Mar 19th 2008 | MASVINGO
From The Economist print edition
AS YOU drive through the rolling green countryside of Gutu district, past the occasional outcrop of pink boulders leaning weirdly against each other, a gaggle of youths walking by the roadside give a cheeky two-handed wave, fingers and thumbs all splayed open. The youngsters' black-and-red T-shirts bear the smiling face of Morgan Tsvangirai, the rugged 56-year-old trade-unionist who has led the main opposition to President Robert Mugabe for nine years and who, for his pains, was savagely beaten by policemen a year ago. Several of the youngsters also hold up a red card, an insolent party symbol borrowed from football and meaning the president must be sent off.
It is impossible to say whether the youths are just brazen jokers enjoying a tilt against their elders and benefiting from the handout of a free shirt. But in a district that has been ardently loyal to Mr Mugabe ever since the guerrilla war against Ian Smith in the 1970s, it is astonishing that they are wearing these shirts here at all. A year ago they would have been beaten up, perhaps killed, for cocking such a snook.
“The coercive apparatus of ZANU-PF [the ruling party] is finally crumbling,” says Nelson Chamisa, a senior lieutenant of Mr Tsvangirai. Several of Mr Mugabe's main instruments of control, especially in the countryside—patronage, food and force—have started to dwindle. Three years ago, when the president won the last general election, albeit on flagrantly unequal terms, he could count on local party chiefs and worthies and on his own army and police to deliver basic services and to thump those who talked out of turn.
Now, even in a place like Gutu, the supply of such things as cooking oil, petrol, maize meal (the country's staple), sugar and salt is lacking. Schools and clinics are in sombre straits. Buses are scarce. The explanation that it is the fault of “the British imperialists” and their sanctions (actually aimed mainly at the assets and travel of 130-odd senior officials) has worn thin. And the rural people know that much of the land for which they fought their war of liberation from white supremacy has gone not to them but to Mr Mugabe's already prosperous colleagues.
Moreover, the army, police and much-feared Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) may no longer be united behind the 84-year-old president. His party has fractured, thanks to the intervention six weeks ago, as a challenger from within, of Simba Makoni, a former finance minister whom many of Zimbabwe's black and shrinking white professional middle class see as the decent and competent face of ZANU-PF.
So a bitter triangular contest has broken out. Almost every day the sole national daily, the Zimbabwe Herald, which slavishly defers to Mr Mugabe, carries headlined protestations of loyalty from such people as Solomon Mujuru, a former head of the army who is also one of Zimbabwe's richest men and happens to be married to one of its two vice-presidents. Such articles only alert Zimbabweans to the whispers and mutterings of dissent within ZANU-PF that have become ever louder since Mr Makoni threw his cap in the ring. Mr Mujuru and assorted other party bigwigs are reckoned to be biding their time, waiting to see which way the wind will blow in the next few weeks.
In a country where opposition has been reviled and harassed, it is hard to foretell the outcome of the “harmonised elections”—at four different levels of office, from the presidency and parliament down to local councils—on March 29th. But it is pretty clear that the president's popularity, such as it is, has been waning, even among his old guard. Even if he somehow hangs on, and lots of seasoned watchers think he will, the mantra in Harare is that “something big has changed”, thanks to Mr Makoni's challenge. Many of the ruling party's vultures clearly sense it is time to eye fresh pickings.
The latest opinion poll by the Mass Public Opinion Institute, run by a professor at the University of Zimbabwe, gives Mr Tsvangirai 28% of the vote, Mr Mugabe 20% and Mr Makoni 9%. Another 24% refuse to reveal a preference, suggesting still wider support for the opposition, and 8% are undecided. Such figures should be treated cautiously, but it seems more than possible that Mr Mugabe will fail to win the 50%-plus needed to clinch victory in the first round, even if he rigs as ruthlessly as he has done before. A run-off would have to be held within three weeks.
Mr Makoni, who declared his candidacy only on February 5th, may have joined the fray too late. His rallies have been less well attended than Mr Tsvangirai's, though both men have faced the expected array of bureaucratic obstacles and intimidation put in their way by the police, who are still expected to do the president's bidding, though they seem less zealous—so far—than before.
The able and pleasant Mr Makoni, who earned a chemistry doctorate in Britain, is well financed by businessmen and professionals in Zimbabwe, South Africa and even Britain. But he has suffered from having to start from scratch, whereas Mr Tsvangirai, in nearly a decade of struggle, has woven a sinewy web of intrepid supporters, which now seems to stretch into the rural areas, Mr Mugabe's well-controlled heartlands. Moreover, while Mr Mugabe has portrayed Mr Makoni as a traitor—and, by the by, a prostitute and a frog—the newcomer's rivals in the opposition sneer at him as a johnny-come-lately who served Mr Mugabe as a loyal ZANU-PF apparatchik off and on for 28 years, most recently as finance minister bewteen 2000 and 2002. Until his sacking last month, he remained deputy head of finance in the party's ruling Politburo.
Indeed, Mr Makoni, 58 next week, has been careful not to attack ZANU-PF wholesale, hoping to turn the more acceptable face of it to his cause. In particular, he is said to have sympathetic contacts in the army, police and CIO who may tell him how to stymie some of Mr Mugabe's old rigging tricks, because they were the ones who executed them before. It is possible that Mr Makoni, who has no party, will yet build up a head of electoral steam, but so far he has emerged as a spoiler against Mr Mugabe, opening up cracks of disloyalty in an increasing twitchy ruling party, yet without gaining mass support himself.
Mr Makoni's refusal so far either to attack his old party outright or to put much flesh on his broadly sensible but vague policy ideas has made him look amiable but wishy-washy. His allies are a mix of old left-wing ideologues, displaced rivals of Mr Mugabe, disenchanted ZANU-PF people who want a younger man at the helm, and businessmen, many of whom would not dismantle the present system of crony capitalism but want to make it more efficient, notably by ending the global isolation wrought by Mr Mugabe.
The recent defection of Arthur Mutambara, leader of the lighter wing of Mr Tsvangirai's fractured Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has yet to bring much extra to Mr Makoni's show. Though Mr Mutambara is also able, his own support seems to have fizzled. His close colleague, Welshman Ncube, a member of the minority Ndebele group (who, with the related Kalanga, make up about a fifth of Zimbabweans), may pull in some votes from the utterly disgruntled west.A little help from the ship-jumpers
Mr Makoni was chuffed, too, when he was joined by Dumiso Dabengwa, who ran the intelligence service for the guerrilla movement drawn mainly from the Ndebele during the anti-colonial war but who, despite four years' imprisonment by Mr Mugabe, later served for eight years as his minister for home affairs.
