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

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!

Briggs

Advertisements

Tags:

22 Responses to “Hope, Fear, Expectation, Skepticism, Anxiety – A Summary of the Situation on the Ground”

  1. Wilsonhug.Bravejournal.com Says:

    Good way of explaining, and good paragraph to take information regarding
    my presentation focus, which i am going to deliver in school.

  2. Ermelinda Says:

    Hi there to every one, the contents existing at this web
    site are really awesome for people experience, well, keep up the good
    work fellows.

  3. Chat roulete Says:

    I am really impressed together with your writing talents and also with the layout for
    your weblog. Is that this a paid theme or did you modify
    it your self? Either way stay up the excellent high quality writing, it is
    rare to see a nice blog like this one nowadays..

  4. Linnie Says:

    Hello to every body, it’s my first visit of this blog; this webpage carries remarkable and really excellent stuff in favor of readers.

  5. Natasha Says:

    Hello, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one
    and i was just curious if you get a lot of
    spam comments? If so how do you prevent it, any plugin or anything you can advise?

    I get so much lately it’s driving me crazy so any help is very much appreciated.

  6. Discover More Says:

    Your style is really unique compared to other people I have read stuff from.

    Thanks for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess I’ll just book mark this blog.

  7. Recommend This Says:

    I’ve read a few good stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how so much effort you put to create this sort of fantastic informative web site.

  8. mittel gegen Haarausfall Says:

    Howdy! Do you know if they make any plugins to safeguard against hackers?
    I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on.

    Any tips?

  9. chatroulette Says:

    Hello! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone 4! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the outstanding work!

  10. 5:53 AM Says:

    Hey there! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came to look it over.

    I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m book-marking
    and will be tweeting this to my followers! Great blog and excellent
    style and design.

  11. chatroullet Says:

    Aw, this was an extremely good post. Taking a few minutes and
    actual effort to produce a very good article… but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and
    don’t manage to get anything done.

  12. nagelpilz Says:

    I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you make this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
    Plz reply as I’m looking to design my own blog and would like to know where u got this from. thanks a lot

  13. Ursula Says:

    Hey are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying
    to get started and set up my own. Do you need any html coding expertise to make your own blog?
    Any help would be really appreciated!

  14. copal Incense sticks Says:

    Greetings! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My blog looks weird when browsing from my apple iphone. I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might be able to resolve this
    issue. If you have any suggestions, please share.

    Cheers!

  15. Hämorrhoiden Kissen Says:

    Excellent beat ! I would like to apprentice
    at the same time as you amend your website, how can i subscribe for a blog web site?
    The account helped me a appropriate deal. I had been a little bit
    familiar of this your broadcast provided vivid transparent concept

  16. home-page Says:

    This web site certainly has all of the info I wanted concerning this
    subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  17. icivics.org Says:

    What i do not understood is in reality how you’re now not really a lot more well-preferred than you might be now. You are very intelligent. You already know thus considerably on the subject of this matter, made me for my part imagine it from a lot of varied angles. Its like men and women are not interested except it’s one thing to do with Lady gaga!

    Your own stuffs great. At all times deal with it
    up!

  18. chatroullette Says:

    Hey there! I understand this is sort of off-topic however I had to ask.
    Does running a well-established website such as yours require a lot of work?
    I’m brand new to running a blog but I do write in my diary everyday. I’d like
    to start a blog so I will be able to share my personal
    experience and thoughts online. Please let me know if you have any recommendations or tips for new aspiring
    blog owners. Appreciate it!

  19. Haemorrhoiden-ade.de Says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about dry farmer. Regards

  20. cellulite massagegerät vakuum Says:

    Can I simply just say what a comfort to find somebody who genuinely understands what they are
    talking about on the internet. You certainly realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important.
    More and more people ought to check this out and understand
    this side of the story. I was surprised that you aren’t more popular since you most certainly possess the gift.

  21. Brain Says:

    I was recommended this web site through my cousin. I’m no longer certain whether this post is written by him as nobody else realize such distinctive about my trouble. You’re incredible!
    Thank you!

  22. Entertainment deals Says:

    Hi, I do believe this is a great website. I stumbledupon
    it 😉 I am going to come back yet again since I bookmarked it.
    Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be
    rich and continue to help other people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: