Mugabe’s hollow victory will do more damage
The Zimbabwean leader’s claim to have won a landslide victory is not credible, and the troubled country faces more strife because of it
By Telegraph View9:32PM BST 04 Aug 2013 – Telegraph
Robert Mugabe is claiming an overwhelming mandate for a seventh term in power after elections which ostensibly gave him and his Zanu-PF party a majority of more than 60 per cent in both presidential and parliamentary polls. Of the main foreign monitoring teams, that from the African Union, despite having expressed “grave concerns” about the electoral rolls, declared the exercise to be “credible”. A similar stance was taken by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which expressed relief that the poll had been peaceful. And yesterday Jacob Zuma, the South African president, congratulated Mr Mugabe on a “harmonised” achievement.
Compare those dubious endorsements with allegations by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change that the elections were a “farce” marred by massive vote-rigging; and with the statement from John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, that the results announced did not “represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people”, a conclusion at which William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, had already hinted.
Last week’s elections may not have been marked by the violence of 2008, but the fact of their being hotly disputed threatens a renewed outbreak of civil unrest. Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader and prime minister, has been outmanoeuvred by a wily old autocrat who, despite the 2009 power-sharing agreement, kept his grasp on the levers of hard power (the army, the police and the courts) and railroaded his supposed partner into accepting an earlier election date, thus leaving insufficient time for proper electoral procedures to be put in place. Perhaps the most startling result was Zanu-PF’s apparent capture of most of the seats in Matabeleland, the province where Mr Mugabe’s North-Korean-trained Fifth Brigade carried out a series of massacres in the Eighties.
Mr Tsvangirai says he will challenge the elections in the courts, but he is unlikely to get satisfaction. The African Union and SADC have basically endorsed the result, despite the misgivings expressed by Messrs Kerry and Hague. In light of Mr Mugabe’s latest violation of democratic practice, the EU, which eased sanctions earlier this year, should tighten them again. If he trots out the old charge of neo-colonialism, so be it. Zimbabweans have long seen through that ploy, made all the more ridiculous by the adoption of the dollar and sterling as legal currencies. Mr Mugabe’s continuance in power threatens further to wreck the economy, and shames those countries that have endorsed the manipulation and intimidation through which he clings to power. The claim of a landslide victory is, simply, incredible.