Mr Mugabe anyway looks set to be trounced in the towns, where the MDC always wins easily, though the contest between Mr Makoni and Mr Tsvangirai could split the opposition vote to the benefit of the old man. Indeed, many Zimbabweans, always prone to conspiracy theories, think Mr Makoni was brought into the game by Mr Mugabe to do just that.
At best, Mr Makoni may perform respectably in Matabeleland, in the west, where Mr Mugabe is still hated for bloodily suppressing dissent there in the early 1980s; among his own Manyika in the east; and in the smarter suburbs of Harare. But his support looks thin elsewhere. The Karanga, who inhabit the Gutu area among others, may be the swing electoral group among the dominant Shona; more of the Zezuru stick to their own Mr Mugabe.
In any event, there is not the slightest chance of the election being fair. The media are hugely stacked against the opposition, which is rarely given even a cursorily polite airing by the all-state-run radio and television services. The election commission is chaired by a Mugabe man, a former general. The registrar-general, another loyalist, presides over an electoral roll that is notoriously unreliable and incomplete, and contains thousands of dead people whose votes are expected to go to the president. Unless voting is extended beyond one day, many town-dwellers may be unable to cast their ballots, because there are too few urban polling stations. The diaspora, some 2m-3m mostly disenchanted Zimbabweans, is barred from voting.
Another obstacle is the recent gerrymandering of constituencies, which gives rural areas, where Mr Mugabe is strongest, a large disproportion of seats in the 210-member parliament. To make matters worse, the opposition will find it hard to recruit agents to man all the 8,212 polling-stations, where, in past elections, the ruling party has been able to stuff unwatched ballot boxes with impunity when opposition officials have been absent or chased away. By tradition, fiddling the figures can also be carried out at the centre, and this time Mr Mugabe has banned any observers who might cry foul.
Then there is the politicisation of food distribution, which goes on apace in a country where a third of the 11m-12m people who have not fled abroad might starve without handouts, according to the UN's World Food Programme. As Mr Mugabe smells the possibility of defeat, he has raised the pay of civil servants and soldiers in the past few weeks, and is endlessly pictured sending consignments of new tractors and buses into the rural areas.
“It all happens before election day,” says Noel Kututwa, head of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a lobby accused by Mr Mugabe's friends of being a foreign stooge. “The votes have been counted already,” is often heard. Indeed, the armed forces have already cast their votes, with most soldiers believing their ballots have been seen by their superiors.
And yet, despite this stack of advantages, Mr Mugabe is plainly on the defensive. He must fear that Zimbabwe is in a state of such economic and political ruin that he needs more of a head-start than the 20% or so of votes provided by the standard forms of rigging. For Zimbabweans, however, there are two worries. One is that Mr Mugabe steals the election. The other is that he just fails to, especially if that means the president is forced into a run-off. In that case, he may resort to outright violence. “The violence has so far been contained, more or less,” says a former ZANU-PF minister who has joined Mr Makoni, “but if the election goes to two rounds it'll go right up.”
Moreover, the heads of the army, the prison service and the police have all stated flatly that they will not let Mr Tsvangirai win. That is one reason why many people, especially among the professional middle class, have switched their opposition allegiance to Mr Makoni. So Mr Makoni has called for a government of national unity, bringing together both wings of the MDC and the supposedly acceptable bits of ZANU-PF, along with his own team. Mr Mugabe would be allowed to go into a dignified retirement, and not be sent to The Hague for crimes against humanity.
Mr Tsvangirai, more of a bruiser and showman, sounds less accommodating. He would form a “national government”, drawing people but not necessarily parties into a coalition. He has refused to discuss deals before the election. Yet he would probably have to do so, if Mr Mugabe and his army and police let him get beyond the first round.
This is all uncertain territory. Almost no one disputes Mr Tsvangirai's courage and resilience, but many doubt whether he is astute enough to lead the country and heal its wounds. “How can you expect to unify the country when you can't unify your party?” was a telling question at one of his meetings. For his MDC has been riven with factional feuding. He is an erratic tactician with authoritarian tendencies. In his negotiations with Mr Mugabe's representatives under the aegis of the Southern African Development Community, he has been serially outwitted. In his early days he made the big mistake of letting himself look as if he were being bankrolled and even manipulated by Zimbabwe's aggrieved white farmers.
Even so, Mr Tsvangirai might win most first-round votes in a free election. But the election will not be free; a Mugabe victory should not be ruled out. Conceivably, he might then agree to step down sooner rather than later, perhaps handing over to his heir-apparent, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who, among other things, ran the security services for nine years. Alternatively, he might bring the Makoni faction back into his government. Such a course may be advocated by South Africa. But it would be unlikely to extricate the country from its current mess.
For Zimbabwe is a wreck. Inflation is running at more than 100,000% a year. Virtually no one changes money at the official rate of Z$30,000 to $1. On the black market, you pay around Z$250,000 (at least, you did last week), making virtually everyone, especially the middle class, technically crooks. At independence in 1980, a Zimbabwe dollar was slightly more valuable than its American namesake.
Some economists think that, if prices double every month, a government can still collect revenue. But if prices double every week, you hit a point where people start to flee the currency altogether. Zimbabwe is heading in the abandon-ship direction, perhaps only a few months away.
The country's white population, once the economy's motor, has shrunk from around 200,000 at independence in 1980 to fewer than 50,000 today. Some estimates go as low as 20,000. Of the 6,800 commercial farms in the hands of some 4,500 white farmers at independence, about 300 are still owned and actively farmed by them, with a few hundred more still in white hands but left unproductive while their ownership is under threat.
Particularly wretched is the plight of black workers on the former white-run farms. Including seasonal workers and their dependants, they account for at least 1m people, perhaps 2m. According to a government-linked institute, only 10-12% became landowners themselves when land was redistributed. Academic studies say the real figure is less than 2%. Many of the rest have been thrown into destitution.
For mile after mile, expropriated farmland seems empty of cattle or infested with weeds. Zimbabwe's production of tobacco, once the second-biggest in the world, has slumped from 237m kilograms in 2000 to 70m last year. Official gold output, probably the country's biggest foreign-currency earner, has dived from 27m tonnes in 1999 to seven last year.
