Comment: What About ‘The Day After’?

WHOEVER wins the run-off on June 27 will inherit a divided and injured nation.

 

Zanu PF may be in denial about the extent of the violence and indeed about its own responsibility, but the facts are evident on the ground. This far exceeds the excesses of 2000/2002 in that the violence has been systematic and has conveyed to the outside world the firm impression that President Mugabe will not allow a democratic verdict to unseat him.

That remains to be seen. But what is not in dispute is the institutional disaster that Zimbabwe currently represents. Despite 28 years of Independence, we seem unable to run an election transparently or peacefully and levels of hate-speech in the public media are a testimony to the deep divisions that exist within our society.

There is clearly an ideological divide. Zanu PF believes it is a victim of an Anglo-American conspiracy, a view dismissed by the opposition as puerile nonsense. Zimbabwe’s problems, they argue, are the product of populist posturing and gross mismanagement of the economy. The government for instance is continuing to print money despite the heavy toll hyper-inflation is taking on the economy and people’s day-to-day struggle to survive. Nobody admits responsibility as the situation deteriorates by the day. This is misgovernance writ large.

Meanwhile, in clear violation of the Sadc Mauritius protocol, the opposition is denied equal access to the public media. Instead, the only voice heard across the land is President Mugabe’s.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission seems unable to understand the importance of its mandate which requires professional management of the election, independent of government’s blandishments. It continues to allow government to arrogate to itself the function of inviting observers and foreign media which means only those sympathetic to the regime will be asked.

Perhaps most egregiously, the opposition has been denied the right to campaign. Morgan Tsvangirai has been told he cannot hold rallies while Zanu PF has a free rein everywhere. It remains to be seen whether a court order allowing Tsvangirai’s rallies to proceed will be obeyed.

What nobody has considered is “the day after”. While the MDC are committed to restoring relations with the international community, and particularly the Bretton Woods twins, Zanu PF is engaged in a war of words with North America, Europe and Australasia. Even Zambia, upon whom we depend for maize imports, has been subjected to the vitriol hitherto reserved for the West.

And aid agencies who were keeping many of our people fed have been told to close shop because they are exposing the government’s delinquency.

In the event of a victory for Mugabe, what can he offer apart from more of the same? Are voters to be asked to endure more pain for a “sovereignty” that doesn’t feed them, for an empowerment that doesn’t serve them, and for an iron grip that doesn’t liberate them?

Will Zimbabwe become an African Burma? Certainly our generals seem to have taken their cue from those who locked up Aung San Suu Kyi who won an election in 1990. And it is now an offence to predict the outcome of an election on the basis of figures provided from polling stations!

Nobody doubts today that Tsvangirai would win a poll held in accord with the Mauritius terms. But the institutional barriers and intimidatory tactics of the ruling party may yet thwart those who saw in his candidacy a new national dawn.

While those so viciously assaulted in recent weeks, or the families of those killed, may feel alienated from a ruling party they once trusted, they may be unable or unwilling to return to their homes and vote.

In so far as that is the case, Zanu PF will have fulfilled its objective of making voting for change a pointless exercise. Mugabe said as much prior to the March poll.

For the people of Matabeleland, only 35% of whom turned out in March, there is every reason to vote in two weeks time. This will be a close-run thing and every vote counts. Even in the cities where the MDC is paramount it is vital that people understand that for the first time they can make a difference.

For those who have their reservations about the MDC, the alternative of doing nothing will surrender the country into the hands of a politically bankrupt party which wants to retain power for its own sake. With inflation at over 1 700 000% the cost of another term for Mugabe is too ghastly to contemplate.

So let’s forget about the GNU for the time being. What is needed now is focus and resolve. The people spoke unambiguously on March 29. No effort has been spared by Zanu PF in trying to reverse that verdict. They must not be allowed to do so.

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