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Home | ZimCrisis#76 -- Article from The Economist and Vote Distribution Map

Date: Wed, 05 Jul 2000 16:46:14 -0700
To: "Zimbabwe Crisis Mailing List":;
From: Zimbabwe Crisis
Subject: ZimCrisis#76 -- Article from The Economist and Vote Distribution Map
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Hi everyone,

Much has stayed the same since the elections -- farm invasions continue and Mugabe continues to encourage them, and those already squatting to stay where they are. One report says that Mugabe plans to continue to rule by presidential decree until August. Death threats have been made against the Archbishop of Bulawayo because he is blamed for the ZANU-PF loss there.

Owners of 520 of the 804 farms slated to be seized have filed appeals. We'll see how those go.

Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC has called for Mugabe to be impeached for his part in initiating and encouraging the violence. I hope that move succeeds.


Still Ruled by Mugabe

In Zimbabwe, Mr Mugabe's party narrowly won the parliamentary election, with help from loyalist thugs.

HARARE -- "THOSE who seek to govern, do so by the consent of the majority," said Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on June 27th, with a straight face. His party, ZANU-PF, had held on to a slim majority of the seats contested at a grossly unfair election on June 24th and 25th. This was quite an achievement, given the party's record. After 20 years of ZANU government, the average Zimbabwean is a third poorer and can expect to die more than 15 years younger. But the party still managed to win 62 out of 120 contested seats. A nine- month-old opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), won 57. A small party won one. The remaining 30 seats in the 150-member parliament are reserved for chiefs, provincial governors and others appointed by Mr Mugabe. Thus, ZANU will have a comfortable majority to continue wrecking the country.

Monitors from the European Union noted that there were "serious flaws and irregularities in the electoral process". That is putting it mildly. In the weeks before the election, voter intimidation was blatant and systematic. In rural areas, roving gangs of ZANU thugs set up road-blocks, stopped cars and buses, and beat up passengers who failed to show ZANU membership cards. Suspected MDC supporters had their property ransacked, their identity cards burnt, and their bodies beaten with farming tools or seared with molten plastic. At least 30 people were killed and several thousand were forced to flee their homes.

The intimidation eased during the actual ballot-casting, but it did not stop everywhere. In Mberengwa East, a rural constituency 400km (250 miles) south of Harare, truckloads of youths waving ZANU flags and iron bars drove around warning voters not to vote for the opposition. Their leader, Big Chitoro, a knife-juggling karate expert in combat trousers and a cowboy hat, swaggered into polling station after polling station, brandishing a steel cane.

Mr Chitoro agreed that he had been an officer in the army's Fifth Brigade, which killed several thousand dissidents in Matabeleland in the mid-1980s, but insisted that he deplored violence. The MDC claimed that he orchestrated it. Hlupo Nkomo, an MDC polling agent in Mataga, a small town in the constituency, blamed Mr Chitoro for the fact that his house and welding shop were burnt down on May 31st. Mr Nkomo's family is still in hiding.

His story is typical. The MDC candidate for Mberengwa East, Sekai Holland, reported over 100 assaults on her campaign workers to the police, but the police did nothing. One of her supporters was beaten to death; 20 are in hospital. Several of Ms Holland's observers were prevented from reaching polling stations, and some fled into the bush for fear of their lives. In at least one polling station, voters were handed their voting slips by alleged torturers. Ms Holland lost heavily to her ZANU rival.

Mberengwa East was more violent than the average rural constituency, but not much more so. The MDC said it would contest the results of at least 20 constituencies, where it suspected that it had lost because of intimidation or fraud. Although most outside monitors said that they had observed almost no irregularities in the count itself, an exit poll by the Helen Suzman Foundation, a liberal South African think-tank, concluded that the MDC should have won at least 87 seats, which would have given it a majority.

On the bright side, Zimbabwe is no longer a de facto one-party state. Before the election, there were only three non-ZANU members of parliament, and the legislature did nothing to curb Mr Mugabe's excesses. Now the president can no longer change the constitution at will. And at the presidential election in 2002, the MDC's leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, will have a reasonable chance of supplanting Mr Mugabe, despite his failure to win his home constituency this time.

But Mr Mugabe has shown that bullying works, at least to a degree: it saved him from defeat. His tactics raised barely a whimper of protest from his African neighbours. A South African parliamentary observer mission gave the poll a hearty thumbs-up. Perhaps they were being diplomatic.

The responsibility for reviving the sick economy still rests with Mr Mugabe and ZANU. Half of the work force is jobless. Inflation is eating Zimbabweans' savings at a rate of almost 70% a year. An unrealistic exchange rate has led to shortages of fuel and other imports. Mr Mugabe's plans to seize white-owned farms without compensation, and his contradictory statements about whether he will do the same to mines and factories, have scared off both foreign and domestic investors. Despite having some of the most fertile land in Africa, Zimbabwe could need food aid this year.

The government's plans for coping with the crisis are confused. Mr Mugabe has promised price controls and measures to promote black ownership of businesses. Both ideas have been tried before, but with little success. Price controls broke down, and affirmative action was an excuse for Mr Mugabe's friends and relatives to demand a share of the fruits of other people's labours. There are no serious plans to curb government spending -- the main cause of inflation -- by, for instance, pulling the Zimbabwean army out of Congo's civil war.

Foreign aid could keep the country afloat for a bit longer. Donor countries, including Britain, have said they will stump up substantial sums if Mr Mugabe brings in some reforms. That is a big if. He may promise to liberalise the economy in order to secure loans from the IMF, but in the past he has always broken such promises.

Mr Mugabe has appealed for national reconciliation. MDC leaders see it differently. They hope that they will be able to forge informal coalitions in parliament with those ZANU members who understand the seriousness of the economic situation. If this happens, they may be able to pass corrective legislation. It is a hope, but don't count on it.

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Brief list of helpful sites on the issue:
- Zimbabwe Crisis Mailing List Archives -- http://www.niner.net/zimcrisis
- Comprehensive news updates -- http://www.1freespace.com/beetee
- Offers of and requests for help for Zimbabweans -- http://pub9.ezboard.com/boffersofhelp
- Commercial Farmers' Union -- http://www.mweb.co.zw/cfu
- Movement for Democratic Change -- http://www.in2zw.com/mdc
- Zimbabwe Democracy Trust -- http://www.zimbabwedemocracytrust.org
- BSAP Pursuit of Zimbabwean Criminals -- http://www.bsaphq.f9.co.uk


Vote Distribution Map.

Vote Distribution Map.