An “indigenisation and economic empowerment” act was signed by Mr Mugabe earlier this month, with potentially grave consequences for white entrepreneurs. It entitles a minister to transfer the majority share of any company—a garage, shop, factory and, more significantly, a mine or a bank—owned by non-indigenous Zimbabweans to “any person who before 1980 was disadvantaged by unfair discrimination on the grounds of his or her race, and any descendant of such person.” That means no whites. This bluntly racist bill may cause even more whites to flee, as their assets are liable to be grabbed as rewards for ZANU-PF loyalists.
The health service, once resilient, is falling apart. Especially in the rural areas, people are dying fast. HIV or AIDS has hit nearly a fifth of the population. Life expectancy has dived from the highest in sub-Saharan Africa to 36 years, one of the lowest. Surgical operations in the biggest hospital have had to be stopped because basic equipment is defunct and drugs have run out. Three-quarters of the doctors have emigrated, along with more than half of nurses, physiotherapists and social workers. Patients seeking operations and treatment must buy medicine themselves.
Virtually anything essential is scarce—unless you have foreign currency, but not even that always does the trick. Bread is often hard to find. The electricity in Harare is frequently off: the main transformers are bust. Water in some of the poorer townships has not flowed for two years. Petrol can be bought only with coupons; petrol stations are often empty. The only things that seem to multiply, apart from the noughts on the bank-notes, are pot-holes in what used to be Africa's smoothest roads north of the Limpopo river.
It is a puzzle how people manage to survive at all; many do so through barter, begging, chicanery or, most especially, remittances from the diaspora. Some 80% of Zimbabweans have no formal job. Many have reverted to the subsistence economy.Send for a saviour
On the surface, people in Harare still go about their daily lives in an air of normality. The streets bustle. Zimbabweans remain remarkably friendly. Many are fatalistic but some manage to stay hopeful that their country will recover. Yet they know that what was once one of Africa's most thriving economies is virtually ruined.
A mere reshuffling of the ZANU-PF pack, even with Mr Mugabe graciously retiring, seems unlikely to put the country on the road to recovery. Its economic, political and moral muckage has gone too far for that. Zimbabweans find it hard to see a way out. Messrs Tsvangirai and Makoni have managed to show that the spirit of courage and decency is still alive. But whether that is enough to turn round a country heading for dereliction any time soon—or whether they will be allowed to try doing so—is still doubtful.
Mar 19th 2008
From The Economist print edition
FOR the first time in 28 years of increasingly reckless and vile rule, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe looks as if he may go (see article). But only may. He has rigged elections before the one on March 29th. He has ruined his country. He has the ruthless, delusional fanaticism of a clever man who is frightened of being toppled—and perhaps put on trial for his copious human-rights abuses. But this time there is at least a chance he may quit. And if he does, the West, along with Zimbabwe's comparatively very rich big neighbour, South Africa, and its increasingly prosperous small one, diamond-wealthy Botswana, should get together, with institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, to pile in as generously as possible with advice, cash and, of course, some minimal conditions.
When inflation is running at more than 100,000% a year, even the cleverest economists are hard put to know what to do. In Zimbabwe, the black-market exchange rate is nearly ten times the official one. Much of the economy is now informal. Some 80% of the people are no longer in officially counted jobs. To an extent, the economy is already becoming dollarised. Any workable reform would start with a fiscal stabilisation, halt the furious printing of money, let a new currency float down to the unofficial rate, then probably peg it to a (relatively) solid currency, perhaps the South African rand. There would be much pain. At the least, generous outsiders would need to provide a welfare safety-net.
But first things first. Mr Mugabe is still there. If he merely stepped aside to let one of his fellow villains in his corrupt and vicious ZANU-PF party take over, leaving the apparatus of misrule untouched, the West would be foolish to rush in with misplaced kindness. Above all, it would be unfair on the wretched Zimbabweans, for the cash would go not to them but to the fat cats and thugs who have plundered the country.
No one knows how the coming elections will play out. But there is a fair chance that the presidential contest will go to a second round, which should boost a challenger's chances, were he to run off against the incumbent. Cracks have opened in Mr Mugabe's party since he has been tackled by an insider, Simba Makoni, a decent technocrat whom many in the West and in South Africa would love to see running a revamped Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, he looks unlikely to win, even if Mr Mugabe were to give him a fair chance of doing so. The opposition party that carries more brawn and more voters may still be the one led by Morgan Tsvangirai, a courageous but less erudite trade unionist whose skull Mr Mugabe's policemen broke only a year ago. Mr Mugabe would be even more loth to let Mr Tsvangirai win—and could well stop him with violence or prison.
The ideal would be a government of national unity, with Messrs Tsvangirai and Makoni at the head, perhaps with a clutch of Mr Mugabe's cannier friends switching sides with some of their machinery of government. Mr Makoni says he would afford Mr Mugabe a peaceful retirement.
Mr Mugabe's intemperate expulsion of the white farmers was what sent his economy into a tailspin, for Zimbabwe's manufacturing, now decayed, was largely linked to their output. No Zimbabwean government can reverse that action, disgraceful though it was; the land issue is far too sensitive. But any sensible new administration must first carry out a land audit, give decent compensation, then arrange for leaseholds, management contracts, surety of tenure and individual title deeds across the land, including the communal areas. Most white farmers, though sorely needed, will not return.Bobbing away
As the 84-year-old Mr Mugabe enters his last lap, Western governments, particularly those of Britain and America, would be wise to hold back from overtly backing either of his challengers. But that does not mean outsiders should be completely silent. For too long the West has left the diplomacy to South Africa's now lame-duck president, Thabo Mbeki. It should now make it clear that once a new Zimbabwean government shows a willingness to respect property, human rights and the rule of law, the West and its friends in southern Africa will be more generous than ever. There is no time to lose; Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans are dying. It is a tragedy that has gone on for far too long.
Marian L. Tupy
Tuesday, 18th March 2008
Marian L. Tupy wishes that Zimbabwe would follow the lead of Botswana, a
market democracy. For now, it swelters under the oppressive rule of a tyrant
who is wrecking his country.
'Nice shoes,' said a young Zimbabwean looking wistfully at my $40 Nike
tennis shoes that I wore when I encountered him sitting on the floor of a
completely barren Bata shoe store in the town of Victoria Falls. It was last
November and I was in Zimbabwe having crossed the border from Botswana
earlier that day.
