PRESIDENT MUGABE called for national unity last night, shrugging off bitter dissent within his own party and legal challenges from the opposition as he celebrated his electoral Houdini act.
"The results are out and these do bind us all, loser and winner alike," he told a sober and stunned nation, after narrowly clinging to power in a political landscape now radically changed.
But in a hint that he would press ahead with plans to distribute white-owned land to Africans, he said: "There are localised problems people want addressed in immediate environment of habitation; around the land, which is still to come to our people in a big way; around the economy, which is going through a bad patch and for which lasting answers have to be found."
Mr Mugabe was speaking after his Zanu (PF) ruling party beat off a powerful electoral challenge from Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, but the invincibility the President had enjoyed for the 20 years since independence was damaged. The MDC and another minor party, which had together never held more than three seats, won 58 of the 120 contested parliamentary seats, just five fewer than Zanu (PF). The MDC, formed nine months ago, seized the cities, the southwest and northeast.
A disappointed Mr Tsvangirai, who saw predictions of triumph dashed, said: "Anyone who believes that the future destiny of this country lies with Robert Mugabe must have his head examined."
Mr Tsvangirai, who plans to stand against Mr Mugabe in the 2002 presidential elections, was set to mount legal challenges in more than 20 seats citing intimidation and ballot-rigging.
Mr Mugabe's failure to deliver an overwhelming victory also prompted members of his own party to urge change. Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi, leader of the invasions of white-owned farms, called for an overhaul from top to bottom. Jonathan Moyo, the party's campaign manager, who had predicted that the MDC would win no more than ten seats, acknowledged: "What we've seen is a protest vote. We need to do some deep soul-searching and understand the motivation and fires behind."
In sharp contrast to the rhetoric of hate used during the campaign, Mr Mugabe spoke in his five-minute broadcast of the "peace that characterised our elections". Congratulating Zimbabweans for their calm, he said: "Victory and defeat are quick to reconcile, quick to connect and cohabit in the same national space for greater peace and togetherness."
Thursday, June 29 3:04 AM SGT HARARE, June 28 (AFP) -
Zimbabwe's weekend election returned a parliament in which President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF retained its majority, but brought new, younger deputies likely to keep the older ones -- notorius for sleeping during debates, awake.
"There is not going to be any sleeping, no pillows in parliament. It will be a serious place for people who are eloquent to make laws," said commentator Chenjerai Hove.
A profile of the new house shows a cross section of people: from former student leaders and war veterans to flashy businessmen and more white MPs.
The new parliament has also brought in some of the youngest deputies ever.
The youngest is 24-year-old Tafadzwa Musekiwa, from the opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which garnered 57 out of 120 contested seats.
Musekiwa is of five former student activists who fought running battles with Mugabe's riot police during anti-govermment street demonstrations.
The youngest ZANU-PF deputy is Saviour "Tyson" Kasukuwere, 29, a businessman.
Big opposition wins coupled with an influx of young parliamentarians are expected to rejuvenate what had predominantly turned into a rubber-stamping parliament over the years.
Phillip Chiyangwa, a flamboyant businessman who has championed the cause of black economic empowerment and the fight against anti-corruption, will make his debut.
Among oustanding new MPs is be the war veterans' supremo, Chenjerai Hitler Hunzvi. Hunnzvi led the fierce invasion of more than 1,600 white-ownd farms, and forced President Mugabe two years ago to award former freedom fighters hefty gratuities and pensions after staging embarrassing demonstrations against the head of state.
There are also four elected white MPs in the new parliament - all belonging to the opposition.
Hunzvi, who previously stated that he had problems working with whites, said after winning his parliamentary seat that "we are one people: black or white."
Among the whites elected are farmer Roy Bennett and lawyers David Coltart and Mike Auret, who headed the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.
Last year Mugabe attacked white human rights activists Auret and Coltart saying "they have pushed our sense of racial tolerance to the limit." The president also warned of "very stern measures against them."
Mugabe said this after rights lawyers and judges protested against the military detention of two journalists who ran a story about a foiled coup plot.
"The likes of Clive Wilson and Clive Murphy (journalists), complemented by the Aurets and Coltarts of our society, are bent on ruining the national unity and loyalty of our people and their institutions.
"Let me state this and quite emphatically; they have pushed our sense of racial tolerance to the limit. Let them be warned therefore, that unless their insidious acts of sabotage immediately cease, my government will be compelled to take very stern measures against them and those who have elected to be their puppets," Mugabe said.
The head of state has meanwhile labelled MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai a puppet of the whites.
