People of Zimbabwe between a rock and a hard place

– John Edmundson

The disastrous election period in Zimbabwe has thrust that country back into the media spotlight over the last few months, with the latest big news being the veto in the UN Security Council of a package of sanctions being sponsored by the United States. Reports of voter intimidation have been added to the ongoing hostile media reports of land occupations by Mugabe cronies, financial mismanagement and economic collapse.

The story of Zimbabwe’s slide into poverty is, of course, more complex than the picture we tend to receive in the media, as is the perceived solution of Western-led international sanctions.

There can be no doubt that the election process in Zimbabwe was rigged by the ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front) party led by independence war hero Robert Mugabe. The lead-up to the 29 March 2008 harmonised local government, parliamentary, senatorial and presidential elections saw widespread reports of intimidation, while the vote-counting was inexplicably delayed. Finally a narrow win to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was announced in the parliamentary poll, but in the presidential election it was declared that a runoff election would be required – a result that was immediately challenged by the MDC.

The new poll was set for 27 June but in the intervening period the MDC claimed that over a hundred of their activists had been killed and many more subjected to various forms of intimidation. MDC Presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, who had himself been beaten and arrested several times during the campaign, withdrew from the contest and took refuge in the Dutch Embassy for nine days.

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People vote for change in Tonga, Zimbabwe and Nepal

– Alastair Reith

In the past month or so, elections took place in three very different countries, far away from one another, with distinctly different languages, cultures and histories. These countries did have some things in common. All were all poor, third-world countries, whose people live in poverty and oppression, and they all voted against the regimes and systems they currently live under.

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Zimbabwe elections – a vote for change

– Alastair Reith

Leader of the Zimbabwean opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai

On 29 March 2008, the people of Zimbabwe went to the polls to vote in the parliamentary and presidential elections, and on the future of their impoverished country.

There was world-wide interest in the elections and a great deal of media coverage. These elections were seen as crucial in determining whether President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party would maintain their 28-year hold on power, or whether the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would take their place.

The elections were marred by violent clashes between the supporters of various parties and factions, and were carried out in an atmosphere of extreme tension.

Official results began to trickle in on March 31. By April 2 all the results for the lower House of Assembly had been declared, with the majority faction of the MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, winning 99 seats, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF winning 97, the minority MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara winning 10 seats, and one independent.

This was the first time since the end of white minority rule that Mugabe’s party had not held a majority, and it showed the level of dissatisfaction with him that exists in Zimbabwe.

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After Mugabe, what next for Zimbabwe?

The following article is taken from the April 3 issue of the Weekly Worker, paper of the Communist Party of Great Britain:

After the Mugabe era

James Turley asks what MDC rule would mean for Zimbabwe’s workers.

On April 2 the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which had been claiming victory since the polls closed, was finally confirmed as the largest party in Zimbabwe’s March 29 general election.

In a desperate attempt to delay the inevitable, the Zimbabwe election commission – no doubt under orders from president Robert Mugabe – is still refusing at the time of writing to release results for the presidential election, where MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has certainly won most votes. Even if he has not passed the 50% mark, necessitating a run-off, it is clear that the era of the Mugabe regime is over.

Hebson Makuvise, the MDC spokesman in London, claimed that Mugabe will “unleash violence”. The claim is not simply rhetorical – Mugabe has used his control of the security services as a rough instrument in such situations before. However, all the signs are that Mugabe and his cohorts are preparing to exit the scene of their crimes, taking as much booty with them as they can manage.

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