â€œTHEY (European nations) are complicating the problems in Zimbabwe by recognising that elections are only free and fair when the ruling party loses,â€ said Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa this week.
Leave us to chart our destiny
â€œWe are sick and tired of having elections later disputed. We hope losing parties will accept when they have lost,â€ Mwanawasa said.This followed his observation that European nations, Canada, the United States and Australia would only pronounce Zimbabweâ€™s harmonised elections next month free and fair if the ruling Zanu PF lost to the MDC, judging by their comments on the whole electoral process. He said the Europeans should leave Zimbabweans to work at their problems without foreign interference.
Under normal circumstances, the Europeans and their American and Australian counterparts should not have been surprised at this rebuke from the Sadc chair as the organisation has in the past been accused of backing President Mugabe against Morgan Tsvangirai or is it Zanu PF against the MDC? Even the contradiction in Mwanawasa calling Zimbabwe a â€œsinking Titanicâ€ and then appealing for it to be left alone to resolve its problems would not be so much striking, coming out of Africa.
But things are not normal here, they are indeed getting â€œcomplicatedâ€ as we move fast towards the March 29 elections. Mwanawasaâ€™s comments came the same week the MDC attacked the â€œdiplomatic communityâ€ for trying to impose independent presidential candidate, Simba Makoni, on the people of Zimbabwe.
The coincidence is unprecedented.
The difference is that Mwanawasa is mindful of the disastrous impact of Western influence on our elections given what is going on in Kenya and would be happy to scotch what appear set to be self-fulfilling European prophecies about rigged elections in Zimbabwe should Zanu PF win â€” even if the MDC boycotts the elections.
On the other hand the MDCâ€™s Roy Bennett in South Africa seems to have been angered by the â€œdiplomatic communityâ€™sâ€ warm reception of Makoniâ€™s entry into the presidential race, thus confirming a widely held perception that they prefer working with a â€œreformedâ€ Zanu PF to a â€œcomplete changeâ€ advocated by the MDC.
As I have indicated, there is nothing radical in Mwanawasaâ€™s position. It is the MDC which seems to be walking a tightrope vis-Ã -vis the â€œdiplomatic communityâ€ with whom it has been cosy over the years.
First, if the claim is true, then Mwanawasa is right that foreigners should not unduly interfere in our elections. They complicate things for us. We are unable to make â€œinformedâ€ choices.
Philanthropist George Soros calls this â€œcounterproductive interventionâ€ by Western powers in an interview in the South African weekly, Mail & Guardian!
Second, the link between Makoni and the â€œdiplomatic communityâ€ might just be a perception by the MDC. Which means it sees things through Zanu PFâ€™s jaundiced lens â€” anybody who challenges it cannot be his own man. He is either Zanu PF, as Bennett says of the Arthur Mutambara camp, or is imposed by the West, like Simba Makoni.
Exactly what President Mugabe and Zanu PF say of Tsvangirai and the MDC. How the disease has become dangerously contagious and mentally corrosive!
But things get even more complicated for the MDC, for in its demand for foreign observers and the international media to cover our elections next month, it is common cause that its reference point is chiefly the â€œdiplomatic communityâ€ it now accuses of treachery by trying to impose Makoni on the people of Zimbabwe â€” Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and European nations.
This is evident in the way the MDC has not hidden its suspicion of Zanu PFâ€™s choice of â€œfriendly nationsâ€ to be invited to observe the elections â€” Sadc, the AU, China, Russia, etc.
There is no official list yet. This leaves us with no â€œindependentâ€ foreign observers at all â€” a very painful prospect by any standard, all because of the so-called Makoni factor.
Before this Makoni fellow upset the apple cart there was no doubt about which way in the political fight the â€œdiplomatic communityâ€™sâ€ sympathies lay â€” listen to the cacophony of how Mugabe has already mugged the ballot.
Yet for me Mwanawasaâ€™s warning is pertinent as we enter very sensitive and what could turn out to be watershed elections in the countryâ€™s history. There has been a lot of external prejudging and too much noise about the elections being rigged in Zanu PFâ€™s favour that it is doubtful whether any rational voices will be heard post-election if the preferred party loses.
That is before one can even factor in the logistical nightmare of voting in one day and problems of power outages or poor accessibility for some parts of the country.
More tragically, there are frustrated youths in Zanu PF and the MDC who cannot tell between genuine grievances and reckless electioneering, all of which has the effect of inflaming passions which may burst into a conflagration at the touch of a tinder. This calls for sensitivity and responsible leadership on both parties.
Let aliens give Zimbabweans who vote the respect and chance to decide the future of their nation without undue influence.
Why all this craving on the part of foreigners to turn our elections and the resultant upshot into another â€œwhitemanâ€™s burdenâ€ by prejudging them?
By Joram Nyathi