Since independence, the country's 75,000 whites, who form less than one per cent of its 12 million population, have been expected to steer clear of politics in a tacit quid pro quo for being allowed to stay. But that appears to have changed.
President Robert Mugabe says the MDC is a front organisation for British settlers and the MDC's victorious whites have aroused his anger. Michael Auret, a veteran human rights activist who took Harare Central with 80 per cent of the vote, has been branded "a British agent intent on undermining the state".
The president also attacked David Coltart, who won Bulawayo South with 86 per cent support. Both men helped to document the atrocities committed by Mr Mugabe's notorious Fifth Brigade in Matabeleland during the Eighties when at least 5,000 people were killed.
Trudy Stevenson, a human rights activist, won Harare North with 79 per cent of the vote and Roy Bennett, a farmer whose property was invaded by squatters, took the rural seat of Chimanimani with 57 per cent. With the possible exception of Harare Central, all these constituencies have an overwhelmingly black electorate.
Mr Coltart said: "It's far better than I had expected. We seem to have swept the board in Bulawayo." The scale of his victory was similar to that of the city's seven black MDC candidates.
Race relations in Zimbabwe have always been more relaxed than in South Africa and this and the fact that whites provide the financial and logistical support for the MDC ensured that race did not mar the white candidates' campaigns. The black township of Nketa, one of Bulawayo's poorest areas, is part of Mr Coltart's constituency and unhesitatingly backed the white candidate.
I look forward to working with the new parliament as together we grapple with the pressing challenges of improving the livelihood of our people and developing our nation
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won 57 seats against Zanu-PF's 62 in the elections over the weekend.
The combined opposition has never held more than three seats before.
Mr Mugabe, 76, appoints a further 30 members to the 150-seat parliament,
giving Zanu-PF a comfortable majority, but the MDC will provide his first
credible opposition since independence 20 years ago.
He said Zimbabwe needed unity more than ever before "across race, tribe, ethnicity, across regions, across class."
During the election campaign, Mr Mugabe branded the opposition as puppets of
the country's small, but economically powerful, white community and stooges of
Britain, the former colonial power.
UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has called on Mr Mugabe to make a fresh start, and work with the opposition.
Mr Cook said the strong result for the opposition showed a real wish for change.
The voting on Saturday and Sunday came after months of violence that left more than 30 people dead, which European Union observers said was largely carried out by government supporters.
Mr Mugabe, referring to critics among the observer force, said: "Some... much
in the mould of the Victorian civilising mission, thought they had come to
pacify, give virtue, and thus redeem us, the natives.
Our next parliament is certainly destined to prove very lively, but hopefully lively in a positive way
The widow of the murdered Zimbabwean farmer Martin Olds is an asylum seeker. Three months ago her home was a beautiful cattle ranch in Matabeleland. Her husband was a pillar of the community, she had a job and her children lived free and adventurous lives.
Today she is in a foreign country, dependent on the generosity of friends and the charity of people she does not know. She faces months of uncertainty, during which she cannot work and must survive on food vouchers, as she waits to hear whether she will be granted political asylum.
In April her husband was shot dead as he defended their home against an assault by an organised group of 120 Zanu-PF activists. Mrs Olds, 43, believes his death was a "state-sponsored assassination". The day before the murder, Mr Olds had sent his wife, their son Angus, 13, and daughter Martine, 17, to stay with relatives in Bulawayo because he feared for their lives. Mrs Olds has not returned to the farm since.
For five weeks Mrs Olds and her children lived in fear. They were followed, their telephone was tapped and visitors had their car tyres slashed. Friends and family urged Mrs Olds, a third generation Zimbabwean, to leave the country. "When I saw the fear in my children, especially when we were being watched and followed, when they pleaded with me to go somewhere safe, I knew we had to leave."
On her last weekend in Zimbabwe Mrs Olds scattered her husband's ashes on the Zambezi, where he loved to fish. A few days later she fled. Arriving at Heathrow, she was subjected to brusque questioning by immigration officials. She was afraid to tell the truth about why she was leaving or to ask for asylum.
She said: "My biggest fear was that I would arrive, apply for asylum and they would send me off to one of these detention centres we had heard of. Or that they would wait until things in Zimbabwe appeared to have calmed down and then they would send us back. I dread being sent back."
Luckily for Mrs Olds, Tim and Sue Gibbs, who left Matabeleland 16 years ago, had been contacted by the Commercial Farmers' Union and were waiting for her. They agreed to sponsor Mrs Olds and she was allowed to pass through immigration. She and her children are now living in the Cotswolds.
