|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Joseph Winter |
BBC News Online
Robert Mugabe is pulling out all the stops to ensure that he wins the presidential elections on 9-10 March.
Less than a week before the poll, he issued a decree which effectively denies the vote to hundreds of thousands of young people without jobs, who are invariably opposition supporters.
There's no way that Mugabe will lose the election. And even if he does lose the vote, he won't give up power
Only after intense international pressure were any foreign election observers allowed.
And Britons and nationals of several other countries were banned, prompting the European Union to withdraw the team it already had in place.
More importantly, only 300 people from a list of 12,500 were accredited as local observers because most were deemed to work for anti-government organisations.
The authorities say that 22,000 civil servants will ensure everything is above board but there are fears that these may be susceptible to government pressure.
There are reports that many may be members of the security forces - Mr Mugabe's former comrades-in-arms.
In January, a new security law was passed which makes it a crime to criticise the president and yet another bill was finally passed by parliament - in spite of fierce opposition - which will stop independent journalists from writing stories which do not meet with official approval.
Following a spate of rulings against the government, several Mugabe sympathisers were named as judges, in the hope that legal challenges to such laws, or possibly future election appeals, by the opposition will be doomed to failure.
Click here to find out more about the controversial bills
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change has been vilified as a "terrorist organisation" and officials warn of a US-style "war against terror".
The campaign of intimidation against MDC activists, especially in rural areas, is continuing - as is the confiscation of land belonging to white farmers who are accused of supporting the opposition.
Human rights groups say that more than 30 people have been killed this year - mostly opposition supporters.
Newly-trained militias are mounting roadblocks throughout the country. Anyone without a Zanu-PF membership card is told to purchase one at an inflated price or is beaten up.
A combination of the self-styled "war veterans" and the police has prevented many opposition rallies from going ahead.
The 78-year-old Mr Mugabe and his advisors are laying, one-by-one, the foundation stones of a very high wall around State House.
Some Zimbabweans who want change, buoyed by the MDC's strong showing in the June 2000 parliamentary elections, are losing hope.
"There's no way that Mugabe will lose the election," says one long-suffering Harare resident. "And even if he does lose the vote, he won't give up power."
And Mr Mugabe's military chiefs have given dark hints that they would not accept an opposition victory.
"Any change designed to reverse the gains of this revolution will not be supported," warned defence forces commander General Vitalis Zvinavashe.
Along with all of Zimbabwe's security chiefs, he said that the army would only support a president who had fought in the 1970s war of independence from white minority rule - ie not the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mr Tsvangirai was taken to court for warning that if Mr Mugabe does not step down, he would be removed from power by force.
The courts ruled that the treason charges were unconstitutional but just weeks before the election, Mr Tsvangirai was again charged with the same offence - this time after a mysterious video was found in which he allegedly discusses assassinating the president.
Despite everything, Mr Tsvangirai is contesting the poll and says he is confident of victory, due to Zimbabwe's economic meltdown.
A senior Zanu-PF official, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has said that Mr Mugabe will respect the verdict of the electorate.
But after taking such elaborate steps to win, it would come as a surprise to many, were Mr Mugabe to calmly acknowledge defeat and wish his successor well in the event that the vote did not go his way.