The once charming town that used to teem with travellers from around the
globe was more derelict and much emptier than I remembered it from my visit
in the early 1990s. About half of the shops were either empty or closed
altogether. The main shopping centre looked more like a warehouse and
offered a few strategically placed products in an attempt to mask the
widespread shortages of consumer goods. A small number of backpackers,
mostly bemused young students from the former British dominions, wandered
around the town centre in futile search of edible food. They were clearly
delighted to see another white face - cracking jokes and drawing comfort
from our shared 'hardships'.
Few of the locals would talk to me and those who did would look over their
shoulders - worried that someone might be listening. Zimbabwe suffers from
150,000 per cent inflation, unemployment of more than 80 per cent, collapse
of basic public services and the lowest average life expectancy on earth.
What was once a breadbasket of Africa is now an economic disaster zone. What
was once a reasonably free society is now a police state where armed gangs
of government supporters harass, beat and kill opposition members with utter
As I reflected on what I saw, it struck me how much Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe
resembled what I read about the Congo in the final years of rule by another
corrupt and megalomaniac dictator - Mobutu Sese Seko. Like Mobutu, Mugabe
came to power promising a new dawn for a nation that had just emerged from
under a white minority rule. Like Mobutu, Mugabe will leave or be forced out
of power amid political repression and economic collapse.
In her 2000 book In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz, the British author Michela
Wrong provides a vivid description of the last years of Mobutu Sese Seko's
rule. Mobutu started as a popular leader who brought stability to the
war-scarred Congo in 1965. But his dictatorial streak and megalomania soon
got the better of him. He renamed the country Zaire, and instituted a cult
of personality and indigenisation policies that saw the country empty of the
remnants of her educated white middle-class.
Despite being a self-styled anti-communist, Mobutu undertook 'the most
comprehensive nationalisation seen in Africa'. In 1974 farms, plantations
and commercial enterprises were taken from their 'foreign' owners -
ostensibly to be distributed among the black Zairians. Instead, 'thousands
of businesses... were divided between top [government] officials'. Most of
the new proprietors had no idea how to run farms and businesses and quickly
ran them into the ground.
Most foreign investors fled and those who stayed behind turned their
attention to making quick profits, which they then repatriated overseas.
Prior to 1974 the Zairian economy grew at 7 per cent per year. Following
nationalisation, the country started on a downward spiral that continues to
this day. In 2006, the Congo was the third poorest country in sub-Saharan
Africa. Congolese incomes were 23 times lower than those of Seychellois -
Africa's richest people.
The effects of nationalisation extended beyond the immediate economic
crisis. 'The belief that something could be had for nothing... had been
endorsed at the very highest level of society. Mobutu and his ministers had
plundered mercilessly, and no one had ever been punished.' Zaire became a
kleptocracy and Mobutu became the kleptocrat-in-chief.
The extent of his loot became legendary. In addition to a number of
residences in the capital and presidential villas in every major town,
Mobutu had a massive palace complex built in his native town of Gbadolite.
There he had the airstrip enlarged so as to accommodate the landings of the
Concorde planes that he occasionally rented from Air France. Mobutu bought
villas on the French Riviera, in the Swiss Alps, Portugal's Algarve, and no
less than nine buildings, including a turreted château, in the upmarket part
As the economic situation in Zaire deteriorated, unhappiness with Mobutu's
rule increased. To remain in power, Mobutu devised a vast system of
patronage that incorporated an expanding number of his critics in the
government. The size of government exploded. Between 1965 and 1990, Zaire
saw 51 prime ministers and their governments come and go - each averaging 40
ministers and deputy ministers. Each government member, of course, was
expected to use his time in office to provide for himself, his family and a
few generations of his descendants. By the 1990s Zaire had more than 600,000
civil servants 'notionally responsible for tasks the World Bank estimated
could be carried out by a mere 50,000'.
As the government's financial resources dwindled, the looting became more
desperate. Gécamines, the gigantic state-owned mining company responsible
for most of Zaire's foreign currency earnings from the extraction and sale
of copper, cobalt, uranium and zinc, was looted so thoroughly that its
copper production fell from over 440,848 tons in 1989 to 27,507 tons in
2001. In the final act of desperation, Mobutu ordered the Bank of Zaire to
print money. By 1994, inflation hit 23,773 per cent.
By 6 May 1997, when Mobutu took off in a Russian cargo plane that flew him
to exile in Rabat, Morocco, he was so universally despised by his fellow
countrymen that some members of his own presidential guard opened fire with
'bullets ripping into. [the plane's] bodywork'.
It was 1980 and Zimbabwe had just gained independence from Britain. White
rule had ended and so did a civil war that cost some 30,000 lives. The
first-ever multiracial election gave Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National
Union (ZANU) a parliamentary majority, but Zimbabwe had an independent
judicial system and a constitution that protected minority rights. Moreover,
Zimbabwe had one of the largest and most sophisticated economies on the
continent. The country seemed destined to become an African success story.
Things turned out very differently. In 1982, Mugabe turned on his once
comrade-in-arms, Joshua Nkomo of the Zimbabwe Africa Peoples Union (ZAPU).
He unleashed his special forces trained by the North Koreans on Nkomo's
supporters in the Matabeleland, killing some 20,000 in the process. In 1987,
ZAPU's remnants were swallowed by ZANU and Zimbabwe became a de facto
Mugabe remained firmly in charge until 1998, when he ordered his army to
invade, of all places, the Congo. Following Mobutu's flight, the Congo
descended into chaos. Her new strongman, Laurent Kabila, was faced with
internal rebellion that drew military responses from Angola, Chad, Namibia
and Zimbabwe on Kabila's side, and Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda on the rebels'
side. The conflict - Africa's largest ever - cost Zimbabwe US$15 million per
month and tied up one third of Mugabe's forces.
In return for his help, Kabila gave Mugabe and his generals mining
concessions in the southern part of the Congo. The top brass of the
Zimbabwean military made small fortunes and developed a taste for riches
that Mugabe would later find so difficult to satisfy. Back home, however,
the war was deeply unpopular and the Zimbabwean population threw its support
behind the newly founded Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by a
former trade union boss named Morgan Tsvangirai. It was Tsvangirai's MDC
that defeated Mugabe's plans to change the constitution and extend his rule
in a 1999 referendum. Furious at his defeat, Mugabe turned on the white
commercial farmers, whom he suspected of giving financial backing to the
Over the next few years almost all of Zimbabwe's 4,000 white-owned farms
were invaded by state-organised gangs. Some of the farmers who resisted the
land seizures were murdered, while others fled abroad. Mugabe claimed that
the land would be given to the landless masses. In fact, much of the best
land was given to his cronies who proceeded to enrich themselves with such
gusto that Mugabe had to plead with them 'to choose one [farm] and give up
As in Zaire, the new owners showed little aptitude for farming. The
agricultural sector soon collapsed and with it most of Zimbabwe's tax
revenue and foreign currency reserves. To meet its obligations to domestic
and foreign creditors, the government ordered the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
to print more money, sparking the first hyper-inflation of the 21st century.
