I HAVE always been wary of critics, whether of food, drama or literature. The reason for this is that it is so easy to criticise and yet so hard to do.
constructive criticism is completely acceptable, and especially In this light, I have been somewhat disappointed by comments on the MDC decision to withdraw from elections until these can be held in a free and fair environment. The early success of the party reflected the revulsion felt by the majority of the population at the increasingly dictatorial and destructive actions of the ruling party. There were great expectations of a new beginning for the country and the start of a new era of peace and prosperity.
In the 2000 general election, victory came very close when 57 MDC members were elected to parliament.
This was despite massive intimidation and violence unleashed on the nation by those in power. But it was a case of so near and yet so far. The constitution itself is deeply flawed in many ways, but the provision that allows the sitting president to appoint 30 of his own cronies to parliament is almost a guarantee that representative government is impossible.
Despite this, the MDC contested the election and came close to victory. Since that time we have seen massive forces arraigned against the democratic process. These include many hugely repressive laws as well as outright intimidation, violence and murder, all condoned (and many believe organised) by the party in power. It is now totally impossible to hold a free election in Zimbabwe.
It is understandable that many people who believed that the MDC would save them are now deeply disappointed. They became even more disappointed and cynical about the democratic process when the 2002 presidential election was stolen in broad daylight.
But what alternatives are there? Is it wise to give credence to a blatantly unfair and undemocratic process by participating in rigged elections? No, to me that is just rather silly. So in fact withdrawal was the only viable answer.
Yes, the ruling party will crow mightily about the MDC “giving up” and “losing support”. This is just empty noise – like whistling in the dark to keep fear at bay.
The opposition have decided they are not willing to play a game where the rules are bent and the referee is a member of the opposing team. Would anyone play a football match where the referee was a member of the opposing team and your goalmouth was 20 metres wide and theirs was less than a metre?
Whether they like it or not, the ruling party cannot credibly claim to win an election when the opposition boycotts because of just claims that it is neither free nor fair.
But where does that leave the opposition? They will need to campaign tirelessly to educate their supporters that they have taken the correct decision. This will be difficult because people are angry and disappointed. However, the people also fully understand the violence and destruction that has been unleashed on them.
I cannot predict what the next step will be. I can only remind you that when the Rhodesian and South African governments attempted to repress the majority of the population, they were unsuccessful.
I have also made the point previously that while many of the Sadc and African Union countries may verbally support the Zimbabwe regime, there is an inexorable pressure by the world’s major nations to see the restoration of democracy and the rule of law.
African countries may also feel an emotional tie, but it is the much-reviled West that provides the aid money, development programmes and also controls the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and they will undoubtedly increase the pressure on countries such as South Africa.
It is interesting that already Nigeria seems to have turned its back on Zimbabwe; Nepad is important to them.
Finally, it is worth remembering that it is the government of Zimbabwe that has so distorted the electoral process that free elections are impossible. This is frightening because there is now no non-violent means of changing the status quo.
Human nature is such that people will not willingly accept injustice and repression indefinitely. In a free society, elections provide that safety valve to prevent an explosion.