This article has been reproduced from the Socialist Standard (March 2002), the monthly journal of The Socialist Party of Great Britain
Count down to 9 and 10 March. This is when the poverty-stricken and battling Zimbabweans will bravely trudge to the polling booths to cast their votes for whoever they think is the best candidate. To most, this will mean having the required capabilities to deal with the current political and economic crisis engulfing the country. Who is likely to scoop this crown of presidency is hard to predict, however, for the current campaign is the oughest in two decades.
Its now “all systems go” for these elections. Five candidates have entered the presidential race having recently submitted their nomination papers. These are: Robert Mugabe of Zanu PF; Shakespear Mayo of the National Alliance of Good Governance; Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change and two independents Paul Siwela and Wilson Kumbula. But among these, the NAAG chief and two independents are regarded as largely irrelevant enthusiasts. The real locking of horns is expected to be between Mugabe with his fading Zanu PF Party and the former trade unionist, Morgan Tsvangirai. There is now a tense atmosphere building up as the campaigns get into in full swing.
The beehive known as parliament has been closed for the duration because the club members were asked to take a break from debating monotonous bills and ordered to return to their constituencies and drum up support for their respective masters. Though the two leading competitors are rushing to opportunistically lure the voters, it is truly imperative that Zimbabwe stage an open and democratic election.
Robert Mugabe has already kicked off his partys’ presidential campaign with a rally in Mashonaland East which will be followed by numerous other rallies elsewhere in all his stronghold provinces. He is exploiting the land issue as well as the controversy surrounding the intervention of British PM Tony Blair and the role of foreign journalists who he is accusing of backing the opposition. But all this is just a political gimmick. Remember Mugabe has been in power since Zimbabwe attained its independence from its colonial master Britain. Why then should the land issue have become such an important matter now after all this time – or is it just a case of political expediency?
Not wanting to be left out, MDC leader Tsvangirai is also on his party’s campaign trail. He held his first campaign rally in February in Mutare, Manicaland. The opposition leader has sought to highlight the continuing economic deterioration and mismanagement of the country. Tsvangirai is also insisting that Mugabe should not use the land issue as his party’s preserve simply to gain more political support. Instead the issue should be resolved by everybody making a contribution.
Arguably this could have been taken as a matter of priority way back in 1980 in line with the general understanding reached by all concerned at the pre-independence Lancaster House Conference. However if Tsvangirai himself comes to power and neglects the question of land distribution, it is likely that he will pay a heavy price. People in Zimbabwe recognise that the land imbalance needs to be corrected – but without any element of dictatorship, racial discrimination or harasssment – and that dialogue and proper mediation is crucial.
However, as socialists we do not take sides in such issues; we do not go along with what the law enforcement agents, churches, chiefs, NGOs, etc appear to be after. For instance, consider the recent statement from the Defence Forces Chief Whip, Zvinavashe that the army will not salute any leader without “liberation” credentials. Was this a veiled threat to the opposition or did Zvinavashe just want to protect his rank?
As far as the opposition is concerned, the truth is that they are finding it too difficult to organise effectively. But that the MDC itself has urged capitalists to use the threat of sanctions against this poor nation says something too. It means that either side in the electoral contest can file a complaint that its opponents supported the use of intimidation to persuade voters to their cause. This is particularly true of the rural areas. Hence there is a possibility for the elections to be regarded as not being free and fair.
It’s time for the people of Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole to discover the truth, that they need to unite and fight for socialism. They should stop being used in exchange of terrorism. Go back down memory lane and see what happened in countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia and Yugoslavia.
These bourgeois leaders are after nothing but power. They are not really concerned about the Aids pandemic; looming drought; brutality; violence; rife sexual abuses; the unemployment crisis; shortage of food, clean water and shelter – issues that are affecting ordinary people. All they are after is their own self-aggrandisement.
What the outcome of the March election will be is hard to tell. But it has generated much interest abroad with invited regional and international observers now pouring into the country. Maybe they will play a vital role in reducing the already planned bloodshed by the main culprits: MDC and Zanu PF.
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