Like Mobutu, Mugabe's answer to the falling economy was to increase state
patronage and the intensity of the looting. Mugabe, the
Savile-Row-suit-wearing dictator, and Grace, his shop-till-you-drop wife,
reportedly paid US$12 million for a 25-bedroom house in a posh suburb of
Harare. His government now consists of 45 ministers and deputy ministers,
each entitled to a variety of perks, including SUVs and formerly white-owned
To buy their loyalty, the government has provided influential police
officers and army lieutenants with hundreds of imported vehicles. Mugabe has
recently signed into law an indigenisation programme that foresees majority
stakes in all non-black owned private enterprises in Zimbabwe confiscated
and given to black Zimbabweans. In reality, they are certain to be
distributed among the government officials, and army and police personnel,
without whose support Mugabe's regime cannot survive.
Mugabe has also declared his intention to confiscate 25 per cent of shares
in all non-state mining companies. This locust-like feeding frenzy that sees
Mugabe and his cronies moving from one area of the economy to the next
leaving nothing but destruction behind suggests that the ruling elite
understands that the end of Mugabism is near. Members of the government
continue to pay lip service to economic 'reconstruction', but their main
preoccupation appears to be last-minute self-enrichment.
As I returned to Botswana, I felt relieved to leave behind a police state
that makes it impossible for people to talk freely with one another; a state
where taking a photograph of an empty grocery store can land you in prison.
I was saddened by the sight of yet another African country that has
collapsed into poverty, but I was also hopeful for before us lay Botswana -
a market democracy, where life seems safe and increasingly prosperous.
On 29 March, Zimbabwe will hold a presidential election. A public opinion
poll conducted by the University of Zimbabwe last week found that Mugabe had
the support of only 28 per cent of Zimbabweans. Support for his main rival,
Morgan Tsvangirai, stood at 42 per cent, while Simba Makoni, the former
finance minister, was yet to break into double digits. Unfortunately, the
election will likely be rigged in the incumbent's favour. But, at 84, Mugabe
is an old man. He may yet die in office or be forced out.
The Zimbabwean diaspora is abuzz with rumours of flight plans and
comfortable exile in Malaysia or Namibia. There is talk of Far Eastern bank
accounts stuffed with treasure. Either way, Mugabe will be gone one day.
When that happens, the new leader of Zimbabwe should look across the border
with Botswana. He will see that freedom and rising prosperity are possible -
even in Africa.
Marian L. Tupy Is A Policy Analyst With The Center For Global Liberty And
Prosperity At The Cato Institute In Washington.
Monsters and Critics
Mar 19, 2008, 5:03 GMT
Morgenster Mission, Zimbabwe - The villagers assembled under a large tree
near this Dutch Reformed Church mission station in southern Zimbabwe showed
little sign of anxiety.
Watched by two uniformed policemen, presidential candidate Simba Makoni was
telling them that members of President Robert Mugabe's politburo, having
destroyed Zimbabwe's once-model education system, were now sending their
children to school in Australia and the United States.
Enraged, a middle-aged matron shouted out, 'I want to vote now!'
Even two months ago, a scene like that would not have been possible in this
rural area that has been under the control of Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party
since independence 28 years ago, said Victor Zvibwiti, a former
schoolteacher from the area.
'These people would not have dared turn up for an opposition meeting. They
would have had their heads bashed in. This has only happened since Makoni
declared his challenge to Mugabe.'
Makoni, Mugabe's former finance minister and a member of Zanu-PF's
politburo, the party's formal inner circle, stunned his erstwhile leader and
his followers on February 5 when he declared the country's state of economic
and social chaos was a result of the 'failure of leadership' of the
84-year-old leader, and that he would be standing against him for the
presidency in elections on March 29.
The announcement appears to have thrown the ruling party into confusion,
with thousands of middle-ranking officials deserting to join Makoni's
campaign. So far, though, only one senior figure, Dumiso Dabengwa, the head
of military intelligence of one of the two guerrilla movements fighting the
country's white minority government in the 1972-1979 guerilla war, has
openly joined Makoni.
Mugabe's propaganda machine describes the two men's desertions as 'a
non-event,' while at the same time filling the official press, radio and
television with condemnations of their 'betrayal.' Mugabe declared that
Makoni was 'like a prostitute.'
It was obviously a case of 'methinks she does protest too much,' remarked a
But with 10 days to go before the presidential election held
simultaneously with parliamentary and local council elections Makoni
appears to have a long way to go.
An opinion poll by the respected local Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI)
published last week, gave former national labour head Morgan Tsvangirai,
leader of the major faction of the divided Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC), 28 per cent of the vote, Mugabe 20 per cent and Makoni only 9 per
The poll was skewed by a heavy 24 per cent of people refusing to divulge
their choice, and MPOI head Eldred Masungure said the poll showed that there
was no clear winner.
'Makoni has a lot of latent support,' he said. 'The trick is converting it
into manifest support. Those in the shadows, particular the senior figures
who are being talked about, need to gather their courage before election day
and declare themselves.'
Voters are attracted to among others, the absence of any corruption or
violence in Makoni's background, compared with other senior officials,
analysts said. He is also the only long-term close associate of Mugabe who
was not involved in the guerrilla war, analysts point out. However, his
failure to have spoken out against Mugabe during the last eight years of
severe repression have dented his credibility.
Simbarashe Herbert Stanley Makoni was born in the eastern districts of what
was then Rhodesia on March 22, 1950, and went to mission schools for his
secondary education where he first became politically active. He was a
science undergraduate at the University of Rhodesia in 1973 when he was
expelled for taking part in a rowdy anti-government demonstration, and left
There he enrolled at the University of Leeds and graduated in chemistry and
zoology, while in his spare time he became a leading exiled activist for
Mugabe's party. In 1978 he received his doctorate in pharmaceutical
chemistry at Leicester Polytechnic College.
