The People’s Convention

July 1, 2009

The biggest political debate in Zimbabwe today is about creating a new constitution for the country. The Global Political Agreement (GPA) which gave birth to the inclusive government stipulates that there must be a new constitution for the country within 24 months from the date that the GPA was signed (September 15, 2008). The process of creating this new constitution is already underway led by a select committee of parliament which is co-chaired by representatives of the 3 political parties in parliament.

Last weekend I traveled 300 kilometers out of Harare to Zimbabwe’s third largest city of Gweru, to witness a provincial public consultative meeting of the select committee on a new constitution. The meeting was very well attended – with over a thousand people filling the city hall beyond capacity. Passions were flaring high as different political parties and civic groups had mobilized their people to push their agendas. Similar meetings are taking place around the country and everywhere there are reports of huge attendances. In other places meetings have had to be moved from halls to stadiums to accommodate the huge numbers.

In Gweru the main concerns raised by the public were around making the process as participatory and inclusive as possible. People raised issues of representations of marginalized groups such as the disabled, women, and youth. The people also wanted guarantees that the views that they express in the consultative meetings will find their way into the final constitution. Many in Zimbabwe are seeing the constitutional making process as an opportunity to not only create a charter for democratic governance but also to enshrine the usually overlooked social-economic rights into the supreme law of the country.

The select committee has mapped out a plan to hold three consultations in every ward, initially to explain the process to the people and hear their views on the process, and the second time to gather people’s views, and finally to present a draft constitution to the people. When the final constitution is crafted it will be put before a national referendum sometime in July 2010 – where people will either accept or reject the new constitution.

Serious tensions are emerging over the process. There are some in civil society who insist that for the constitution to be people driven it must not be led by a select committee of parliament. These, led by the National Constitutional Assembly have gone as far as boycotting the consultations by the select committee and have already started a campaign to reject the new constitution. Others, who appear to be the majority in civil society are opting to engage with the process and use the space to argue for more people participation and inclusive representation in the thematic committees consulting and drafting the new constitution. The fight appears set to go all the way to the referendum next year.

This weekend, over 2000 representatives from 234 civil society organizations from around the country will gather at the People’s Convention on a New Constitution to discuss how best civil society can engage with the constitution making process. Civil society has already started civic education to ensure meaningful participation.

The People’s Convention is the biggest game in town and it promises to be a historic moment on Zimbabwe’s path to democracy and good governance.

Briggs Bomba, Africa Action

Just Arrived in Zimbabwe

June 25, 2009

I arrived in Harare last night on a full South African Airways flight from Johannesburg.  The fact that the flight was full on a Wednesday night caught my attention because a few months back many were wondering whether SAA would keep its two daily flights between Johannesburg and Harare.  That immediately told me that I was coming to a changing Harare, different to the one I saw six months ago when I was last visited.  Harare International Airport itself, though the fourth largest in Africa, was deserted and dimly lit.

As we drove from from the airport into downtown Harare, I was disappointed to find out that little had changed in terms of infrastructure improvement since the inclusive government was formed four months ago.  Street lights that have been out for a long time now are still not repaired.  The same with traffic lights on most intersections.  While the city has started filling pot holes, the roads are not anywhere near as good as the roads that once served this city in its sunshine days.

I spent my first morning just walking the streets, going in and out of shops, observing as much as i can and talking to regular folks to get a good sense of the situation on the ground.  Everyone says things are a lot better compared to the time before the inclusive government when inflation was in the billions, and shops were empty.  Now the supermarkets are full with goods and prices are much lower compared to December when i was last in Harare.  For example,  10 pounds of the staple corn/mealie -meal was going for US$12.50, but now it has come down to US$4.50.  Also noticeable is how goods from the local industry are slowly coming back into supermarkets.  Back in December almost all products in shops were from South Africa, but now half of the goods are from Zimbabwe industries.  This suggests a slow revival to Zimbabwe’s, once formidable manufacturing sector which, at its height, contributed 45% of GDP.

