|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Malawi is an African Garden of Eden. Every afternoon there are spectacular downpours, which replenish the long grasses on the lush green hills that surround Blantyre.
The streets of this tiny town are lined with giant African trees with branches that lean across entire roads giving shade.
If Mugabe is rapidly turning into an international pariah, you'd never have guessed it
It is a fitting retreat for Africa's leaders to gather, and talk about the violence plaguing the region.
And the Malawians did all they could to make their neighbouring presidents feel welcome.
If Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president, is rapidly turning into an international pariah, you would never have guessed it.
When he stepped off the plane, he was greeted by rows of Malawian soldiers clad in bright red dress uniforms, complete with shining silver swords.
Robert Mugabe is seen here as one of the fathers of African politics. He has been in power for more than 20 years - and you can tell.
He walked through the crowds, his face hardened into an expression of determination and focus. His posture was straight, exuding the personality of a man who is not used to being questioned or challenged.
But this was not an easy trip for him. His problems began at the opening ceremony, held in a huge marquee. The pastor prayed for peace in Zimbabwe. Other leaders squeezed shut their eyes, but Robert Mugabe, clearly uncomfortable, kept his open and his face as expressionless as steel.
And what with all the nerves and ceremony, no-one seemed to notice that the beautifully disguised podium on which the heads of state sat was actually the edge of the hotel swimming pool - the press area gallery was built on the diving board, and the assembled guests sat more or less in the pool itself.
The culture in this part of the world is to talk problems out or fight them out - you're either friends or enemies. So the question of imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe was ruled out from the beginning.
He burst out of the summit before anyone else, with his band of security guards, and skipped up the stairs in a gesture of relief that it was over at last.
He was then mobbed by the press. The security guards grabbed the BBC cameraman by his belt, and held him firmly at arms length, whilst their elbows ploughed into our stomachs and faces.
Most of the international press, and the BBC, are banned from Zimbabwe. This was a rare chance to ask him a question.
Was Zimbabwe criticised on its human rights record, I asked? Britain was criticised by Zimbabwe, he snapped back.
Robert Mugabe has blamed his growing international isolation on a colonial-style campaign by Britain. That's why any criticism by his African brothers was so painful, even if it was mild.
'Was Zimbabwe criticised on its human rights record,' I asked? 'Britain was criticised by Zimbabwe,' he snapped back
These promises have been made before, and they didn't stop President Mugabe from introducing draconian legislation that effectively criminalises criticism of him in the run-up to the voting - legislation that makes it easier for him to win.
While the African leaders were pledging their allegiance to the principles of democracy, the Malawian security forces barged into a hotel in Blantyre, and threw four Zimbabwean pro-democracy activists into police cells. They were deported the very next morning.
A man very close to Malawi's president confided in me casually that he had great sympathy for Robert Mugabe, what with the opposition threatening to topple him and all. And he was pleased the army has weighed in on the Zimbabwean president's side.
Until recently Zimbabwe was an impressive country. It had a thriving tourism industry, and it fed its own people. Now it is plagued by violence, and threatens to disrupt the entire region.
Africa is already a region that's been left behind, as the rest of the world forges ahead with the technological revolution.
Its people suffer and its leaders know that one of the major reasons for this is political instability. But they do not seem prepared to do much about it.
The tragedy in Zimbabwe has awful implications for Zimbabweans, but it also sets a truly frightening example for the new generation of Africa's democratically-elected presidents.
If President Mugabe can get away with elections set on his own terms, then why can't they?
Sadc leaders spineless
1/17/02 11:05:43 PM
Mugabe a cartoon character
1/17/02 11:04:57 PM
Chaos expected in presidential, municipal
BY Jacob Mutambara
THE forthcoming presidential and the Harare and Chitungwiza municipal elections are most likely to be chaotic, say analysts.
A combination of political violence and recently passed pieces of legislation all point to a clumsily organised and partly predetermined poll, which favours the incumbent, they point out.
The whole process of preparation for the polls is not transparent and because of the recent amendments to the Electoral Act, the Electoral Supervisory Commission has not started its work. In addition, the training of election monitors is not in place and voter education has not started when elections are due in less than eight weeks.
the Registrar-General's office has had problems in running single elections, it
is going to be near-impossible running a three-tier poll.
Originally, the Supreme Court had ruled that the Harare and Chitungwiza municipal elections be held in February. In defiance of the court ruling, the government pushed back the elections to March, to be held jointly with the presidential election.