He returned to Zimbabwe at independence in 1980, and became Mugabe's
youngest minister, aged 30. After about four years following a disastrous
handling of a national fuel crisis he left the government to become the
executive secretary of the Southern African Development Coordination
Conference, a regional body trying to break away from economic dependence on
then apartheid-ruled South Africa.
After 10 years, he returned home to be appointed chief executive of the
state-owned newspaper company, but left to join the private sector after he
rebuked one of his editors for racist attacks on whites, and Mugabe backed
After a few years in the private sector, he returned to government as an MP
in 2000, and was appointed finance minister. He resigned after Mugabe
refused his advice to devalue the currency. Mugabe then denounced him as an
Makoni and his wife, Chipo, had four sons, one of whom was killed in a motor
accident in South Africa while a student there.
Monsters and Critics
Mar 19, 2008, 5:03 GMT
Harare - For journalists, the thing that sets Morgan Tsvangirai apart from
other political leaders in Zimbabwe is his punctuality.
'Whenever he calls a press conference, he's there on the nail,' said one
veteran correspondent. 'He starts immediately and doesn't care who's late.'
President Robert Mugabe routinely keeps the media waiting up to six hours.
Tsvangirai, a 56-year-old former national trade union boss, also appears to
be the favourite of a major slice of Zimbabweans, though for different
According to a survey just published by the locally-based Mass Public
Opinion Institute, Tsvangirai is significantly ahead of the 84-year-old
Mugabe for the presidential vote on March 29, with 28.3 per cent of
respondents opting for him, against 20.3 per cent for Mugabe.
Analysts agree that what voters actually decide is a murky issue in
Zimbabwe, with each of the previous three national elections marred by
state-sponsored violence and evidence of cheating by Mugabe's electoral
In parliamentary elections in 2000 - less than a year after the formation of
his now divided party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) - Tsvangirai
lost the vote.
The High Court later overturned the result on the grounds of the climate of
violent intimidation in the constituency. The court records mysteriously
disappeared before an appeal against the decision and Tsvangirai's opponent
kept the seat.
In the last presidential poll in 2002, Tsvangirai was again the loser, with
400,000 votes behind Mugabe out of a total of 3.1 ballots cast, in another
election marked by savage violence and further evidence of cheating.
It took a notoriously pro-government judge three years to get round to
hearing the case, which he then summarily dismissed.
Tsvangirai enters this election with his party and his reputation badly
damaged by a split in the MDC for which he was held personally responsible.
He had stormed out of a party national executive council meeting on whether
to participate in elections for the newly formed parliamentary upper
chamber, and announcing to the media that the meeting had decided against
fighting the election, when it had decided the opposite.
The party immediately sundered in two. Repeated attempts to reunite failed
because, sources involved in the mediation efforts said, Tsvangirai was
pushed by party militants into rejecting the offers of conciliation.
In January, mediators again tried to bring the two MDC factions into an
agreement to fight the March election together, to avoid splitting the vote
against Mugabe. Again Tsvangirai pulled back at the last moment, making
excessive demands on the other faction which is led by robotics professor
Despite the perception of Tsvangirai being indecisive, timid and easily
manipulated, Tsvangirai's support 'remains intact,' said political science
professor Eldred Masunugure. 'There is evidence that his backing is solid.'
Morgan Richard Tsvagirai was born in the remote Buhera district of
south-east Zimbabwe, the son of a bricklayer. Unlike his two presidential
race opponents, Mugabe and ruling party rebel Simba Makoni now standing as
an independent, Tsvangirai was unable to continue studying after passing his
He began working as a miner, graduated to being foreman until trade union
work drew him. He rose quickly, and took over the ruling party-dominated
trade union movement in the late 1980s and immediately was in trouble for
failing to toe the party line. He was arrested and held in detention without
trial for six weeks.
As economic conditions in Zimbabwe stagnated, labour became increasingly
vocal, and Tsvangirai as secretary general of the Zimbabwe National Congress
of Trade Unions, organized highly successful national strikes.
In 1997, with his profile was so worrying for the regime that a group of
Mugabe's war veteran militia forced their way into his office and tried to
throw him out of the 10th-floor window. They were stopped when Tsvangirai's
secretary walked in.
In 2000 he stunned Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party by leading opposition
in a referendum on a state-manipulated draft constitution, and convincingly
inflicting on Zanu-PF its first national electoral defeat in 20 years.
Mugabe's response in parliamentary elections four months later was a wave of
Since then, Tsvangirai has borne the brunt of a continuous state campaign
against him. He has been repeatedly arrested, charged three times with
treason - including a two-year trial over what the judge said was a faked
plot to assassinate Mugabe.
Last March, he was hospitalized with head injuries for almost a week after
he and about 30 other MDC officials and journalists were violently assaulted
by police thugs in an attack.
'All that has had the effect of making him a martyr to ordinary
Zimbabweans,' said a Western diplomat. 'Mugabe keeps on shooting himself in
the foot by victimizing Tsvangirai.'
Monsters and Critics
Mar 19, 2008, 5:03 GMT
Harare/Johannesburg - His sketchy black and white campaign posters feature a
Christian cross, hardly anyone has heard him speak and Langton Towungana
says he'd consider himself 'lucky' if he were to win Zimbabwe's presidential
The 41-year-old from Victoria Falls, the country's once-thriving western
tourist resort, sprung a surprise on many locals last month when he managed
to register as a presidential candidate.
He says he has had a 'calling from God' to stand in the March 29 polls. His
slogan, according to his campaign poster, is Unity of Purpose, something
that sounds very close to the heart of Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party.
And state media, traditionally the voice of Zanu-PF, has treated Towungana
well, giving him an interview in both the official Herald daily and on state
Neither Morgan Tsvangirai nor Simba Makoni, President Robert Mugabe's main
rivals, have been accorded similar interviews.
This has led Mugabe's critics to suspect that Towungana is a Zanu- PF plant,
an accusation he denies.
Towungana does not openly criticize Mugabe but says it's time for the
84-year old leader to 'step aside for fresh ideas,' according to a recent
interview in the British-based Zimbabwean newspaper.
He also believes it's important for Zimbabwe to re-engage the international
community so that its battered economy can recover - a conviction not shared
by the ruling party.
'I know that God will convince the democratic voters that I will protect the
interests of the nation but I would consider it my personal luck if I won,'
Towungana said in quotes carried by the Zimbabwean.
'I can't call myself a politician as such. This is a calling from God and
only [He] can deliver this nation from this quagmire.'
Zimbabwe's youngest presidential candidate reportedly hails from a populous
township in Victoria Falls and is involved in the retail business.