While people are acknowledging improvements and seem more optimistic about the future, the conditions of living for most Zimbabweans remain dire.  It is exceedingly difficult for people to access foreign currency.   The salaries that workers are getting are no where near matching their monthly bills.  The government is broke and is only giving paltry allowances to civil servants.  Civil servants have given notice they will go on a nation-wide strike in July if the government does not start paying decent salaries.  Many young people remain unemployed as industries are not yet hiring.  This is fueling crime in Harare and other cities.

On the political side the situation remains fragile.  The partners to the inclusive government are sharing and contesting power at the same time and as a result the progress is slow.  There is still a lot of mistrust between the political players.

Tomorrow I will start consultations with civil society players on the new constitution, ahead of the Civil Society Leaders Conference on Constitutional Reform, at which I will be speaking.   Everyone I have talked to so far, regards the new constitution as the most important project in terms of consolidating Zimbabwe’s transition towards democratization and economic recovery.

Stay tuned,

Briggs Bomba, Africa Action

Mugabe and Zanu PF now Constitute a Coup

April 8, 2008

Mugabe and Zanu PF now Constitute a Coup

By Briggs Bomba


The unfortunate, yet predictable drama unfolding in the wake of Zimbabwe’s March 29 elections resurrects Josef Stalin’s ghosts reminding us of his uncanny words that ‘Its not who votes that counts, its who counts the votes’. Mugabe’s crafty actions since the elections evidently show that he is determined to win the count after losing the elections.


Seven days after peacefully casting votes in the most anticipated election since 1980, Zimbabweans still await the official announcement of the results. The profound sense of hope that characterized the voting day is now turning into downright bewilderment as it becomes clear that President Mugabe and his Zanu PF are doggedly bent on disregarding the people’s sovereign will as expressed on March 29.


The revelation from State media that Zanu PF ordered the Zimbabwe Elections Commission (ZEC) not to announce the presidential election results is baffling to anyone with a sense of how the Zimbabwean elections process must work. ZEC is a constitutionally mandated body tasked to independently administer elections. For such a body to take orders from Zanu PF whose legal status in this case is a mere contestant demonstrates what is wrong not only with elections but with everything in Zimbabwe. It is this rotten state of democratic institutions and the subordination of state bodies to the ruling party that is at the heart of the country’s decay.


The important point that must be made now is that President Mugabe’s continued hold on power, after an election he visibly lost, now constitutes a coup. Zimbabweans, supported by the international community must immediately act to thwart this violation of the people’s democratic will. The unprecedented and unconstitutional move by Zanu PF’s to bar the ZEC from announcing the presidential election results is clear evidence of mischief and unwillingness by hardliners in Mugabe’s regime to respect the sovereign will of the people of Zimbabwe. By heeding this illegal request, ZEC has failed the crucial test of independence, thus confirming the longstanding fears by Zimbabwe’s civic society that the elections body will sacrifice Zimbabwe’s democracy at the alter of partisan interests.


Zanu PF’s calls for a recount and already ongoing preparations for a presidential election rerun, before the results are known, is not only bizarre but also evidence of utter contemptuous disrespect to not only Zimbabweans but also the whole world. With the current machinations, the Mugabe regime has reached the height of illegality because they have in actual fact staged what is essentially a ‘veto coup’. By definition this is when ‘people’s mass participation and social mobilization to govern themselves’ is vetoed.


By refusing to bow to popular will Mugabe is daring the people of Zimbabwe who have demonstrated legendary restrain and patience under the most unbearable living conditions. The March 29 elections presented a singular opportunity for many to peacefully speak out and entrust the future of the country in a leadership of their choice. The consequences of frustrating and thereby rendering irrelevant such a democratic arena of struggle are dangerous not only to Zimbabwe but, potentially to the whole of Southern Africa. Mugabe’s reckless actions risks destabilizing the whole region by provoking people to extra democratic means in Zimbabwe with certain adverse spill over effects in the region. As such the responsibility to defend the March 29 vote goes beyond Zimbabweans. SADC, the AU and the United Nations, as bodies with longstanding commitment against illegal usurpation of power must play a key role in breaking the impasse in Zimbabwe. If these bodies are to remain relevant it is they speak out now to pressure Mugabe to release and accept the election results, otherwise they will be faced with a serious crisis of legitimacy.


