Archive for April, 2008

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 briggsbomba@yahoo.com

 

 

 

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

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

AWAITING THE RESULTS…

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!

Briggs