Then on the
days of the election, March 9 and 10, urban Zimbabweans were confronted
by drastic cutbacks in polling stations, requiring many hours of queuing
in the hot sun. Rural voters witnessed a systematic refusal by government
to allow monitors near the booths, with opposition party electoral
agents unable to reach nearly half the stations, in part because of
pro-Zanu thuggery. Across Zimbabwe, the government refused to abide
by an urgent court order to extend voting for another day, opened
only the polling booths in greater Harare (and five hours late at
that), and then chased those still in long queues away at the end
of the day.
means, we believe, easily more than 410,000 votes were stolen. Most
international election monitors--with the notable exception of ruling-party
ministers from neighbouring countries, the Organisation of African
Unity, and 50 official observers from South Africa--recognised this,
declaring the poll unfree and unfair.
But the reports from countries of the North played into Zanu's hands.
Mugabe has been quick to point to imperialist hypocrisy, the stolen
election in the US, and the lack of genuine choice in most rich countries.
In contrast, the state-owned media welcomed the Southern African Development
Community's ministerial task force, which claimed, "Despite reported
incidents of pre-election violence and some logistical shortcomings
during voting... the elections were substantially free and fair, and
were a true reflection of the will of the people of Zimbabwe."
African delegation, led by businessman Sam Motsuenyane, called Mugabe's
declaration of victory "legitimate." So too did the South
African Federated Chamber of Commerce, leading to instant discredit
and shame in Johannesburg.
And so it
would seem that the elections have been stitched up through the revival
of a colonial racial antagonism. Not quite, though. There were two
dissenting voices from Africa, the most important being the SADC-Parliamentary
Forum, a group of parliamentarians (not ministers) from the SADC region.
Their conclusion was rather different: "The climate of insecurity
obtaining in Zimbabwe since the 2000 parliamentary elections was such
that the electoral process could not be said to adequately comply
with the Norms and Standards for Elections in the SADC region."
The Commonwealth observer mission said much the same.
But all eyes
subsequently turned to Thabo Mbeki, and for good reason. In 1976,
Mugabe's immediate predecessor, Ian Smith, was summoned to meet John
Vorster and Henry Kissinger in Pretoria. In an uncomfortable encounter,
the Rhodesian was told by the South African premier and the US secretary
of state that his dream of delaying black majority rule in Zimbabwe
for "a thousand years" was over. Accommodation with the
liberation movements would be necessary, both for the sake of the
West's legitimacy in the struggle against the USSR and simply because
Smith's position was untenable.
the inevitable with a mix of ineffectual concessions and heightened
repression, but the power that South Africa held over imports and
exports was decisive.
appears an analogous moment of truth. Again, millions of black Zimbabweans
suffer the depredations of an undemocratic, exploitative ruling elite.
Again, a militaristic state serves the class interests of a few tens
of thousands of well-connected bureaucrats, military and paramilitary
leaders and briefcase businessmen, in the context of unprecedented
A May 2001
visit to Pretoria by US secretary of state Colin Powell was evidence
of the Republican Party rulers' need to raise their own questionable
international standing through at least one successful African democratisation
In this context
of striking parallels, South African president Thabo Mbeki is taking
advantage of temporary Western goodwill--aside from doubts about his
genocidal HIV/AIDS policies--to offset the overall hemorrhaging of
his country and continent. His New Partnership for Africa's Development
(Nepad) follows similar South African interventions in the World Bank,
International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organisation and a host of
other international forums. The fly in the ointment, inevitably, is
African schizophrenia in relation to Zimbabwe has several crucial
domestic features that outweigh this logic. Looking north, the ANC
leadership must despair at the following:
The last bullet,
fired in Zambia and misfired in Zimbabwe this week thanks to Mugabe's
electoral theft, is not yet loaded in South Africa. But it will be.
argue that there is no alternative to constructive engagement with
Mugabe. The mid-1990s Nigerian lesson--"We got our fingers burned"--was
chillingly instructive. After talking tough to Sani Abacha's military
regime, South African officials believed that Western countries would
crack down with sanctions, especially on oil. The West didn't, leaving
Pretoria exposed and ineffective.
was more current: when Zambia and Madagascar conducted profoundly
flawed elections last December, leading to active civil-society and
party-political protests, the West and Pretoria quickly accepted prevailing
it would be ideal if Mugabe changes his stripes now that he's won
another six-year term. A successful Nepad requires Mugabe to act more
politely, begin to repay US$1+ billion arrears to the Bretton Woods
Institutions, and refrain from torturing or detaining journalists
and opposition party members.