Unless Mugabe names a significant number of women from among 30 seats that he is constitutionally allowed to appoint, the new 150-seat house will be almost entirely male, with just 11 female MPs compared to 21 in the previous parliament.
Among the new women elected is outspoken women's rights activist Priscilla Misihairabwi, who was arrested earlier this year for allegedly breaching electoral laws. She campaigned for a 'No" vote in a government-backed constitution on the referendum day.
President Mugabe's sister, Sabina returned to parliament after she retained her seat in rural Zvimba, Mugabe's home village.
Also returning to parliament are Mugabe's vice president, Simon Muzenda who won his rural seat in southern Gutu, along with ministers in charge of defence, finance, state security, information, foreign affairs and land.
Some of them have sat in parliament since 1980. The majority of them retained their rural constituencies.
ZANU-PF were victorious in mainly rural areas while the MDC swept all the urban centres.
Thursday, June 29 12:43 AM SGT HARARE, June 28 (AFP) -
Zimbabwe's precarious economy will not benefit from the new political winds following the historic weekend elections unless President Robert Mugabe forms a national unity government with the new opposition, analysts said Wednesday.
Euphoria following the announcement that the newly formed opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had powered its way into parliament, winning over half of all contested seats, is giving way to the sober recognition that Mugabe will continue to preside over an economy in shambles.
He hand-picks his cabinet, as ZANU-PF party chairman John Nkomo made it clear Sunday.
"We still have a serious problem," said political analyst John Makumbe.
"There have been no real changes in the managers of the country," he told AFP. "That's not going to please investors."
Foreign investment has shrunk in the face of Mugabe's uncertain policy agenda and the political instability and violence that preceded the elections.
A severe foreign currency shortage is intensifying, inflation and unemployment are both at around 60 percent, and the Standard Chartered Bank has forecast that the econommy will shrink by at least five percent this year.
The crisis has been exacerbated by heavy government spending including on huge pay-outs to war veterans and on military support for the government of Democratic Republic of Congo, where 11,000 Zimbabwean troops are deployed.
Donors have suspended aid, and tourism has come to a virtual dead halt.
The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) took 62 of the 120 contested seats, which with the 30 seats Mugabe appoints gives it an easy majority.
Nevertheless it faces in the MDC its first credible opposition in the 20 years since independence from Britain, and, analysts say, would be well advised to include the MDC in government.
"I think Mugabe should have a government of national unity to save the country, to save the economy, to save the people from starving. He can't just ignore them," independent political commentator Chenjerai Hove told AFP.
Tsvangirai however said Wednesday he would not join a coalition government, despite hints in his election campaign to the contrary.
There had been wide hopes that the elections would lead to a badly needed economic turnaround for Zimbabwe.
Instead it appears the margins by which the opposition won will have little impact on policy-making.
The international community, which has withheld aid from Zimbabwe for nearly two years, is unlikely to change its mind barring a complete overhaul of government, most say.
"I don't think the IMF (International Monetary Fund) will come in in any distant future, and change of parliament is significant but change of presidency is what is needed," said Admore Kambudzi, a political scientist from the University of Zimbabwe.
"If our economy is going to improve we need both external and domestic investment, and we must have sufficient and complete (political) change which means a new president. That's what the investors are waiting for," Kambudzi said.
"If the president accommodated the opposition in real terms, there probably would be a willingness among foreign lenders and donors to support us," said Bill Saidi, the deputy editor of the privately owned Daily News.
It would be a "very grave mistake" to leave the MDC out of any government, Saidi added.
Most agree however that Mugabe is likely to do just that.
Party chairman Nkomo said Sunday: "Mugabe will have the right to appoint whoever he wishes to appoint into government."
"Change of parliament does not matter because the policy-making body remains the government. You will have an open parliament, but a closed cabinet," said rights lawyer and political commentator Brian Kagoro.
"President Mugabe is the problem facing this country," said another analyst, Masipula Sithole, adding: "The future is bleak with him."
Mugabe, who throughout the often violent run-up to the elections had vowed to crush the opposition, was for his part conciliatory late Tuesday, calling for unity in a broadcast address.
Asked in a BBC interview if he would consider working with the MDC if it had gained the majority in parliament, Mugabe said: "If the impossibility happen, I would regard it as an impossibility, and impossibilities and probalities should never be entertained, should they?
"I can never conceive that they have the capacity to win, in dreams, perphaps yes."
In a weekend vote, the opposition fell short of a majority, but won enough to challenge the president.
Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Nine months ago, the Movement for Democratic Change didn't exist.
Ever since its humble debut as a coalition of labor unions and civil rights organizations last fall, the MDC has been politically - and physically - bullied. It's been denied access to state-run media and blocked by violence from campaigning.