At this very late hour, statements by South African President Thabo Mbeki that ‘the situation in Zimbabwe is manageable’ and that ‘it is time to wait’ are not only unhelpful but a slap in the face for long suffering Zimbabweans, who at considerable risk and sacrifice went out to vote on March 29. There cannot be any plausible reason why results are not known seven days after voting! No, Mr President, this is not ‘a time to wait’; neither is it a ‘manageable situation’. This is more like a time bomb that can only be defused if the people’s vote is respected.


President Mbeki’s unfortunate statements and the deafening silence from other African leaders in SADC and the AU raises serious problems of accountability with the current crop of African leaders. Where is the moral outrage in this clear case of daylight robbery? Diplomacy seems to have been redefined to ‘see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil’ within the old boys club. Africa is not helped by this blind, uncritical support amongst its leaders.


The opposition in Zimbabwe must now show decisive leadership. While it is commendable that we have not seen ‘Kenyan style’ violence in the post election period, Zimbabwe’s opposition must learn from Kenyan opposition that the business of appealing to an incumbent’s courts does not work. There are pending cases in courts from the 2000 elections. In fact, with a compromised judiciary, such as Zimbabwe’s, court appeals only serve the purpose of disarming people’s vigilance by creating a distracting sideshow and reinforcing illusions of mitigation. Already a dilly dance has started in the courts with all sorts of delaying tactics meant to buy Mugabe time until its too late, rendering the court challenge academic. The opposition is best advised to resort to peaceful mass mobilization of people power to defend the vote. The opposition must lead unions, students and the full range of civic society in defending the people’s vote. Mugabe will only pay attention if he is convinced that he can no longer govern in the old way, therefore the strategy must be to paralyze the state through effective, peacefully direct action. I personally hope that Professor Masunungure will be proved wrong on his recent assertion that Mugabe will get away with mischief and fraud because Zanu PF is ‘risk taking’ whereas the opposition is ‘risk averse’.


The despicable levels of suffering by many Zimbabwean make resolving the current impasse in Zimbabwe an urgent matter. Having been on the ground myself for two weeks around election time, I can attest that the humanitarian disaster I witnessed is heartbreaking. An old man I talked to in one of the rural areas told me that “now we wait to see which bush the goats are feeding on, and we eat that because we know it will not be poisonous”.  Their village had always voted Zanu PF, this time they voted out one of Mugabe’s ministers despite all their fears of what could happen. They voted to restore their dignity.


It is time to defend the vote.


Briggs Bomba is a Zimbabwean born Economist working for Africa Action in Washington DC, and writes here in his personal capacity. He can be contacted at




Still No Official Word on Presidential, As MDC wins Parliamentary elections…

April 3, 2008

Its now five full days since voting ended in Zimbabwe’s elections yet the people of Zimbabwe and the world at large still await the official announcement of the results. Whilst the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission finally published the final house of asembly results – this took four days, an unnecessarily long time considering the current highly charged political environment in Zimbabwe. The final results from ZEC show an MDC victory in the House of Assembly elections – this is historic as its the first time since independence in 1980 that Zanu PF is a minority in parliament. The final results are as follows:

MDC (Tsvangirai) – 99 Seats

Zanu PF – 97 Seats

MDC (Mutambara) – 10 Seats

Independent – 1 Seat

The Presidential Election…

The MDC claimed victory in the presidential election saying from their own tabulation Tsvangirai  – 1 171 079 (49%) , Mugabe – 1, 043 349 (44%) , Makoni – 167 000 (7%). If these figures are correct then the election is going into a second round because the constitution requires the winner to have 50% + 1 vote.