But none of
this is likely, especially if Mugabe's downward spiral of economic
degradation and political illegitimacy continues. What, then, can
As we write
(15 March), South African vice president Jacob Zuma has been meeting
for many hours in Harare, trying to stitch together a bandaid solution.
It appears that Zuma--briefed by Mbeki--wants Mugabe to step down
soon, perhaps handing power to Emmerson Mnangagwa, the pro-Mugabe
parliamentary leader who is trusted only a little within Zanu and
not at all in the opposition. Mugabe is probably unwilling to accept.
option, which is also being pushed by elites of all strips, from Tony
Blair in London to Tony Leon (South Africa's white opposition leader)
in Cape Town, is a Government of National Unity.
insiders suggest that Zuma wants Mugabe to make Tsvangirai a vice
president, the opposition leader has publicly rejected the idea: "This
is not about appointing people to certain positions without first
achieving stability. Mugabe cannot buy legitimacy by forming a government
of national unity with the MDC."
cul-de-sac that Pretoria now faces, looking north, probably compels
Mbeki to vaguely endorse Mugabe's theft at some point this weekend.
But a disincentive also looms: if Mbeki legitimises Mugabe, Nepad
will be denounced as illegitimate.
groups across Africa--e.g., the Africa Social Forum network of social
movements which met in both Bamako, Mali and Porto Alegre, Brazil
in January, and which includes the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and
Development--have already denounced Mbeki's neoliberal, "good
governance" plan for Africa.
invites active protests against both Nepad's hypocrisy on governance,
as well as its reliance upon Western markets and Washington-Consensus
economic policies. Locations will include the upcoming (June) G-8
Meeting in rural Canada, the Africa Union launch in July in South
Africa, and the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development
How much good
these protests do, depends upon how advocates of social justice in
Zimbabwe read the power relations, and upon the importance they give
international solidarity in the coming struggle for democracy.
of the Zimbabwean masses
But at home,
what will democratic activists in Zimbabwe do, in response? So far,
aside from a threatened national strike by the trade unions (foiled
by police disruption of their planning meeting), the gut reaction
seems to be hunkering down to overcome the shock of what many term
the "mugging." Activists are overcome with exhaustion, intimidation,
the arrest of more than a thousand civil-society election monitors
last weekend, and the sheer challenge of going up against the repressive
arms of the state. Army and police are patrolling the ghettoes and
the mood of fear and loathing is palpable.
At this crucial
juncture, leadership appears to be lacking. The left-of-centre NGO
network group called Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition has called upon
the people "to register their concern in accordance with the
Constitution," with no details. Tsvangirai has withdrawn into
his politburo to consult, after leaving the people with a wishy-washy
statement of pale defiance. Opposition lawyers convinced that, in
theory, they have a watertight case to re-hold the elections, are
pessimistic. Given how Mugabe has stacked the judiciary, it is likely
that the high court will rule in favour of Zanu.
And so there
is a schism between the people of Southern Africa and their governments.
The last words go to activist Hopewell Gumbo:
"On the other hand,
the MDC--rising from anti-IMF working class movement--moved to the
right at the alarm of most of its supporters. Tsvangirai showed
inconsistencies in his programme. One was pronouncing mass action
and the following day talking of the courts. Zimbabwe has had a
number of alternatives to the process of dealing with the entrenched
dictatorship of Mugabe. This is for now the most progressive way
to look at the situation. We must bury behind our backs the loss
and seek to invoke those alternatives that have so far not been