PRESIDENT-elect Robert Mugabe’s re-election has triggered anxiety and uncertainty among the majority of Zimbabweans who fear the just-ended disputed polls could plunge Zimbabwe back into a deeper economic and political crisis.
The general mood across the country is that of gloom and despondency as ordinary citizens are gripped by a fear of the unknown.
Mugabe beat MDC-T leader and outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in an election fraught with allegations of rigging masterminded by controversial Israeli security company Nikuv International Projects.
However, unlike the 1980 scenario, which Zanu PF is equating Mugabe’s victory to, Saturday night’s announcement that the aged leader had extended his 33-year rule by another five years did not appear to trigger spontaneous street celebrations.
“There is a sombre mood as the majority of Zimbabweans ponder their next move,” said Kuwadzana vendor Kizito Mbewe. “There is a fear of the unknown and once again progressive forces have been denied the chance to democratise the country.”
Instead of hope, there is fear and anxiety of what an all-powerful Mugabe means for the future of the country and a fragile economy that had steadied after the hyperinflation horrors of five years ago.
Amnesty International says women political activists in rural Zimbabwe have been threatened with violence and forced to flee with their children for refusing to reveal their vote to Zanu PF supporters.
The women said they resisted instructions from Zanu PF supporters to feign illiteracy, blindness or physical injury, which would have meant someone else marking the ballot on their behalf.
At least six women said they left home with their 12 young children after facing intimidation from village heads in Mukumbura District in Mashonaland Central as well as in Mberengwa district in the Midlands.
“It appears the Zanu PF supporters wanted to ensure that these women did not vote for the other parties and tried to compromise the secrecy of the ballot,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Africa.
“‘The election observers still in Zimbabwe must investigate the reports of politically-motivated displacement in rural areas and put pressure on the government to ensure human rights are protected.
“While the election was conducted in a largely peaceful environment, it is disturbing that these incidents are happening unabated. Police should take action against village heads or others steering the disturbances in rural areas,” Kututwa said.
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisai Ruhanya said the current environment in Zimbabwe is an indication that the will of the people was subverted in the elections.
“The environment is a reflection of the general disenchantment with Mugabe’s rule and an indication that the result does not reflect the will of the people,” Ruhanya said.
He said what happened on July 31 was a demonstration of what a small group of people who have everything to lose can do, especially after spending 33 years cementing their grip on power and amassing wealth.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Professor Eldred Masunungure said the mood in the country contradicts the margin of Zanu PF victory in the elections.
“The margin of victory has instilled trepidation and people doubt the result,” said Masunungure. “People are worried because of the likelihood of a complete shift in policy direction.
“The inclusive government had set policies towards a certain trajectory which brought sanity in Zimbabwe, but now the majority of people are crippled by fear of the unknown. People cast their eyes back to 2008 and imagine the experience of that era, hence we do not see the celebrations,” he said.
Harare-based economist Vince Musewe said: “Now that the MDC has been weakened, Zanu PF will have unfettered access to public resources of the country and its institutions, as was the case in the 1980s.
“We are going to see a parochial, unchecked economy developing with the marginalisation of progressive-thinking Zimbabweans. The economy is once again going to be wrecked through indigenisation and the return of political corruption. Zanu PF simply doesn’t care and now that they are in control, arrogance is going to increase. We expect things not to get any better economically or politically.”