A lot of work will need to be done to ensure that a run off is free and fair. The potential for violence is very high considering how close the vote is and Zanu PF’s past history of resorting to violence as a way of retaining power. With the constitution saying a run off must happen within 21days, there is an urgent need to immediately extend the permits for international observers so that they can remain on the ground. Asking observers to apply again will introduce unnecessary bureacracy and allow a lot to be done in darkness.

 If anything, Zimbabwe’s House of Assembly results so far indicate that people want change. Its no longer just an urban question, significant sections of the rural areas voted for change as well.  In a chocking environment of 150,000% inflation, more than 80% unemployment, and cronic shortages of food, drugs, electricity, water, and just about every other basic necessity, CHANGE is no doubt a natural top priority!

As Zimbabwe waits with bated teath for the announcement of the presidential election results one hopes that the genuine will of the people is what will prevail at the end of the day!

I am now back in the D.C. but will continue to be engaged with whats happening on the ground and with this fast internet i will soon be posting images from my Zim trip and will also respond to some of the comments posted on the blog!

Thanks for your company!


Briggs en route; Catch Gerald on Democracy Now

April 1, 2008

[Posted by Michael Swigert from Africa Action’s office in Washington]

Unfortunately, the restrictions of international airline tickets purchased weeks ago pull Briggs away from Zimbabwe just at this critical post-election moment, before any official announcement has been made by the government on the results of the presidential vote. I guarantee you he’s more frustrated about that than anyone!

We look forward to continuing this dialogue over the coming days, and encourage you to continue to post comments. I’ll make sure Briggs has the chance to review your feedback and respond to your questions (as well as post plenty of photos) as soon as he’s surrounded by broadband connectivity in our office. Just as the act of voting on Saturday represents only one important stage in the democratic process, the government announcement of a declared winner can really only be a starting point for the next phase of democratic development in Zimbabwe, regardless of who is named.

In the meantime, you can catch Gerald LeMelle, Africa Action’s Executive Director, on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman, this Wednesday morning (April 2) from 8:00 – 8:30 EST. You can listen to the broadcast on your local Pacifica affiliate, or online here. They’ll be discussing this very topic – the Zim elections – and Gerald is sure to incorporate a lot of the observations Briggs has provided us from his trip into the conversation.

Africa Action’s Gerald LeMell


April 1, 2008

It is now more than 72 hours since voting ended in Zimbabwe’s combined presidential, parliamentary, Senate and Council elections yet the nation and the world at large still await the official announcement of the full results. As we go to press, the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) has only announced 131 out of the 206 contested seats. At this rate it may take up to three more days for ZEC to go through the Senatorial and Council and finally get to the highly awaited presidential election results. Of the announced 131 House of Assembly seats the distribution is:

ZANU PF – 68

MDC – 67

MDC (Mutambara) – 5

There is no clear explanation for ZEC’s delay in announcing the results that is now fueling all manner of speculation and projections. This unnecessary delay in announcing the result has been interpreted by the opposition and many in civic society as ZANU PF’s attempt to manipulate the figures in favor of Mugabe. Consequently the credibility of the March 29 election is now severely undermined.

The opposition MDC has been announcing their own independent results through a series of press conferences. At present the MDC says that with data they collected from 80% of the contested seats the distribution stands as:

MDC – 98

ZANU PF – 72

MDC ( Mutambara) – 13

Independent – 1

Yesterday the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a network of two dozen civic groups that plays a key independent watchdog role in Zimbabwe’s elections released what they called a ‘Projection’ of the election results based on a random sampling of 435 out of the 9400 polling stations. ZESN’s projection show Morgan Tsvangirai as the winner with 49% followed my Mugabe at 42 percent and Simba Makoni at 8%. If this were to be true then Zzimbabwe will be heading for a run off – the constitution requires that the winner must have at least 51% of the vote, failure of which there shall be a run off to be held within 21 days.

