deal for Africa laid out by Blair's Commission for Africa under
which rich countries level the playing field for trade, raise massive funds
for development and write off Africa's debts, while, in return, African
rulers commit themselves to good government and monitoring each other's
The African Union's peer review mechanism, made up of
Africa's great and good, is supposed to police the continent's governments
on everything from human rights to economic management. This deal is in
British government policy has hit a brick wall. Well
might the Foreign Office ponder how this small agricultural country in
southern Africa has produced only two leaders in 50 years, Ian Smith and
Robert Mugabe, who have both given the finger to the rest of the
The diplomats must now work out how Mugabe turned
near-defeat five years ago - 61 seats to 58 - into a 78-41 victory on
Thursday, while the economy had declined by about 50%.
There are factors: three million of Zimbabwe's 11.8 million people have fled
the country. The voters roll and the results were almost certainly fixed.
But that cannot explain it all.
Many voted for Mugabe simply
because he is president - a common political view in rural Africa. Others
have a tribal, one-of-us mentality.
Some may have also been afraid,
even though this election was far less violent than its predecessor. Many
may have feared that if they did not vote for Zanu-PF, they would not get
But the opinion polls showed that outside Zimbabwe's
towns, Mugabe's popularity had gone up in the past year.
Singing the liberation struggle battle hymns against whites and Britain, and
handing out seized land and food aid, worked.
As Jack Straw and
others pick over the wreckage of British policy, they will be forced to
admit ruefully that it contributed to Mugabe's success.
Trying to browbeat Mugabe with threats and condemnation
played straight into his hands as he turned every insult back on his
accusers, supercharged with anti-colonial rhetoric.
support for the opposition candidate and regime change also boosted Mugabe
by making Morgan Tsvangirai look like a British puppet.
Anglo-American invasion of Iraq was another gift proving that Britain still
acted in an imperial way.
Britain can take some heart from Mugabe's
own difficulties created by this very success.
He has secured
the two-thirds majority in parliament needed to change the constitution so,
in theory, he can install the successor of his choice on his own
In practice, his government is increasingly drawn from his
own family and members of his Zezuru people, alienating other Shona clans
such as the powerful Karanga.
Britain has been forced to learn
that the only way it can influence Zimbabwe's future is through other
African allies, particularly South Africa.
As in the days of
rebel Rhodesia, South Africa holds the key. But Blair and President Thabo
Mbeki fell out over Zimbabwe at the Commonwealth summit in
Since then, Mbeki has shown little sign of changing his mind
and announced before the election that he was confident it would comply with
If Britain is going to go the diplomatic
route, it will be a long walk.
In the meantime, the British
sherpas carrying Africa to the top of the agenda at the G8 summit at
Gleneagles in July will find their route littered with prickly obstacles
marked "made in Zimbabwe". - The Independent
Dowden is Director of the Royal African Society