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elections: 'The rulers always win'
Kumar Chanda, Mail & Guardian (SA)
February 06, 2005
Zimbabwe - Residents of Zimbabwe's best-known township harbour no
illusions about next month's elections, with many too busy struggling
to survive to ponder what's at stake.
The mood in
Chitungwiza, a sprawling and dingy township south-east of Harare
that is home to nearly two million people, is a mixture of apathy,
disgust and hopelessness ahead of the March 31 parliamentary polls.
snorts Tamburai Garikai (53), her face crinkling into a grimace.
Garikai, who is unemployed, said she has lost all hope.
today, tomorrow, it's the same thing," she said, speaking in
Seke, an impoverished quarter of Chitungwiza -- one of Harare's
main black townships during British colonial rule.
"The rulers always win, so what is the point of voting?"
she said. "In the old days, I was working at the family planning
department. My family had food on the table. I was laid off after
independence. It's a miracle how I and my family are surviving."
Mugabe's governing Zanu-PF party -- at the helm since independence
from Britain almost 25 years ago -- is expected to consolidate its
stranglehold on power in the vote.
The sheer drudgery of living in a country whose once model economy
is in tatters with the world's highest inflation rate, 70% unemployment
and startling poverty levels has fostered widespread apathy among
Margie Chadzera is struggling to bring up five grandchildren orphaned
"Back then, the money was strong. You could use it," said
Chadzera, who earns hand-outs to feed her family once a day.
"Can we hope the elections will change anything? I think we
can say that the same people will win," she added.
The upcoming elections will be closely watched as a key test of
Zimbabwe's pledge to hold free and fair elections that could end
the political crisis that has raged in Zimbabwe since the 2000 and
2002 elections, which were marred by violence, fraud and intimidation.
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party,
which began in Chitungwiza in September 1999, has posed the stiffest
challenge to Mugabe's rule.
Last week, the MDC reluctantly decided to contest the polls even
though its leaders said a free and fair vote would not be possible.
The MDC cites police harassment of its supporters, new election
laws that give Mugabe the power to appoint members to a commission
supervising the vote, and the proliferation of pro-government "militias"
as some of the violations of democratic standards.
"I'm not at all sure about the fairness of the elections,"
said a young man in his thirties, who gave his name as Chimbaira.
"The only excitement for me is the current infighting in the
ruling party. At least they will focus some of their energy in putting
their own house in order instead of beating up opposition supporters
Patrick Marufu, a metalworker, said he has not decided whether to
exercise his franchise.
"So far I am not getting into it very much. I will see how
things go. For me my vote is my voice, I want to do what's in my
heart, not be forced to vote for someone."
Chitungwiza was also the worst-affected area during violent food
riots in 1998 when Zimbabweans went on the rampage to protest against
a 21% increase in the price of cornmeal and a subsequent 30% hike
in the prices of meat and bread.
The ruling party, through the state media, has been underscoring
its role and that of Mugabe in freeing the Southern African country
from colonial shackles, leading to independence from Britain in
Meanwhile, MDC chief Morgan Tsvangirai has voiced confidence that
the elections will help end 25 years of "tyranny", adding
that Zimbabweans have realised that "neutrality or fence-sitting
helps the tyrant". -- Sapa-AFP
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