On the blog beat
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The results of Zimbabwe’s harmonized elections are out, and incumbent president Robert Mugabe has been declared the winner amid allegations of irregularities and rigging from the opposition. Our blogger gives his take.
By Shaun Matsheza, Hilversum
The official story goes that 61 per cent of Zimbabwe’s legitimate voters re-elected a nonagenarian to lead the country for another five years. Mugabe’s competitor, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, got 34 per cent. In the legislative vote, Mugabe’s Zanu PF party won 160 seats in the lower house against 49 for the MDC-T. This effectively gives Zanu PF the ability to amend the nation’s constitution whenever they wish.
The African Union and SADC endorsed this outcome, and the South African, Tanzanian, Namibia and Kenyan presidents have already sent their congratulations to the liberation war leader. They all say that this has been a free and fair election.
Shocked, perplexed, flabbergasted
Meanwhile I am just getting past the initial shock. I can't really say I wasn't expecting ZANU (PF) to pull off such a gambit. I know Mugabe’s wily ways and witnessed his confidence at the surprise press conference on the eve of the election when he vowed to step down if he lost. The win is too resounding – unbelievable to the point of absurdity. Everyone I know is thunderstruck. Many people are expressing the fear that we’re returning to the economic and political instability of 2008.
Do the Zimbabwean people really want to be led by the same cabal of people that have taken them down hell’s catacombs and back over the last three decades? In a country with a large percentage of young people who have never known any other president except the ailing guy about to turn 90, perhaps it makes sense that they want to give him another term. If you’ve never known anything else during your life, why change now? The Zimbabwean people must have the memory of a goldfish: they forgot the horrific and surreal ordeal of food shortages and violence that they were subjected to under this very same party. Why else would they vote them back in?
Preponderance of incumbency
My problem is not with a ZANU PF win. Democracy is as much about losing as it is about winning. But this is an example of what has been called the preponderance of incumbency. Incumbents rarely lose elections. After all, how can your team lose when you control the referee? Many Zimbabweans that I spoke to while producing RNW’s My Vote Zimbabwe format already expressed scepticism about the electoral system. But now this fracas of this election has seemingly killed the remaining flickers of hope that existed before July 31. Mugabe has finally achieved his lifelong dream of a one-party state – where elections are but window-dressing.
Free and fair elections
I only have as proof the experiences recounted to me by friends and family who were forced to pretend to be illiterate. All I can discern is the hopelessness and futility that settles when it dawns on people that indeed their votes are worthless tokens. Even if tangible evidence of election fraud are found, it would only be subject to the biased scrutiny of Mugabe’s cherry-picked judicial bench.
What I do care about is what this election means for the legitimacy of African elections, and the faith that our people place in the electoral system. If Mugabe had won the election fair and square, then we could say the will of the Zimbabwean people was respected. But such an election would require no alleged shady dealings by Nikuv International Projects (NIP), no denying of access to the voter’s roll to other parties until the actual election day, no two million extra ballot papers, and no people being bussed from polling station to polling station…
At the moment, the taste of this outcome sits sourly on Zimbabweans’ tongues, both winner and loser alike.