Towungana told Zimbabwe's state media soon after his candidacy was confirmed
that if elected he would be 'flexible to work with anyone as long as you are
not a criminal.'
Recent opinion polls though give him little chance of landing the top seat.
He is estimated to carry just 1 per cent of Zimbabwe's vote, reports said
Posted : Wed, 19 Mar 2008 05:04:02 GMT
Author : DPA
Africa World News | Home
Harare/Johannesburg - Five years of separation from the country whose
struggles inspired all his music has wounded the Lion of Zimbabwe, Thomas
Mapfumo. Speaking down the line from his home in Oregon, United States, he
admits: "I feel so bad."
Mapfumo is talking about his exile from Zimbabwe, where he
invented the country's own brand of struggle music during the last
days of minority white rule in the 1970s, earning him a short prison term
and the status of national icon.
"I have been away from home for such a long time," he sighs.
Mapfumo, 62, is probably the best-known of the estimated 4 million
Zimbabwean exiles who have been squeezed out of the country by economic
hardship and/or political oppression over the past decade.
His fall from grace with President Robert Mugabe's government began in
1989 when the voice of the chirumenga (struggle in his native Shona, also
the term for his style of protest music) trained his sights on the new
In 1989 he released an album entitled Corruption and for years
afterwards was harassed by the state. Government spies used to come looking
for him at his home. They also warned one of his friends, who worked in the
presidency: "The president doesn't like you to go to Mukanya's (Mapfumo's
In the late 1990s he moved to Oregon. Since 2003, he hasn't been back
Zimbabwe - not even for the funeral of his mother who died on Christmas Day,
"I have been hearing a lot of rumours, you know, about some people
trying to harm me," he says.
Mapfumo still sings in Shona mostly and tries to stoke opposition to
Mugabe's repressive rule but the tone is less angry, more reflective.
In his 2005 album entitled Rise Up, he urges "Let's go, father" while
trying to reason with Mugabe, saying: "I'm one of your own so don't hate me
for what I say."
Several of his more recent songs are banned in Zimbabwe, where
state-controlled radio prefers his old revolutionary tunes, but his name is
still spoken with reverence across the country.
"Mapfumo was the best but they chased him away," says Eddie, a taxi
driver in Harare about half the singer's age.
Like many Zimbabwean exiles Mapfumo is sceptical about the prospects
for change in the upcoming elections, in which 84-year-old Mugabe is seeking
to extend his 28 years in office.
Asked for his thoughts on former finance minister and ex-ruling
Zanu-PF politburo member Simba Makoni, who is standing against Mugabe in the
polls, Mapfumo shoots back: "How can you trust someone like that?"
Longtime opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai gets a slightly more
favourable response. "We all used to think that Tsvangirai would be given
enough room to manoeuvre but he seems to be doing not much for the people."
Mapfumo, by now a grandfather, continues to tour internationally,
keeping in touch with his fans through his page on the Myspace social
networking website and keeping tabs on the situation in Zimbabwe.
"I have friends who are in the ruling party, even some ministers, and
police. They sometimes call me on the phone," he says.
"I was thinking maybe if there's any chance of these elections coming
out clean ... maybe if there's a moderate leader, there's a chance we'll be
able to go back home."
by Cuthbert Nzou Thursday 20 March 2008
HARARE - President Robert Mugabe's government printed Z$680 trillion to meet
massive salary increments to restive civil servants this month and to fund
its bid to win tricky elections next week, authoritative sources told
The sources, who are senior figures at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ),
said the government ordered the central bank to provide $166 trillion to
quell a teachers' strike for more pay that was threatening to spread to
include other equally disgruntled state workers and in the process
overshadow the government's campaign to remain in office.
The administration requested another $514 trillion to purchase buses,
tractors, motor cycles, combine harvesters, generators, small farm
implements and cows that Mugabe has distributed to beneficiaries in recent
weeks, in what analysts have said was a clear attempt to buy support ahead
"As of February 29, the central bank had advanced $514 trillion to the
government for the farm mechanization programme and its recurrent
expenditure," said an RBZ official who declined to be named for professional
"Between February 29 and March 7, the RBZ delivered $166 trillion to the
government to meet the salary increments for civil servants," added the
Public school teachers, who had boycotted classes since February, only
returned to work two weeks ago after the government hiked their salaries and
those of other civil servants by more than 800 percent. The increments were
Mugabe, who told a campaign rally last Tuesday that the salary hikes were
necessary to defeat a plot by business to increase prices and cause more
hardships among Zimbabweans in order that they vote against his government,
also raised allowances for traditional leaders who have backed his
Efforts to get comment from RBZ governor Gideon Gono were in vain yesterday
as his office said he was outside the country. But Gono, accused by critics
of keeping the printing machine running to prop up an unpopular government,
has in the past said he would print money if it were needed to fund national
However, economists and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) blame Gono for
compounding Zimbabwe's economic crisis through quasi-fiscal activities that
have seen the central bank pump trillions of dollars into financing the
government's populist projects.
They say printing money was fuelling inflation, which at more than 100 000
percent is the highest in the world.
Mugabe's government faces what analysts say is probably its toughest
electoral test in the combined presidential, parliamentary and local
government elections on March 29, which take place amid one of the worst
recessions and food crises in the world outside a war zone. - ZimOnline
by Nokhutula Sibanda Thursday 20 March 2008
HARARE - The Southern African Development Community (SADC) election observer
mission on Thursday said it was not worried by threats by Zimbabwe's top
security commanders to reject an opposition victory in elections next week.
Head of mission Jose Marcos Barrica said statements by military and police
that they would only welcome a victory by President Robert Mugabe's
government would have been worrying if they were made by the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (ZEC) or the "political leader of the Republic".
"It could have worried us if (threats) were from the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission or from the political leader of the Republic," said Barrica said.
Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander, General Constantine Chiwenga two
weeks declared that the military was prepared to salute Mugabe only, in what
analysts said was a clear threat to stage a military coup in the event the
veteran leader lost the March 29 polls.
Police chief Augustine Chihuri last Friday vowed he would not allow
"western-backed puppets" to rule Zimbabwe, repeating similar comments made
last month by the head of the prison service, retired army major-general
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has raised
concern over the security threats while neighbouring South Africa's ruling
African National Congress on Monday called on the security forces not to
take sides in the elections.
However, Barrica appeared to play down the threats by security commanders
telling journalists in Harare that they were "irresponsible statements, not
an institutional position" and should be no cause for concern.
