Sunday, March 30, 2008

Even with Confirmed Election Irregularities, There Is Hope for Change in Zimbabwe

The biggest thing on my mind these days is the election in Zimbabwe. Supposedly results will be posted today. The early word was that the opposition party, MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, was on track to win the elections. However, this projection was based on publicly posted results from about 1/3 of the polling stations in the country. An official count is necessary to determine the winner, and many fear that the delay in announcing a result is in order to cover up election rigging.

ZANU-PF and Mugabe have notoriously tampered in past elections in Zimbabwe, and there is evidencet his has happened yet agaion in this one. We know of at least one story first-hand...

You may remember when I first moved to Chimoio, I was working on a project to establish a tea plantation and processing unit in Mozambique. The project was to be carried out in conjunction with a Zimbabwean partner, a family who had been running a tea operation in the Eastern Highlands of that country for many years. They had managed to avoid expropration of their land, a somewhat miraculous feat given the fate of the majority of Zimbabwe's other white commercial farmers, but were nervous about the future and thus interested in establishing operations across the border in Mozambique.

We got word from this family that they were forced off their tea plantation in Zim last week by a group of police thugs sent from the government. Apparently, the police claimed all of the family's equipment and assets, and made them leave the country. No, this was not a land claim...this intimidation was done in order to "secure voter loyalty". Basically, vote for Mugabe and you can come back home and have your farm back. Vote for the opposition, and you can imagine how the story will end.

As I sit today and periodically check the news waiting for official election results, I can't help but feel hopeful that change will finally come to Zimbabwe. Despite intimidation tactics, despite outright vote rigging (there were reports that ZANU-PF managed to cast thousands of ghost ballots), despite people arriving at polling places to find their names strangely missing from the voter lists...despite all of this, I believe that Zimbabwe is at a point where they can no longer bear the economic burden.

I hope that the official result is that Mugabe has lost the election. Either one of the alternate candidates will do; the main point is that the old man must step down...lest he be forced out of power, for I believe that Zimbabwe's people are prepared to engage in Kenya-style violence should the results be rigged once again. Violence is never something I wish for, but in this case, I can't help but see how it would be necessary if Zimbabwe's people want to have any hope for their immediate future.


the wanderer and his shadow said...

I have been following this election closely as well. My emotions have mutated with alacrity, checking news sites more often than I should, receiving messages from family in Zimbabwe and receiving calls from Zimbabwean friends. In the past 48hours I have gone from ‘Mugabe and ZANU PF will win’ to ‘it will be a landslide victory for the opposition’ to ‘Mugabe has already fled the country fearing retribution’ to ‘the army has ordered the electoral commission to declare Mugabe the winner’ and now, my present mood is that a lot of people are going to be disappointed by the looming result.

The two things that stand out about Mugabe’s political patterns is his consistency, and that he is too wily and resolute in power to be swept away in a pseudo democratic election. My heart wants him gone yesterday but my head suggests I temper my emotions. Mugabe has been in difficult situations before and wriggled out of them amazingly. ‘Jesus rose from the dead once but I have come back from the dead several times’, he once boasted. What chance he will not come back from the dead once again via an electoral system he largely designed? I would not bet against it. This is my position now, after what was a rollercoster weekend of miraculous flip-flopping on my part!

A word on ‘change’. Yes, the economy will stabilise if any of the other candidates prevails but the content and substance of the change will be vacuous. Tsvangirai, for all his courage and popularity in confronting Mugabe, is a little Mugabe himself. He has no democratic credentials. On the other hand, Makoni is a front for powerful and disgruntled political barons within ZANU PF. These barons are complicit in Mugabe’s excesses since 1980. There are 3 evils/devils to choose from in this election. None of them represents substantive change.

I feared the possibility of Kenya type violence but I have revised this position as well. Mugabe is the commander in chief of one of the most efficient, deadliest and disciplined security machines in Africa. Barring a mutiny, the Zimbabwean people have no chance against this. Any premature efforts of stirring Kenya type civil unrest in the cities will be met by one of the most efficient and tested security apparatus in the history of Africa. Moreover, a significant amount of the violence in Kenya was planned by the opposition as 'Plan B', in case the election was stolen. I doubt that Tsvangirai has conjured up a similar 'Plan B', and even if he has, I am positive the security forces are already aware of it and have put in place counter measures. The state’s security agents are everywhere. They even masquerade as opposition politicians. If the result is rigged, the army will guarantee that the rigged result stands.

I hope for the best. I want Mugabe to go but my rational side tells me I should know better than to have such false hopes…..

Ali la Loca said...

~The Wanderer and His Shadow - I have also flip-flopped emotions for most of the weekend. My fiancee is doubtful that any result other than Mugabe is possible, but I have had a feeling in my gut that the MDC will win the official vote. I certainly recognize that this is not the most likely scenario, but I am going with my intuition on this one and hoping that I am right.

Not that Tsvangirai or Makoni are model candidates who will bring about sweeping reforms in Zimbabwe...I definitely don't have that illusion in my head.

The change I refer to is much more subtle, perhaps, though important nonetheless. I refer to a change in mindset, a change brought about by people grasping once again the possibility that life in Zimbabwe can be something other than a dismal, depressing uphill struggle.

The change I most hope for is for people who have fled the country to see a reason to go back. I hope for businesses to function again, for some of that country's incredible industries to recuperate, for investors to bet on a more positive future and inject much-needed capital into the country.

Hopefully we will have some results soon...we just spoke with friends who are in Harare, and the rumor on the street is that results may take several more days to be released.

bart said...

i think you're right ali, sweeping and immediate changes are almost out of the question under the circumstances and aren't perhaps not even desireable, the fact that changes are being considered and openly discussed is a sign that the mugabe days are numbered and that the country might be heading back to a sane leadership for a while...

judy in ky said...

Ali, I am so appreciative of your blog and those like it. I have lived in the U.S. all my life, though I have traveled a bit around the world. Life here tends to be so insular, with little news from around the world. Oh, we get the major stories from the most publicized "hot spots" but not the kind of detail that you provide. You provide a lifeline to those of us who are interested in what is going on in other places.

brendan said...

Along with a hope for change, let's hope a new Zimbabwe will get help from the international community to get itself back on its feet and perhaps return to being Africa's breadbasket. There is a lot to hope for in Zimbabwe, an educated population that may be persuaded to return, lands that can be replanted, and a country that has enormous potential.

I really hope for the best, and I also hope to be able to visit a free Zimbabwe in the upcoming years.

bye-bye uncle bob!

Southern Goddess said...

Ali, the news here over the last few days has been interesting, after reading your story: Mugabe lost, then he's won enough for a run-off, and then Tsvangarai says he will not call the election and then he does as a victor. While I certainly cannot make any claims as to understanding the intricacies of this election, I appreciate that you have brought it to our collective attentions. Every person deserves that their vote count - rhetoric, I know, but true nonetheless.

I do have to note that your comment about the caucasian farming family that was forced off of their land due to this recent election was mirrored in most of the major news agencies on the internet.

Hope all ends well, and will pray for those who were not given the luxury to be born into such a freedom as to vote their choice, and have it count.