Mrs Olds, who has submitted an application for asylum, does not want to disclose exactly where she is living. "Mugabe is still in power. I am still afraid. His Central Intelligence Organisation have been over and paid visits to Britain. I don't know if they would still be interested in me, but I wouldn't like to take that chance."
With that fear always in her mind, Mrs Olds, who has been disabled since contracting polio as a baby, is trying to build a new life for her family.
But in spite of his party's loss of scores of parliamentary seats, ministers said that he would forge ahead quickly with his controversial plans to seize hundreds of white-owned farms without compensation.
Mr Mugabe hinted as much in his radio address to the nation, when he said the wholesale redistribution of land would be the major task facing the new parliament. He said: "There is a great expectation in our country around the land that is coming to the people in a big way."
The outgoing justice minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa, said that resettlement of black peasant farmers would begin "immediately" after the expiry of next week's deadline for farmers to appeal against seizure of 804 mainly white commercial farms.
This could destroy tentative peace feelers put out by Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, who said: "Britain is ready to look for a fresh start and a new relationship with the government [of Zimbabwe] if it pursues policies of reform and national reconciliation." The ruling Zanu-PF party won 62 seats, compared with 57 for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and one for the small Zanu-Ndonga party.
But the ruling party retains control because of Mr Mugabe's power to appoint a further 30 MPs loyal to him. The casualties of the opposition's success, concentrated in large cities and Matabeleland, include three cabinet ministers: Dumiso Dabangwa, the home affairs minister, Mr Mnangagwa and Simon Moyo, the acting energy minister.
The MDC has secured a "blocking third" in parliament. It can prevent Mr Mugabe from passing constitutional changes and allows the opposition to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president. An uneasy calm has descended on much of Zimbabwe. But many white farmers, worried about possible retribution for backing the opposition, have either left their homes or sent their wives and children to safety.
Leaders of the war veterans' association, which has led the often violent invasion of more than 1,000 farms in the past four months, said they would not withdraw from occupied properties. Agripah Gava, the association's national director: "Occupations have nothing to do with elections. We need land. It's our land; it's not British land."
Mr Mnangagwa, one of Mr Mugabe's closest allies, said that the seizure of the designated farms was only the first step in a five-year programme designed to redistribute five million hectares. He said: "If we miss it now, we will never have the chance later."
Farmers hope that his comments are a hangover of election rhetoric. They said that even under the government's revised acquisition procedures, it could take months of legal procedures before the first farms are taken. Jerry Grant, a spokesman for the Commercial Farmers Union, said: "Now that we have the election out of the way, we can work with the government on this, as we have always done."
The government has issued contradictory signals about the squatters. Mr Mnangagwa said the government would not evict them and would not stop them from taking more land. But Jonathan Moyo, Zanu-PF's campaign manager, said: "The successful demonstrations should come to an end."
The elections, during which more than 30 people have been killed, were denounced by European observers as failing abysmally to meet proper free and fair standards.
But he acknowledged the palpable disappointment of his supporters, who had been convinced by the party's prediction that it was on the road to winning a crushing election victory. The ruling Zanu-PF party was quick to mock Mr Tsvangirai for failing to win his constituency of Buhera North. "If you lose a village, how can you lead a country?" asked Jonathan Moyo, Zanu-PF's campaign manager.
A sober Mr Tsvangirai explained that the change he had promised - "Change" was his party's election slogan - would not happen immediately; it would be a slower process. He said: "Destiny sometimes requires that we follow a more circuitous road to achieve greater glory. Other leaders have said there is no easy road to freedom."
The way ahead for the MDC, despite its moral victory, is now uncertain. Mr Tsvangirai needs to maintain the enthusiasm and momentum of the disparate opposition coalition that was formed at short notice last September to fight the parliamentary elections.
The MDC needs to demonstrate that it can mount a credible and combative opposition in parliament to rein in Mr Mugabe's presidential powers. Mr Tsvangari said: "Anybody who believes that the future of this country lies with Robert Mugabe must have his head examined. Zanu-PF must realise that this is the end of Robert Mugabe and the sooner they start planning his retirement the better."
But the opposition leader all but admitted that Mr Mugabe would be around at least until his term expires in two years' time. Mr Tsvangirai said his main task was "to focus on the presidential elections". He said that had it not been for the violence and blatant unfairness of the electoral contest, the MDC could have won a majority large enough to overcome Mr Mugabe's power to appoint 30 additional MPs.
But he seemed determined to avoid energy-sapping recriminations. Selected results would be contested, said Mr Tsvangirai, but he accepted that "the people of Zimbabwe have spoken". He said the government that would be formed by Zanu-PF was legitimate.
