On 29 March Zimbabwe voted. Over two weeks later, at the time of going to print, the results have still not been released. Jessica Edgson digs deep into the issues surrounding the Zimbabwe election.In the only African country where millionaires are commonplace, tensions over the last couple of weeks have escalated. As the Zimbabwean elections came about once again people queued in the sun to make their voices heard. Although there has been speculation that past elections may have been rigged, many Zimbabweans believe that this is the time for change. Twenty-eight years ago, for many, was the last time an election held this much hope. Of course 28 years ago Robert Mugabe, leader of the Zanu-PF party, was a very different man who had very different aspirations. It may be easy for people to sit back and call the Zimbabwean president a tyrant and a maniac, but many still remember him as the revolutionary who freed Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, from colonial oppression. Although Robert Mugabe has not done the Zimbabwean economy much good in the past few years it is still the memory of his greatness that has kept him in power for the last couple of elections.
In 2008 hope was inspired by the arrival of a third party. Simba Makoni, the former minister of Finance and Economic Development, provides a refreshing change from the two party power struggle over the ruling of Zimbabwe. Initially people were saying that Simba Makoni would split the opposition vote in two and that the split would weaken the chances of a new government coming into power. However, when it comes to an election such as this one, assumptions should never be made. It seems as though Simba Makoni actually split the ruling party’s votes as support for Zanu-PF has decreased in parliament this year.
Zanu-PF has ruled the country since they celebrated victory in 1980, despite their economic failures of late. Although conditions at the election may not have been ideal, the defensive measures rumoured to have taken place in past election were said to be eliminated.
Due to the deteriorating economy in Zimbabwe many Zimbabwean students are currently studying at Rhodes University. Jen*, an ex-Zimbabwean at Rhodes, said that if she was able to vote she would vote for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as they are the official opposition and have already gained a support base. Jen* says that although the MDC may not be perfect, she sees them as a better alternative to the restrictive ruling of Zanu-PF.
Another Zimbabwean Rhodes student said her choice would also be the MDC because, “the government, Zanu-PF, is the one who has screwed up our country”.
Not everyone, however, believes that there is a point to voting in Zimbabwe. Shazia*, who stayed in Grahamstown over the voting period said, “I won’t vote because there is no point, it’s rigged.” When asked if she believed that a civil war may erupt after the elections she said, “There will not be a war because the people are too passive.”
Sarah, a Zimbabwean student who went home for the holidays, said, “Everybody seemed really hopeful.” She also says that there surprisingly was not much tension from what she could see.
The big issue in Zimbabwe at the moment is whether or not there will be a run-off for presidency. A run-off is when the parties with the most votes compete in a second election as the first results were not adequate. The Zimbabwean Electoral Commission (ZEC) has been delaying the results of the election and rumours are flying as MDC supporters accuse Zanu-PF of using the time to find a way to rig the election. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been quoted in the Mail & Guardian as saying, “Even the dumbest of us would say that results would not have been held back… had it not been the fact that Mr Mugabe has not won. Had the Zanu-PF won these elections we would have heard them crowing a long time ago.”
However, Robert Mugabe has been quoted in a Zimbabwean newspaper; the Sunday Mail, as saying, “Why should I cheat? The people are there supporting us. The moment the people stop supporting you, then that’s the moment you should quit politics.”
If the Mugabe led Zanu-PF party admits their defeat and hands the country over to the MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai, many believe that Zimbabwe will be in safe hands.
The MDC was founded in 1999 after a people’s working convention. According to the MDC’s website, “MDC supports a systematic land reform that benefits the black people of Zimbabwe, not the ruling elite and their cronies, and one that is sensitive to the economic and societal needs [that of] providing food and jobs.” However The Herald, in the opinion and analysis section, published a letter on the 27 February saying, “For Morgan Tsvangirai and his western backers this election is about another opportunity not only to effect regime change in Zimbabwe, but also to embark on ‘mission vindictiveness’.”
At the rate things are going politically in Zimbabwe, think snails on a Sunday drive. The future of the country may only become clear in the months ahead. Until then the Zimbabwean people can only sit in nail biting tension and pray for the best.
*Due to the controversy surrounding the Zimbabwe elections, names of Zimbabwean students who have released their political affiliation have been changed for their own protection. Activate can confirm that all sources and quotes are legitimate.