Before pushing back the council elections the Registrar-General had admitted he was having logistical problems preparing for the municipal polls because of the pending presidential election.
"In defying the court order, it is contempt of court on the part of the Registrar-General and the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs who are supposed to administer the Electoral Act," said Professor Elphas Mukonoweshuro, a University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer.
"This is nothing new. Government has only recognised court judgments that are in its favour, including the Supreme Court ruling on the legality of the land reform programme," he said.
He said recent amendments to the Electoral Act will disenfranchise a substantial percentage of voters. In addition, the Public Order and Security Bill, which outlaws criticism of the president, will effectively make it impossible for the opposition to campaign as they can't criticise the incumbent president.
"It's a law that is intended to force all Zimbabweans to sing Mugabe's praises," said Mukonoweshuro.
He said at the Sadc summit held in September last year, it was pointed out that there was need to set up a multi-party committee to look at all contentious issues including violence, preparations for the presidential poll and logistics during the poll.
However, when a Sadc ministerial task force met in December, this request by the heads of state was modified. The government argued that parliamentary portfolio committees were already working on what the proposed multi-party committee was mandated to do.
"This was dodging issues because the PPCs are standing committees whose specific responsibility is to monitor the performance of ministerial portfolios," said Mukonoweshuro.
was also dodging the critical issue of multi-party dialogue, not only on
the political violence going on but also in terms of preparations and conduct of the presidential poll.
"It's critical that a multi-party task force or crisis committee be put in place immediately to look at contentious issues during the campaign period and the conduct of the presidential poll," he said.
Some analysts voiced concern as to whether people who registered in either Harare or Chitungwiza would be allowed to vote in the presidential, mayoral, and council elections even if they transferred after registration.
The executive director of the Human Rights Trust of Southern Africa, Philliat Matsheza, who monitored the recent Zambian presidential poll, said unlike Zimbabwe, civic society in Zambia was allow- ed to conduct voter education.
The failure to conduct voter education in Zimbabwe has resulted in poor turnouts, with as little as 25% of the electorate casting votes in some constituencies in the 2000 parliamentary poll.
For example, he said, one out of four people voted in the Bikita West constituency during the 2000 election because of lack of voter education.
While government has barred civic society from conducting voter education, it does not have the resources and finances to carry out the exercise on its own.
With the presidential, mayoral and council elections less than eight weeks away, voters do not have a clue what the ballot paper will look like. The office of the Registrar-General has not indicated whether voters will have to fill out three ballot papers or a single ballot sheet.
Whatever processes the Election Directorate will employ, there is still need for voter education to minimise confusion on voting days.
The government, through the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) is yet to announce its voter education plan. The cur- rent ESC advertisements are simply urging people to go out and vote but there is no mechanism in place on how the process will take place.
Matsheza said up to now no-one knows who will monitor the elections. Civil servants are not properly trained for the job and there is need to train party agents on monitoring elections, he said.
Matsheza said the government was underestimating the resources needed to conduct a proper election. In the 2000 poll, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a coalition of local NGOs funded the recruitment, training and deployment of more than 24 000 monitors who then worked under the ambit of the ESC. Under the current amendments to the Electoral Act, that would be expressly illegal.
The ESC has indicated that it will draw election monitors from the civil service and critics believe that government workers are amenable to manipulation by the Zanu PF government, hence their impartiality can be compromised.
In addition, Zimbabwe does not have an election code of conduct which governs all stakeholders to the election.
said in Zambia, a conflict management programme was set up to defuse
pre-election tension. It included educating all stake-holders and the police in
handling the election. Such a crucial programme is non-existent in Zimbabwe.
While in Zambia the counting of ballots was done at the polling centres, in Zimbabwe ballots are sent to counting centres and anything, including rigging, can take place during the movement of ballot boxes. ZESN monitors played a key role in watching the movement of ballot boxes in 2000.
In a press statement, the ZESN said it was concerned about the content and manner in which Bills relating to elections, public order, labour and information were being fast-tracked through parliament. It said the Bills were retrogressive and violated the fundamental rights of Zimbabweans.
"ZESN insists that there is a real need for intensified voter education in an atmosphere which is devoid of intimidation and violence," it said.
Meanwhile, the number of polling stations in some constituencies is most
likely to be reduced. This will further disenfranchise potential voters, cause
delays and frustrate the democratic process.