Mr Tsvangirai cast himself as a national leader, giving a speech that might be expected of a magnanimous victor rather than the leader of a party that feels it has been robbed of victory. It was the opposition that was offering the olive branch, rather than the government.
Mr Tsvangirai expressed concern for the greater good of the country, speaking of co-operation with the government, constructive and "balanced" debate in parliament and a readiness to seek areas of consensus with Mr Mugabe. He said: "Our primary aim is to restore confidence in the country. This is a time for partnership. We have to seek to rebuild this nation and move forward."
In just two years Mr Tsvangirai, 48, a former factory worker and miner, has emerged from the obscure corridors of the trade union movement into the national limelight. He has visibly grown in confidence and stature. He has been carried so far by a wave of popular protest. Now he needs to show he has the political skills and staying power to face a long contest with one of Africa's most cunning leaders.
Zimbabwe's election has returned a parliament in which President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF retains a majority - albeit a much reduced one.
It is now up to Mr Mugabe to decide whether to hold onto the still considerable amount of power which the election result bestows on him and his party - or to engender good will by making some concessions to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
Significantly, the MDC has deprived Mr Mugabe of the two-thirds parliamentary majority which he needs to push constitutional change through parliament.
The president used this to empower himself to seize white-owned farms - and also to give himself the right to appoint 20 unelected members of parliament.
Hence Mr Mugabe's party will not have a free rein in parliament - if Zanu-PF
wants to introduce major legislative changes, it will have to strike a deal with
the MDC first.
The alternative for the president would be to use temporary decrees to
override the opposition - but this would do further damage to Zimbabwe's already
shaky reputation abroad.
Cabinet may stay
However, on minor legislative matters which require only a simple majority in
parliament, Mr Mugabe can still do more or less what he likes.
And Zanu-PF spokesman Jonathan Moyo has emphasised that the appointment of a
government remains the president's prerogative, whatever the outcome of the
Mr Mugabe is under no obligation to change the composition of his existing
Even those ministers who have lost their parliamentary seats can stay in
office if President Mugabe includes them among the 20 MPs he is entitled to
But far more profound change could follow the presidential election in 2002.
Early indications are that the MDC polled more votes than Zanu-PF, but these
translated into a slightly smaller number of seats because of the greater
weighting given to rural constituencies.
This suggests that Mr Tsvangirai would be in a strong position to take the
If he succeeds, and exercises the presidential prerogative to appoint 20 MPs,
the MDC would then enjoy a parliamentary advantage.
Some commentators have suggested, though, that Mr Mugabe might have another
plan in the making.
However heavy-handed his actions may appear to outsiders, the president
remains an astute politician - and he knows that it would be better to be
remembered as a statesman who forged reconciliation than as someone who staked
his reputation on a party whose fortunes were already in decline.
The election result also confirms Mr Mugabe's extreme unpopularity in the
The MDC's links with trade unions make it capable of mobilising large-scale
protest on the doorstep of parliament in Harare - all the more reason why the
president might consider it expedient to offer a hand of friendship to his
This could give Mr Mugabe a smoother ride during his last two years in office
- and even improve the electoral chances of whomever he decides to name as his
But Mr Tsvangirai has already pre-empted any talk of a deal by saying he will
not accept a position in a power-sharing government - apparently aware of the
political dangers of collaborating with a president who will, in any event, have
the final say over how the country is run in the next two years.
Hence Mr Mugabe's party will not have a free rein in parliament - if Zanu-PF wants to introduce major legislative changes, it will have to strike a deal with the MDC first.
The alternative for the president would be to use temporary decrees to override the opposition - but this would do further damage to Zimbabwe's already shaky reputation abroad.
Cabinet may stay
However, on minor legislative matters which require only a simple majority in parliament, Mr Mugabe can still do more or less what he likes.
And Zanu-PF spokesman Jonathan Moyo has emphasised that the appointment of a government remains the president's prerogative, whatever the outcome of the parliamentary vote.
Mr Mugabe is under no obligation to change the composition of his existing cabinet.
Even those ministers who have lost their parliamentary seats can stay in office if President Mugabe includes them among the 20 MPs he is entitled to appoint.
But far more profound change could follow the presidential election in 2002.
Early indications are that the MDC polled more votes than Zanu-PF, but these translated into a slightly smaller number of seats because of the greater weighting given to rural constituencies.
This suggests that Mr Tsvangirai would be in a strong position to take the presidency.
If he succeeds, and exercises the presidential prerogative to appoint 20 MPs, the MDC would then enjoy a parliamentary advantage.
Some commentators have suggested, though, that Mr Mugabe might have another plan in the making.
