THE outcome of the parliamentary election set for March 31 is crucial to the future of the country and that of the entire southern African region, the Zimbabwe Independent heard this week.
Analysts said Zimbabwe stands on the brink of a catastrophe and the international community must act to prevent total collapse and a humanitarian crisis in the region.
A volatile mix of factors renders the current situation in Zimbabwe highly dangerous, they said.
“Should President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF declare itself the winner of the March legislative poll in the face of clear evidence of vote rigging and subversion of the electoral process, these elements risk causing an explosion with devastating consequences,” National Constitutional Assembly chairperson, Lovemore Madhuku, said.
He said over the preceding months, President Mugabe has erected a highly repressive system of governance to ensure his continued grip on power.
He said Zanu PF had created an atmosphere of fear throughout the country, it had subverted the law and forced through parliament legislation that undermines basic freedoms of speech and assembly. In particular, Madhuku said, the recently amended Public Order and Security Act prescribes criminal sanctions for a variety of forms of peaceful political dissent.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change insists that all indicators demo-nstrate that popular support for President Mugabe’s Zanu PF party is at an all-time low. Recent polling shows that the vast majority of Zimbabweans are fed up with Zanu PF, the opposition says.
In spite of ongoing incidents of political violence, there is still a high expectation that peaceful change can occur in the country through the democratic process, Brian Kagoro, chairman of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said.
“If the outcome of the election is perceived as unfair, there is likely to be deep frustration among the population and this frustration may be expressed through violence,” Kagoro said. “Protests and expressions of dissatisfaction are also likely to be met with increased government-sponsored violence. Moreover, the subversion of democracy in Zimbabwe will likely influence other countries where democracy is under threat, such as Zambia and Malawi.”
Kagoro said the international community must recognise that this combination of factors threatens not only Zimbabwe, but also the entire region.
“The flow of refugees will have a serious impact upon South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia,” he said.
“In addition, destabilisation will have extremely negative consequences for investment in southern Africa, damaging the economies of many states.”
“In Zimbabwe, very real fears are already being expressed about vote-rigging and subversion of the electoral process. If the election is seriously flawed, it is imperative that the entire international community responds immediately and all states refuse to recognise the results,” he said.
Madhuku said African states must take the lead in speaking out clearly to condemn any failure by the Zimbabwean government to afford its people the right to choose their legislators through free and fair elections in accordance with national, regional and international norms and standards.