But the MDC emerged from this weekend's parliamentary elections as an effective grass roots opposition party. And a powerful counterbalance to Robert Mugabe's 20 years in power.
President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party had their wind knocked out when election results trickled in early on June 27. The upstart MDC clinched 57 parliamentary seats, only five shy of the 62 secured by the ZANU-PF, in power since the 1980 independence from Great Britain. Last week, there were a mere three opposition members in Parliament.
Supporters of Mr. Mugabe's autocratic regime are nervous. Even the hardy war veterans he has encouraged to invade some 1,600 white-owned farms over the past four months admitted this was a stunning wake-up call.
"Clearly there is a revolution taking place," said Chenjerai Hunzvi, leader of the war veterans organization, after the results were announced.
Under Zimbabwe's system, Mugabe appoints 30 members of Parliament, which gives him a comfortable working majority but not enough votes to amend the Constitution.
And the opposition is fully aware of this growing leverage.
"Anyone who believes the destiny of this country rests on Robert Mugabe must have his head examined," said MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who campaigned extensively across the country but lost his own rural seat after spending only two days campaigning there.
Several top Cabinet ministers were defeated by MDC, including the nation's hard-line justice minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was beaten 2-to-1 by an MDC candidate who went into hiding in early May after his house was attacked and ZANU-PF supporters attempted to burn him alive.
Mugabe built his campaign around the often violent seizure of white-owned farm land, bashing the British and whites and promising to restore government price controls and seize white owned mines and factories. While he was not defeated, the opposition demonstrated that it is a major force on the political landscape.
And hard-liners like Mr. Hunzvi, the veteran, who had previously rejected offers to talk with the MDC to stem political violence, are sounding conciliatory.
"The (ruling) party has to rejuvenate. To meet the challenge we need an overhaul from grass roots to top. The government must be a government of Zimbabweans," said Hunzvi, who won a ZANU-PF seat south of Harare. "We must be prepared to talk to the MDC or any other party to move the country forward."
Observers postulate that if the opposition had had some access to radio and television and had been allowed to campaign without violence, it could quite plausibly have won a strong majority in Parliament.
In some constituencies the violence and intimidation now seems to have backfired, contributing to a perception that the party is intolerant and concerned for its own power rather than the plight of the poor. However, by blocking any opposition campaigning, the ruling party succeeded in holding on to deep rural areas where voters have no access to newspapers and little exposure to the opposition.
The MDC won all seats in the nation's cities, which have been hardest hit by hyper-inflation, layoffs and fuel shortages, won several rural constituencies and captured 13 of 15 seats in the southern Matabeleland provinces, where Mugabe's security forces in the mid-1980s killed an estimated 20,000 people and unleashed a reign of terror to suppress dissident minority Ndebele people.
Mugabe's radical, racist rhetoric appealed to many Zimbabweans, but many voters rejected it. Four of five white MDC candidates won seats in districts that are overwhelmingly black, winning by margins of 3-to-1.
"It is an indication that black Zimbabweans will look at the motivations of white people and ask [if they are] people of good faith seeking the same goals they are," says David Coltart, the MDC's legal secretary and one of the four winning white candidates.
Analysts and politicians say this election has permanently changed Zimbabwe's political landscape and portends a bigger battle for the 2002 presidential race.
"The message to Mugabe to retire has already been there. It is no longer business as usual," says Mike Mataure, a ZANU-PF MP from Chimanimani. "The situation now requires a totally new way of doing business."
Political science professor John Makumbe concurs: "This election has done severe damage to the [ZANU-PF] party."
According to Aeneas Chigwedere, the ZANU-PF candidate in the Hwedza constituency, southeast of Harare, his party's top leadership is very divided. "We have one problem in ZANU-PF: the war veterans will want Mugabe back," he says, regardless of public sentiment. "[The veterans] have received a number of benefits, and ZANU-PF is surviving now because of [them]. But we don't seem to have an obvious replacement [for Mugabe], and that will create serious problems."
There has also been strong resentment of "interference" by European Union and other Western election observers in the country this past week to ensure fair elections. "They are biased.... The EU's real mission is actually to help those trying to overthrow President Mugabe and our party," says Didymus Mutasa, a close aide to Mugabe.
Meanwhile, opposition supporters in Bulawayo, where the MDC won all seats up for grabs, are certain the iron-fisted rule of Mugabe is dead. On Tuesday, they paraded through the streets carrying a coffin with an effigy of Mugabe.
of Zimbabwe's great poets Solomon Mutswairo wrote:
When the battle is
Updated 24 June 2000