Foreign Policy Blogs

Zimbabwe Election Countdown

In ten days Zimbabweans will go to the polls.

This much we know. And it is just about all we know.

There are glimmers of hope for the opposition. Some are reading murky tea leaves, coming to the conclusion that Morgan Tsvangirai and his wing of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC, or, as some have it, MDC-T) have a chance to win the election. After all, the brief succor from the worst of the economic calamities of the last decade seems to be wearing off and ordinary Zimbabweans, some might speculate, are ready for change.  Adaptations to election law theoretically make it harder to steal votes. And even President Robert Mugabe seems to be sounding “glum” and “downbeat.”

Yet even as Mugabe claims that this election is a “do or die” proposition one cannot help but wonder what Mugabe, whose crude demagoguery continues unabated, might do and how many might die if there really is any chance that he loses power as the result of the will of the voters.

The signs are that the wily old despot and his minions have more than a few tricks up his sleeve. Tsvangirai and others have accused a “shadowy Israeli company” that has access to the Zim voter rolls, Nikuv International Projects, of manipulating the registrants to favor Mugabe’s ZANU-PF. A spokesman denied the charges but also refused to disclose the government agencies with which it is working.  Meanwhile at least one opposition politician running for Parliament has been arrested for holding an “unauthorized rally,” which is to say, a rally unauthorized be the government he is challenging. Perhaps most telling of all, leaders of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), which wanted Zimbabwe to delay holding the vote, hopes that the election will be “credible enough.” Enough for whom? SADC spokespersons did not specify.

And so Zimbabwe’s people are left with hope. Hope that there will not be a great deal of violence in the run-up to the polling; hope that their will comes across in the elections; hope that whichever side wins can figure out some way to represent that will; hope that the future will be better than the past, better than the present.

My own view continues to be that I do not see Mugabe giving up power. I do not see him putting himself in a position where he might even have to consider doing so. I anticipate Mugabe and his ZANU-PF claiming victory. And if that claim does not reflect reality, we will never know the reality. I will be happy to be wrong on this count. But I do not believe that I will be. Nothing in Mugabe’s past, anyway, gives me reason to think he is likely to yield in the face of something as prosaic as a counting of votes.

 

 

Author

Derek Catsam

Derek Catsam is a Professor of history and Kathlyn Cosper Dunagan Professor in the Humanities at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. He is also Senior Research Associate at Rhodes University. Derek writes about race and politics in the United States and Africa, sports, and terrorism. He is currently working on books on bus boycotts in the United States and South Africa in the 1940s and 1950s and on the 1981 South African Springbok rugby team's tour to the US. He is the author of three books, dozens of scholarly articles and reviews, and has published widely on current affairs in African, American, and European publications. He has lived, worked, and travelled extensively throughout southern Africa. He writes about politics, sports, travel, pop culture, and just about anything else that comes to mind.

Areas of Focus:
Africa; Zimbabwe; South Africa; Apartheid

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