However heavy-handed his actions may appear to outsiders, the president remains an astute politician - and he knows that it would be better to be remembered as a statesman who forged reconciliation than as someone who staked his reputation on a party whose fortunes were already in decline.
The election result also confirms Mr Mugabe's extreme unpopularity in the cities.
The MDC's links with trade unions make it capable of mobilising large-scale protest on the doorstep of parliament in Harare - all the more reason why the president might consider it expedient to offer a hand of friendship to his opponents.
This could give Mr Mugabe a smoother ride during his last two years in office - and even improve the electoral chances of whomever he decides to name as his preferred heir.
But Mr Tsvangirai has already pre-empted any talk of a deal by saying he will not accept a position in a power-sharing government - apparently aware of the political dangers of collaborating with a president who will, in any event, have the final say over how the country is run in the next two years.
However no fewer than seven ministers lost their seats, including the Justice Minister, Emmerson Munangagwa, considered a possible heir apparent to President Mugabe.
The controversial war veterans' leader, Chenjerai Hunzvi, was elected to parliament - and so was one of his critics, the white farmer Roy Bennett.
Margaret Dongo, one of only three opposition MPs in the outgoing parliament, lost her seat - but to another opposition candidate.
Ministers out, Hunzvi in
Mr Tsvangirai missed a seat by 2,534 votes. He was standing Buhera North, a rural constituency in the Zanu-PF heartland - a decision he says he does not regret.
The most prominent government casualty, Mr Munangagwa, was crushed by a margin of 2-1 in a rural district by an opponent who had gone into hiding after being attacked by ruling party militants.
The other contender to succeed Mr Mugabe, Sidney Sekeremayi, held his seat by
just 63 votes.
Tourism Minister Simon Kaya-Moyo and Sikhanyiso Ndhlovu, the Deputy Minister for Higher Education, were also among the government casualties.
But government survivors include Kumbirai Kangai, who is currently suspended
from his post, as lands and agriculture minister, on corruption charges.
He can take comfort from the fact that Mr Hunzvi, leader of the war veterans who spearheaded the invasion of more than 1,500 white-owned commercial farms with government support, won a seat for the first time by a comfortable margin in a farming area.
But one of Mr Hunzvi's targets, Roy Bennett, a white farmer and opposition
candidate temporarily forced off his property after it was overrun by ruling
party militants, won a strong victory in his Chimanimani district near the
Margaret Dongo of the Zimbabwe Union of Democrats lost her seat in Harare to the MDC, securing only 951 votes to the MDC candidate's 12,430.
But another of the three opposition MPs in the outgoing parliament retained his seat, securing parliamentary representation for a third political party, Zanu-Ndonga, led by the Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole.
Zanu-Ndgonga's vice-president, Wilson Khumbula, fought off a strong challenge from a young Zanu-PF businessman.
In Bulawayo, the MDC's secretary-general, Welshman Ncube, trounced his Zanu-PF opponent by 21,100 votes to 2,864.
Mugabe's real enemies are within Zanu PF
The Daily News - 6/26/00 10:26:36 AM (GMT +2)
Barring a few incidents of disorder, Zimbabwe's fourth parliamentary election appears to have been conducted in an atmosphere of peace and order.
The Associated Press - Jun 28 2000 2:07AM ET
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - Leaders of the main opposition party planned Wednesday to map out how to challenge President Robert Mugabe's slender victory in parliamentary elections marked by a bitter campaign of violence and intimidation.
Opposition candidates, promising reform of the country's disastrous economic performance, made sweeping gains in poll results announced Tuesday, increasing their seats from three to 58 in the 150-seat Parliament.
But they fell short of the majority needed to force the autocratic president and his party to adopt economic reforms.
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, said his party will gather its leaders Wednesday in Harare ``to plan the way forward.''
After posing the biggest challenge to the ruling party's two decades of virtually unrivaled rule, the MDC's newly elected lawmakers will lead a campaign for change and accountability in a government still to be headed by Mugabe, Tsvangirai said.
One opposition seat went to a small opposition group in its tiny stronghold of Chiredzi in southeastern Zimbabwe.
``We have the mandate for democratic change,'' said Tsvangirai, who lost his race for a parliamentary seat in his home district of Buhera in rural southern Zimbabwe.
Tsvangirai said he will lead the opposition from outside Parliament and will prepare to challenge Mugabe in presidential elections in 2002.
Mugabe, vowing Tuesday to honor what he described as the binding results of the elections held Saturday and Sunday, said the new Parliament to be sworn in next month ``is certainly destined to be very lively.''