The SADC chief observer, who said Harare-based European diplomats had also
raised concern over the statements by security commanders, said his mission
had met with representatives of the ruling ZANU PF party, MDC and other
He said issues discussed during meetings included charges of intolerance,
intimidation, delays in publishing the voters' roll and that there were
insufficient ballot boxes for the joint presidential, parliamentary and
local government polls.
The government side had also charged that external forces were funding the
opposition and that there were plans to incite civil revolt, accusations
that Barrica said were normal in any election but not necessarily true.
The military is credited with keeping Mugabe in power, always ready to use
brutal tactics to keep public discontent in check in the face of an economic
meltdown that has spawned hyperinflation and shortages of food, fuel,
essential medicines, hard cash and just about every basic survival
Political analysts say support from the military as well as a skewed
political playing field is enough to ensure victory for Mugabe despite
Zimbabwe's deepening hunger and economic crisis. - ZimOnline
by Tinashe Mashingaidze Thursday 20 March 2008
HARARE - Zimbabwe police have banned all Premier Soocer League (PSL)
football matches with immediate effect until after next week's elections,
ZimOnline has learnt.
In a letter addressed to Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) boss,
Henrietta Rushwaya that was seen by ZimOnline, the police said they were
banning all football matches around the country "due to security concerns."
"We would like to advise that due to the forthcoming harmonized elections,
it has been decided that all PSL matches be postponed until elections are
"This measure has been necessitated by security concerns," said the letter
that was signed by Senior Assistant Commissioner Faustino Mazango.
PSL fixtures secretary Godfrey Japajapa refused to comment on the letter
referring questions to Rushwaya who could not be reached for comment.
A senior official at ZIFA however told ZimOnline that there were fears
within the police that the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) party was using football grounds as platforms to campaign for the
The official said the directive to ban all league matches appeared to have
been triggered by last weekend's events at Mucheke Stadium when MDC youths
staged a "rally" at the stadium chanting the party's slogans.
The MDC youths also displayed campaign banners for Morgan Tsvangirai much to
the annoyance of state security agents.
Zimbabweans go to the polls on 29 March to elect a new president,
parliamentarians and local government representatives.
The popular and charismatic Tsvangirai, is squaring off against President
Robert Mugabe and former finance minister Simba Makoni in the election that
human rights groups is heavily skewed in favour of the Zimbabwean leader.
The ban on football matches comes hardly a week after the police also banned
toyi-toyi, a militant genre of music and dance that is accompanied by the
chanting of slogans, in Harare.
Mazango, who is heading the police's elections committee, said the dance
could intimidate the electorate and trigger political violence in the
capital, a stronghold of the MDC. - ZimOnline
by Thenjiwe Mabhena Thursday 20 March 2008
HARARE - The Paris-based media rights watchdog, Reporters Without Borders
(RSF), has listed Zimbabwe among 15 countries in the world that are bent on
suppressing freedom of expression on the internet.
In a report released this week, the RSF said Zimbabwe had been added on to
the list of "enemies of the internet" as internet users in the southern
African country were being kept under constant surveillance by state
"Our list of 'internet enemies' has also been updated with the addition of
two countries - Ethiopia and Zimbabwe . . . This is not at all surprising as
these regimes regularly hound the traditional media," said the RSF.
President Robert Mugabe's government has had a frosty relationship with the
media over the past eight years banning four privately owned newspapers and
arresting scores of independent journalists who it has often branded
"enemies of the state" out to effect regime change in the country.
The Harare administration - battling to keep a lead on dissension in the
face of worsening economic hardships - last year passed an Interception of
Communications Act that allows state security agents to intercept and
monitor private communications between individual citizens or organizations.
Media and human rights groups condemned the law saying it was a violation of
Zimbabweans' right to freedom of expression. The government however defended
the new law saying it was necessary to protect national security.
RSF said while Internet penetration in Zimbabwe was still low, it was enough
to give the government a "few nightmares" forcing the government to "draw on
the full arsenal of online censorship methods including legislation,
monitoring Internet cafés and controlling ISPs."
Besides Zimbabwe, the other 14 countries deemed as enemies of the internet
are: Ethiopia, Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi
Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. - ZimOnline
By Blessing Zulu
19 March 2008
The international community must take faster action when electoral disputes
arise such as the one which led to mass killings in Kenya, according to
Glenys Kinnock, co-president of the African, Caribbean, Pacific and European
joint Parliamentary Assembly which was meeting this week in Ljubljana,
Kinnock said Zimbabwe could give rise to the next Kenya-type crisis if the
international community does not intervene quickly and decisively after the
Concern among ACP-EU parliamentarians meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia,
increased following statements by Zimbabwean security officials that they
would not salute what they described as Western "puppets" if they came to
power - referring to presidential candidates Morgan Tsvangirai of the
opposition and independent Simba Makoni.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has done little to allay such concerns.
ZEC Chairman George Chiweshe told reporters this week that his body has no
legal powers to rein in security force commanders from making such
Human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga, present at the ACP-EU meeting in
Slovenia, told reporter Blessing Zulu that Kinnock says the international
community must be ready to act quickly if there is a post-election dispute
in Zimbabwe and bloodshed threatens.
By Blessing Zulu
19 March 2008
Zimbabwe's political opposition and civil society critics of the government
Wednesday expressed alarm at an order by President Robert Mugabe overriding
an amendment to the country's Electoral Act to allow police into polling
places on election day.
Amendments to the Electoral Act earlier this year obliged police to stay 100
meters away from polling places. Mr. Mugabe's order says police need to be
in polling places to help handicapped voters and the illiterate. But the
opposition and civic observers say reopening the doors to police will create
intimidation, especially of rural voters.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change grouping led by Morgan
Tsvangirai, a candidate for president, challenged the presidential order in
Harare high court.
Sources at the non-governmental Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said it
intends to file an appeal in the High court challenging a provision of the
country's Citizenship Act which bars Zimbabweans with foreign parents from
The legal group is also considering asking the court to clarify whether a
runoff election must be held if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote.
The language in the electoral act is contradictory on this point, according
to legal experts.
In another development touching on the issue of free and fair elections,
police have blocked the Tsvangirai MDC grouping from holding rallies in the
Highfield section of Harare, Chitungwiza and Victoria Falls. The MDC is
seeking court relief.
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC formation told reporter
Blessing Zulu that President Mugabe is interfering with the electoral