Candid Comment – 29 Feb

“THEY (European nations) are complicating the problems in Zimbabwe by recognising that elections are only free and fair when the ruling party loses,” said Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa this week.

Leave us to chart our destiny

“We are sick and tired of having elections later disputed. We hope losing parties will accept when they have lost,” Mwanawasa said.This followed his observation that European nations, Canada, the United States and Australia would only pronounce Zimbabwe’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 “sinking Titanic” 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 “complicated” as we move fast towards the March 29 elections. Mwanawasa’s comments came the same week the MDC attacked the “diplomatic community” 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 — even if the MDC boycotts the elections.

On the other hand the MDC’s Roy Bennett in South Africa seems to have been angered by the “diplomatic community’s” warm reception of Makoni’s entry into the presidential race, thus confirming a widely held perception that they prefer working with a “reformed” Zanu PF to a “complete change” advocated by the MDC.

As I have indicated, there is nothing radical in Mwanawasa’s position. It is the MDC which seems to be walking a tightrope vis-à-vis the “diplomatic community” 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 “informed” choices.

Philanthropist George Soros calls this “counterproductive intervention” by Western powers in an interview in the South African weekly, Mail & Guardian!

Second, the link between Makoni and the “diplomatic community” might just be a perception by the MDC. Which means it sees things through Zanu PF’s jaundiced lens — 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 “diplomatic community” it now accuses of treachery by trying to impose Makoni on the people of Zimbabwe — Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and European nations.

This is evident in the way the MDC has not hidden its suspicion of Zanu PF’s choice of “friendly nations” to be invited to observe the elections — Sadc, the AU, China, Russia, etc.

There is no official list yet. This leaves us with no “independent” foreign observers at all — 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 “diplomatic community’s” sympathies lay — listen to the cacophony of how Mugabe has already mugged the ballot.

Yet for me Mwanawasa’s warning is pertinent as we enter very sensitive and what could turn out to be watershed elections in the country’s history. There has been a lot of external prejudging and too much noise about the elections being rigged in Zanu PF’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 “whiteman’s burden” by prejudging them?

By Joram Nyathi