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2002 Presidential & Harare Municipal elections - Index of articles
Patrick Bond and
March 15, 2002
By a vote of
1.69 million for Robert Mugabe to 1.28 million for Morgan Tsvangirai,
the people of Zimbabwe re-elected the Zimbabwe African National
Union (Zanu) president last weekend. The Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), founded in September 1999, lost by more than in the
last national election, in June 2000 when Zanu gained a small majority
of parliamentary seats.
We want to make
seven brief points about the election and its various interpretations,
meanings and implications. But to set the tone, here are the words
of a young organic radical activist, Hopewell Gumbo, formerly the
assistant to opposition leader Gibson Sibanda, subsequently a noted
socialist activist and student anti-privatisation leader:
"What went wrong?
There has been massive violence prior to the elections AND AS A
RESULT THE ELECTION COULD NOT HAVE BEEN FREE AND FAIR. Mugabe survived
on an anti-imperialist rhetoric and the land crisis notwithstanding
the violence campaign... Mugabe's rhetoric separated the urban poor
from the rural poor. This is one important reality that must be
interrogated. The answer to the MDC loss lies in the explanation
of that massive discrepancy. But Mugabe was not genuine in his rhetoric.
He announced a retreat from the IMF while he went on to privatise
education and other services but manages to get the rural vote on
a land ticket that results in violent farm invasions and occupations
followed by a fast track resettlement program."
Mugabe stole this one. The Zimbabwe
Election Support Network--mainly progressive human rights monitors--listed
the following obvious pre-poll violations:
voters through the voter registration process;
of voters beyond 3 March 2002;
the voters' roll;
of voter education through the Electoral Supervisory Commission;
election supervisors and monitors from the Ministries of Defence,
Home Affairs and Education;
postal voting [i.e. preventing around a million votes from Zimbabweans
abroad, which would have mainly gone to the MDC];
voting [i.e., preventing voters from casting their ballots no
matter where they happen to be, within Zimbabwe];
holding of municipal and Presidential elections;
concerning the accompanying of ballot boxes;
of extra ballot papers;
- very restrictive
and oppressive Public Order and Security Act;
access to the state controlled media, in particular the broadcast
media, with a bias towards the ruling party;
concerning both local and international observers;
and destruction of identity cards by youths of the ruling party
[i.e., thus preventing people from voting because an ID is required
at the ballot box];
of illegal road blocks by youths of the ruling party;
violence, including torture and murders, largely perpetrated by
ruling party supporters against members and supporters of the
enforcement of the law by law enforcement agents.
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 independent monitors near the booths, and
opposition party electoral agents were 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.
such tactics, 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.
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."
The South African
observer 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
have subsequently turned to Thabo Mbeki, and for good reason.
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.
There now 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 what are termed "briefcase businessmen,"
in the context of unprecedented economic crisis.
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 Mugabe.
Zimbabwe schizophrenia has several other crucial domestic features
that outweigh the pro-Western logic of Nepad, though. Looking north,
the ANC leadership must despair at the following:
- a liberation
movement which won resounding electoral victories against a terribly
weak opposition, but under circumstances of worsening abstentionism
by, and depoliticisation of, the masses;
- that movement's
undeniable failure to deliver a better life for most of the country's
low-income people, while material inequality soared;
- rising popular
alienation from, and cynicism about, nationalist politicians,
as the gulf between rulers and the ruled widened inexorably and
as numerous cases of corruption and malgovernance were brought
to public attention;
economic misery as neoliberal policies were tried and failed;
- the sudden
rise of an opposition movement based in the trade unions, quickly
backed by most of civil society, the liberal petit-bourgeoisie
and the independent media--potentially leading to the election
of a new, post-nationalist government.
The last bullet,
fired in Zambia in 1991 when Kenneth Kaunda lost by a landslide,
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 (ongoing) civil-society
and party-political protests, the West and Pretoria quickly accepted
prevailing power relations.
For Mbeki, it
would be ideal if Mugabe changes his stripes immediately, reverting
to his early-mid-1990s neoliberal mode. A successful Nepad requires
Mugabe to act more politely, begin to repay US$1+ billion arrears
to the Bretton Woods Institutions, and refrain from detaining and
torturing 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
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 prior to next Tuesday's crucial London meeting
of Commonwealth leaders. Zuma will reportedly ask Mugabe to step
down soon, perhaps handing power to his ally Emmerson Mnangagwa,
the parliamentary leader who is trusted only a little within Zanu
and not at all in the opposition. Mugabe is probably unwilling to
The other option,
which is also being pushed by elites of all stripes, from Mbeki/Zuma
to Tony Blair in London to Tony Leon (South Africa's white opposition
leader) in Cape Town, is a Government of National Unity in Harare.
the possible offer of a vice-presidential job, Tsvangirai publicly
rejected a deal on Thursday: "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
cul-de-sac that Pretoria now faces, looking north, probably compels
Mbeki to vaguely endorse Mugabe's theft. But a disincentive also
looms: if Mbeki legitimises Mugabe, Nepad will be denounced as illegitimate.
society 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, which includes the Zimbabwe
Coalition on Debt and Development--have already denounced Mbeki's
neoliberal, "good governance" plan for Africa.
Mugabe, Mbeki 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 Pretoria, and the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable
Development in August.
How much good
these protests do, depends upon how advocates of social justice
in Zimbabwe read the power relations, the importance they give international
solidarity in the coming struggle for democracy, and the extent
to which their comrades across the world can educate and mobilise.
of the Zimbabwean masses
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 Harare 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 has called upon the people "to register their concern
in accordance with the Constitution," with no details. A similar
group, the National Constitutional Assembly, will arrange protests
"in coming weeks." Tsvangirai has withdrawn into his politburo to
consult, after making 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.
So the last
words go to activist Hopewell Gumbo:
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 utilised."
Bond coauthored the new book *Zimbabwe's Plunge: Exhausted Nationalism,
Neoliberalism and the Search for Social Justice,* and Raj Patel
has been associated with the Zimbabwe Indymedia website: http://zimbabwe.indymedia.org
and Voice of the Turtle: http://voiceoftheturtle.org)
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