Whilst the main obsereor missions including SADC, COMESA, and the Pan African Parliament have already pronounced Zimbabwe’s elections as ‘free, fair and credible’ , the reality is that this is another contested election. this flatly defeats the purpose of the SADC initiated dialogue between the MDC and Zanu PF that was aimed at producing an election that will not be disputed.

Rumours circulating amongst Zimbabwe’s civic society is that ZANU PF plans to declare victory claiming 52% of the presidential vote and a slight majority in parliament. If this were to happen Zimbabwe will sink even further as Mugabe lacks capacity to slow down the country’s economic collapse.

What the results announced by ZEC show so far is that the country is still deeply polarised between urban and rural. Almost all of Mugabe’s support is concentrated in the rural areas whereas the MDC’s base is urban even though this time around the party has been able to garner a lot of support in rural areas as well.

The most important thing right now is for ZEC to speedily announce all the outstanding results so that the country can move forward. The recent move by ZEC to invite all contesting candidates to have representatives at the tabulation of the presidential results is very encouraging and ZEC must now proceed with efficiency to quickly conclude the job to defuse the charged environment generated by the inefficient reporting.

The government of Zimbabwe has deployed heavy police presence in the city of Harare and other major urban areas presumably to discourage any mass action. Especially at night, people report seeing groups of sometimes up to 50 policeman in riot gear just roaming the streets. Because of the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s deplorable human rights record, their presence on the streets only fosters an environment of fear and intimidation and exposes ordinary people to abuse!

As i head out to the airport with others who had hoped to witnessing the final announcement of the results, i leave Zimbabwe a nation in waiting – for the results, for change, and for an end to the unbearable suffering of ordinary people…

Maybe 3 days will tell…

Dare to Invent the Future!



March 30, 2008

Today’s state run ‘Sunday Mail’ led with a headline that claims that Zimbabwe is gripped with anxiety as people await the results of yesterday’s election. The reality on the streets however is that there is jubilation – ‘the people’ have already declared themselves winners, if the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission issues a different verdict it will be seen as a clear case of political daylight robbery. Unofficial tallies coming in from across the country show the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Tsvangirai in a clean lead over Zanu PF and Simba Makoni. Confirmed reports are that Zanu PF’s heavy weights were trounced by the MDC, these include, Joyce Mujuru (Mugabe’s Vice President), Elliot Manyika (ZANU PF’s political commissar and Minister without portfolio), and Patrick Chinamasa (Minister of Justice). The election has turned out to be a slaughter house for the Arthur Mutambara formation of the MDC who lost everything and won only one Senate seat (David Coltart) in Bulawayo – which was supposed to be their stronghold. It is the reported MDC victories in traditional Zanu PF strongholds that has become a cause for celebration for the long suffering Zimbabwe in anticipation of CHANGE! The MDC is holding a series of press conferences and the party officials officials have said despite the seriously flawed electoral environment, they are certain of victory.

A major concern that is on everyone’s mind is whether Mugabe and his regime will gracefully accept defeat and hand over power to Morgan Tsvangirai. Considering what ZANU PF henchman stand to lose if the regime is ousted it is not clear what the regime will do. Most of the regime’s people have dirty hands, have outrightly stolen wealth, some have gross human rights cases hanging over their heads. My thinking is that Zanu PF is in no opposition to carry out coup and or war threats as has been variously claimed by regime functionaries. The regime is broke; the junior ranking officers in the army and police force are demoralised and suffering like everyone else – Zanu is just in no shape to fight a war now and they know that it’s a losing option. The threat were just supposed to intimidate and instill fear in the electorate. From my travels in the rural areas of Matebeland – this strategy worked with some people but significant numbers of villagers, previously intimidated by such tactics were firmly resolved to vote the opposition! Unlike the previously election where the Zimbabwe Electoral commission announced results live on TV as they came in, this time around ZEC is not clear on what they want to do! The announcement of results is shrouded in secret creating a potentially chaotic environment.

