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Silence of the lambs: Statement on United Nations Day of Democracy
Voice for Democracy

September 15, 2010

He is brimming with confidence. President Robert Mugabe, Commander-in-Chief and the Head of State and Government, will not be moved by plaintive cries that conditions for free and fair elections are essentially non-existent. Ready or not: when he says there will be elections - elections there will be! Yet a recent survey of voting intentions shows his main opponent, the MDC, winning by a wide margin.

What could possibly account for the President's confidence? Well, about a quarter of those interviewed during the survey refused to disclose their voting intentions. By some coincidence, they came mostly from areas with a history of violence in the run-up to previous elections. If they could be persuaded to vote for the aging President - who has brought them nothing by fear, misery and poverty - his confidence might be justified.

Violence did the trick in June 2008, so why discard a winning strategy? In most areas where violence was endemic during the last election, some bases were reactivated during the COPAC outreach programme. Only the odd voices in these areas - under the watchful gaze of the President's supporters - could be heard repeating the mantra: 'Kariba Draft'. The rest sat in stony silence - and fear.

After the initial indignation of having lost the March 2008 election, the President now has everything firmly back under his control: a free hand to make virtually all appointments, command over the entire state security apparatus, and the backing of most SADC leaders. He has even suborned the Prime Minister and the MDC. While the President refuses to fulfil his obligations under the GPA, the Prime Minister dutifully calls for the lifting of 'sanctions'. While the President mocks the rulings of the region's highest court, the SADC Tribunal, the Prime Minister and his MDC ministers keep a shameful silence. Even while the President continues to intimidate and arrest his opponents, including members of the MDC, Home Affairs Minister Makone assures the public that the police have 'turned over a new leaf'.

The President is confident because he can so easily distract his opponents from the core issue in the forthcoming elections: the imperative of guaranteeing violence-free elections.

The Voice for Democracy's message on this UN Day of Democracy is that peace is a fundamental condition for democracy. It is peace that allows candidates to campaign freely and for voters to cast their ballots - free of intimidation or violence - for the candidate of their choice. It is only through peaceful elections that the will of the people can be expressed as the sole source of a government's legitimacy.

The equation is simple. We need violent-free elections to usher in democracy, and we need democracy to bring justice and economic development to Zimbabwe. The Voice for Democracy therefore makes an urgent appeal to the President, the Prime Minister, SADC leaders, civil society, and the international community to make a binding commitment to peace, to refocus their energies, and to immediately start putting in place those structures and procedures that will guarantee violence-free and fair elections.

Zimbabweans yearn for a peaceful and democratic transfer of power so that they may all live in hope, dignity and freedom. We must not fail them.

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