``I look forward to working with the new Parliament as together we grapple with the pressing challenges of improving the livelihoods of our people,'' he said.
Voting came after months of political violence and intimidation that left more than 30 people dead. European Union monitors said the violence, which they called state-sponsored terror, meant the elections were flawed and the campaign was not free and fair.
Voters still turned out in large numbers - more than double the turnout of the last parliamentary elections.
The results were a massive blow to Mugabe's party, which was impervious to criticism for most of its rule.
The opposition for the first time won enough seats to prevent the ruling party achieving a two-thirds majority necessary to change the constitution and entrench Mugabe's powers.
Its lawmakers are also able to force the ruling party to fully disclose policies that until now were not questioned or publicly aired.
Tsvangirai said among these were the costly deployment of 11,000 Zimbabwe troops to back President Laurent Kabilia in the distant Congo civil war. For nearly two years, costs and casualties have been shrouded in secrecy.
``We will be pushing for an urgent withdrawal'' from the Congo, he said.
Zimbabwe had one of Africa's strongest economies at independence in 1980. Today, it is wracked with high unemployment and soaring inflation, crippling fuel and hard currency shortages.
Commercial farming, the most important sector of the economy, has been badly hurt by the illegal takeover of hundreds of white-owned farms by armed black squatters.
Zimbabwe Opposition Ponders Mugabe Peace Offer
Reuters - Jun 27 2000 9:15PM ET
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's opposition, fresh from its stunning electoral debut, planned a major strategy meeting on Wednesday on how to deal with President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party which it has vowed to crush.
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which came from nowhere to win almost half the vote in last weekend's parliamentary elections, was due to debate its new role in the country's political future.
Top of the agenda for the MDC executive and its 57 new MPs when they meet in the capital Harare will be an olive branch offered by Mugabe, who said in a broadcast on Tuesday night that he welcomed the opposition's arrival.
``I look forward to working with the new parliament as together we grapple with the pressing challenges of improving the livelihood of our people and developing our nation,'' Mugabe said on state radio.
There was no immediate indication how the MDC would react to Mugabe's offer, but its leader Morgan Tsvangirai appeared in no mood to cooperate, saying he would challenge Mugabe for the presidency in 2002.
``Anyone who believes that the future destiny of this country lies with Robert Mugabe must have his head examined,'' Tsvangirai said.
Mugabe had vilified the opposition in the election campaign, calling them stooges of Britain and Zimbabwe's white minority population against whom he led a guerilla war that culminated in independence in 1980.
But ZANU-PF suffered a severe reverse in the elections that saw the MDC win 57 seats against the ruling party's 62. The opposition has never before held more than three parliamentary seats since independence.
ZANU-PF will gain a much bigger majority in the new parliament once Mugabe hand picks 30 more members of the 150-seat house as permitted under the constitution.
But the MDC's strong showing denies ZANU-PF the two-thirds majority in parliament which in the past has allowed Mugabe to amend the constitution, as he did weeks before the election to allow the compulsory seizure of over 800 white-owned farms.
The MDC's showing was an extraordinary performance for an opposition party in a country that ZANU-PF had ruled virtually unchallenged for 20 years.
``Without the subversion we would have easily won this election,'' Tsvangirai said in a reference to the pre-election violence. ``There is no doubt in my mind.''
International monitors said four months of political violence and the forcible occupation of white-owned farms before the vote prevented the poll from being free and fair.
The result was a slap in the face for Mugabe, but he seemed composed during his radio address.
The 76-year-old former guerrilla leader's power had never previously been challenged since he became prime minister at independence in 1980 after a bloody bush war against Rhodesia's white minority leaders.
``There is a great expectation in our country...around our continual search for greater unity and stability within our nation, unity across race, tribe and ethnicity, across regions, across class, the unity of our people which more than ever before has become so valuable,'' Mugabe told the nation.
Chenjerai Hunzvi, a supporter of Mugabe and leader of the invasions of white-owned farms, won a seat in parliament but called for an overhaul of ZANU-PF.
``Clearly there is a revolution taking place. The party has to rejuvenate,'' he said, sounding a new note of reconciliation and calling for an end to violence.
Even Jonathan Moyo, the ZANU-PF campaign manager, appeared chastened by the result.
``I think what we've seen is a protest vote. We need to do some deep soul-searching and understand the motivation and fires behind,'' he said.
Before the poll he predicted that the MDC would not get more than 10 seats.
Tsvangirai ironically failed to win a tough contest for a seat in southern Zimbabwe. But no less than seven government ministers lost their seats, including Emmerson Munangagwa, considered one of two heirs apparent to Mugabe.