As I head now to listen to the SADC delegation’s briefing, there is still a blackout on official results. however, unofficial tallies show the MDC as having won about 60% of the vote. If this is confirmed there will be no need for a run off as had been widely predicted by many commentators!

Whilst the quietness that marked voting yesterday still prevails today, I shudder to think what will happen if people are denied what is clearly a victory for the forces of democracy!

More updates on results as they come in…

Dare to Invent the Future!


Hope, Fear, Expectation, Skepticism, Anxiety – A Summary of the Situation on the Ground

March 27, 2008

The mood

It will be an understatement that the general election coming in the next two days has become the most anticipated election in Zimbabwe since the independence elections in 1980. The yearning for change goes so deep and is so widespread that the air is literally pregnant with political tension and possibilities. Everyone knows it’s due in two days and this colors all activity with a rare sense of urgency.

The desperate living conditions in the country attach a heightened sense of importance to the next elections in a way that may even surpass the 1980 election. A veteran trade unionist i spoke to yesterday says Saturday March 29 is Independence Day. The election is what is on everyone’s mouth. As soon as families and friends exchange greetings with relatives trecking in from the diaspora, last seen a long time ago, the very next item of discussion is the elections, and the expectation for change is frightening!

Reports coming from rural areas tell an identical story. Opposition T-shirts are now visible in what were no-go areas. Mugabe has had to cancel five rallies in the rural areas due to poor attendance, including in his own home area of Zvimba! Some Chiefs and Headmen have openly denounced Mugabe and are stumping for the opposition!

I think that turnout in this election will be much higher than many originally anticipated. In fact, many political analysts have been taken back by the level of political interests evident in the last month or so. Morgan Tsvangirai’s rallies have been HUGE in ways that he even says ‘ surprised him.’

The only concern many in civic society are raising is that a lot of the people who are desperately calling for change may not be registered to vote. Many could not register on time because of pressing day to day survival matters!

The main question on people’s minds is no longer if Mugabe will be defeated in the election, it is now whether he will accept defeat. Many are not sure about that, thus creating many possible post-election scenarios that i will come back to at the end of this post. Mugabe’s failure to play by the rules in the past is creating a sense of skepticism in others as to whether their vote even matters.

Will the people of Zimbabwe be able to vote for a candidate of their choice?

Many of the civic society people we spoke to say the political environment is much more open compared to previous elections and feel confident that people will be able to cast their votes peacefully. There is virtually no violence at all in urban areas, the reported cases of violence in rural areas are isolated – nothing compared to the last general election.

Whilst the political environment seems to be open, democratic participation will be undermined on a technical level. The government’s recent unilateral delimitation of constituency boundaries and lack of clear knowledge as to the specific polling stations that people will vote from is creating so much confusion two days before the election. In addition, the government announced a smaller number of polling stations than they had previously promised. Urban areas, which are opposition strongholds, have less polling station than rural areas.

Intimidation/ coup threats

A major cause of concern is the statements by the commissioner of police, the commander of the national army and the commander of the prison services. These three generals have issued statements commanding officers and men and women under their command to vote for Mugabe and have openly said that they will not salute Morgan Tsvangirai or Simba Makoni. This has been correctly interpreted as a coup threat and does have the effect of intimidating the electorate. Even Mugabe, at a recent rally, said, ‘voting MDC is a waste of votes,’ because he will never allow the MDC to rule this country. All of this raises questions of whether Mugabe and his regime are prepared to respect the democratic wishes of the people of Zimbabwe.

Possible rigging through postal ballots

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission printed 600,000 postal ballots and postal voting has already started. This is the most insecure part of the voting process. No observers are monitoring this process and there are a lot of loopholes that can led to abuse. Independent civic bodies have no record of who these anticipated postal voters are and there are fears that the process will be manipulated to serve the incumbent.

Unequal access to state media

The government of Zimbabwe has failed to abide by the SADC protocol on elections’ requirement that all contesting parties get equal access to state media. Whilst the opposition can flight its adverts on TV, Radio and in Newspapers – state journalists have clearly been mobilised to abuse the opposition. Mugabe gets huge manicured coverage whereas the opposition is abused and misrepresented everyday in the state press. State journalists are nauseatingly partisan thus undermining the democratic process!

