Velvet-glove inaction will have dire results

Moshoeshoe Monare, Sunday Independent, 13 April 2008

What is happening in Zimbabwe is a comical travesty of democracy.

How could the ruling party, Zanu-PF, with its tentacles on all institutions of the state including the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC], demand a run-off for the presidential elections even before the results are released?

As if that's not enough circus, Zanu-PF wants a re-count of presidential votes before the announcement of the outcome.

Actually, a joke around Harare is that what Zanu-PF is demanding is not a re-count in the proper sense of the word, but a pre-count, even though the latter term may not exist.

Nelson Chamisa, the Movement for Democratic (MDC) change (Morgan Tsvangirai faction) spokesman, rightly asked how a student could demand a re-mark of an examination when the results had not been announced.

Ironically, President Robert Mugabe himself said, when casting his vote, that there would not be a run-off. "We are not used to boxing matches where we go from one round to another round; we just knock each other out in the first round - that's how we have done it in the past, that's how we will do it this time.

"This second round, I don't know, it is our constitutional lawyers who brought it. What they should have done is to look at what the president gets, combining that with what his party gets, and the sum total should [provide] the winner," he said.

It was the same president who told journalists on the same day that the Zimbabwean elections were perfectly run, and even mocked the United States electoral re-count in Florida in 2000. But it is the same man whose party demands a re-count.

It is the same man who said Tsvangirai would never rule Zimbabwe while "we who liberated this country are still alive". He should know that Ian Smith uttered a similar nonsense, saying a black man would rule over his dead body. Smith has died, in South Africa, nogal. Mugabe actually mocked Smith's "over-my-dead-body" vow at a rally in Kadoma, west of Harare.

This is why Mugabe and Zanu-PF are indirectly refusing to let the ZEC, which is still beholden to the party, release the results.

My analysis, based on information from reliable insiders, is that Mugabe and Zanu-PF thought they were still popular. They underestimated the intelligence of the starving Zimbabweans. They thought the electorate would vote for ideological rhetoric, and say "no" to change.

When they realised that the voters had punished the liberation movement and the president who had overshadowed their lives with an iron fist for almost 28 years, they intimidated the ZEC.

But the law regulating the elections dictated that the results be posted outside polling stations, and they realised that rigging was implausible (but not impossible).

That's when they thought a compromise would be a run-off, but that was also not possible because the MDC collated results from polling stations, giving Tsvangirai "according to the party" a required majority.

Zanu-PF snapped and demanded a re-count, which will at least give the party time to regroup, re-arm and fight.

If they get the run-off, indications are that Zanu-PF will go back to its 2000 violent tactics.
South African Development Community leaders must realise that, if they think their velvet-glove diplomacy is the right way to go, they will soon feel the pinch of the implosion or explosion in Zimbabwe.

If there is going to be a run-off, the MDC must agree to it on condition that there are African Union or United Nations troops monitoring (not merely observing) the situation.

Joshua Nkomo, the former Zapu leader, once warned that Mugabe would retain power at all costs, even if it meant killing his own people.

Bob Marley sang 28 years ago, during Zimbabwe's Independence Day at Rufaro Stadium, that: "Every man has the right to decide his own destiny."

Unfortunately, he died before realising that his namesake has negated the very same ideals contained in the lyrics of the song Zimbabwe.


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