An unbalanced playing field

Mugabe’s refusal to adopt people driven constitutional reforms gives him an unfair advantage in this contest. Whilst the election environment is freer than before, it is still a constricted space. Security and media laws continue to undermine candidates’ ability to freely canvass and mobilise for the election. Candidates have had problems with door to door campaigns; the opposition can not organise peaceful marches to rally support. Using the controversial President’s Emergency Powers Act, Mugabe recently brought the police force into the running of the elections – something that goes against the original agreements made through the SADC dialogue. This was done to ostensibly allow the the police to assist illiterate and disabled voters. As partisan and violent as the Zimbabwe Republic Police is, its presence within 100 meters of a polling station can only undermine the integrity of the voting process.

Outright vote buying

The Mugabe government has of late been giving handouts to people in targeted communities in a way that is clearly designed to buy votes. This includes buses donated to communities a few days before the elections, cars to Chiefs, and manipulation of food aid. This obviously distorts the democratic process.

Do people have confidence in the invited observer mission?

The clear response to this question from all quarters of civic society is that they would have been more confident if the election had been open for observation to all who want to. Whilst there is appreciation that SADC, AU, and the Non Aligned Movement are present, and civic society is taking every opportunity to make representations to these observer missions, there is still lack of confidence that these missions will be able to observe the elections in an objective impartial manner considering their history of endorsing Mugabe’s ‘victory’ in previous controversial elections. Another concern is the refusal by the observer mission to put on record the coup threats by security chiefs and other concerns raised by civic society.

What is the priority after March 29?

The overwhelming sentiment is that the top priority is to fix the economy. People want an economy that provides their basic needs such as food, drugs, transports, water, electricity, health care, and education. People want an economy that gives them jobs and opportunities to live decent lives. People want an economy that can give them the confidence to raise their heads again. People want a people centered economy.

People centered constitutional reform is widely mentioned as a priority as well as a means to ensure that Zimbabwe has a robust framework on which to build an enduring democracy.

Do the people have confidence that the contending parties will tackle the pressing national priority

Support for the MDC by many civic formations is based on the understanding that an MDC victory will open up democratic space and create room for different civic groups to be able to advance their causes. For example the residents believe that they will have more room to push for local government reforms and the students believe that they will have more room to defend the right to education. Whilst there is overwhelming support for the MDC by civic society groups with some calling it ‘our baby,’ there is also a healthy skepticism of politicians and political parties and a civil society commitment to maintain a watch dog role even when the MDC comes to power. In fact, the main civic groups are planning a conference to discuss their role post-March 29 regardless of who comes to power.

Possible post March 29 scenarios

1. Mugabe loses the election but is declared a winner

There are now increasing fears that there will be violence if people turn out en masse to vote Mugabe out and then feel robbed afterwards. ‘Defend The Vote’ is emerging as a key slogan in the run up to the elections with many people not trusting that Mugabe will gracefully accept defeat. There were reports that Morgan Tsvangirai called for people to go back to the polling stations the next day to wait for the election results to be announced!

It is not clear whether there will be sustained mass action if Mugabe steals the election, but what is clear is that there will be overflowing anger and depending on the leadership that the opposition will provide, this can turn into mass action on a level never seen in post-independence Zimbabwe

2. Mugabe loses and Morgan Tsvangirai or Simba Makoni is declared a winner

There is fear that in this case they will be violence from the fanatical Zanu PF element that includes elements of the security forces loyal to the generals who have already threatened a coup, war veterans and youth militia.

3. A risk averse opposition and risk taking Zanu- PF

A respected academic at the University of Zimbabwe, Eldored Masunungure, recently characterised the opposition as ‘risk averse’ and Zanu PF as a ‘risk taker’. His postulation was that Mugabe will win the election through hook and crook and the opposition will not do anything beyond appealing to thE courts, a process that will drag on until the time of the next election.

Messages to the International Activists, especially in the U.S.

One of the messages is that the loudest voices on Zimbabwe from the U.S. are coming from groups like the December 12 Movement who extend unprincipled support to Mugabe. Civic groups here are calling for progressive U.S. organisations to be more vigilant in extending solidarity to progressive organisations in Zimbabwe to counter the damaging impact of misdirected solidarity efforts. Mugabe has skillfully projected Zimbabwe’s problems as a race and land issue, but many civic groups here want the discourse to go beyond this false framework and call upon progressive organisations internationally to help expose Mugabe’s fake ‘people politics’, that confuses many people internationally whilst shielding gross corruption, human right abuses, and his regime’s self serving policies that undermine social justice. A constant message from a number of organisations was ‘please do not tire’ – continue to talk and organize about Zimbabwe in your constituencies until democracy prevails.

Lets meet again soon, as we move into the historic March 29…

Today i head East to Mutare, th fourth largest city. The drive there passes through peri-urban and rural areas and this allows me to get a sense of the situation in the country outside Harare. Stay tuned…

Solidarity Forever!


Coming Back to a Different Place

March 27, 2008

(apologies for the late update – internet access was just too hectic the past few days – a sign of how things have deteriorated)

I touched down at Harare International Airport Tuesday night ( 19 March) on a half full South African Airways flight. I had the pleasant surprise of running into Davie Malungisa at Johannesburg airport – a colleague I have had the pleasure to work with on social justice and democracy issues for a number of years. Davie is a founder of Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Developments (ZIMCODD) and the Zimbabwe Social Forum (ZSF) – and is now the Executive Director of Institute of Democratic Alternatives of Zimbabwe (IDAZIM) based in South Africa. Our flight’s one-hour delay gave us an opportunity to quickly catch up on the situation in Zimbabwe and discuss possible post-election scenarios.

Harare International Airport was like a ghost town. The SAA flight was the only one and and everything seemed to be engulfed in grey, not just at the airport but the whole way to my host’s place in downtown Harare. Driving into Harare the most noticeable thing was how the infrastructure is collapsing. Most street lights are out, same as traffic lights, roads are potholed – it does not look like maintenance is still a part of Harare City Council’s work. The first shock was paying 10 million Zimbabwe dollars for 30 minutes parking. The Zimbabwe dollar was trading at 1 is to 35 million to the U.S dollar. A gallon of petrol is selling at 300 million dollars! This becomes more ridiculous if one considers that the Zimbabwe government slashed 3 zeros from its currency recently. Thus in reality the above figures are all billions. Everything is charged in millions and the highest note is 10 million. A colleague tells me that his kids were confused at school when they read about cents and coins – the younger kids have no idea what that is.

Driving around Harare there is a charged quietness. something close to the calm before the storm.’ Cases of violence are very isolated and minimal even in the usually restive working class suburbs. On the streets one could see candidates from different parties busy canvasing. Opposition campaign adverts are appearing in the state controlled media creating an impression that things are normal on the surface. This is exactly the question that i want to ask civic society people i am meeting. Has the electoral situation changed fundamentally since the last elections? Is March 29 going to be a free and fair election? In my next post, coming in the next few hours i will summaries the mood in the country, responses we have been getting from civic society and weigh in with a bit of my own analysis!







Interactive map shows election rigging

March 25, 2008

[Posted by Michael Swigert from Africa Action’s office in Washington]

Sokwanele, a “civil action support group” has developed this interactive map displaying the location of violations (“breaches”) of the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. Sokwanele points out the essential reality that elections are a process, not an event, and the same, sadly, applies to rigging.

Although the reality of how widespread government abuses are is deeply troubling, this site is a great example of how creative civil society groups in Africa can use Google Maps mashups and other forms of web-based technology to get their message out about human rights and democracy. See’s timeline/map of post-electoral violence in Kenya for a similar project.