Zimbabwe Assesses Mugabe’s 28 Years

In an election riddled with questions and concerns, Zimbabweans must decide whether to gamble on more years of Mugabe or move on.

Sometime on Wednesday, the opposition MDC lodged an urgent appeal in court to open the balloting process out of concern that the voter rolls contained the names of countless dead people (did the government take a page out of Chicago’s book? No, said government supporters, who charged the MDC’s complaints were simply aimed at discrediting the election

The MDC also wanted more clarification on the role of the police at the polling stations. In earlier negotiations, it won a concession to have the ballots counted at the polling stations, rather than at the central headquarters of the Electoral Commission. On Thursday, Mugabe’s Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa insisted the election process had been transparent and argued that the MDC’s latest moves are signs that “The MDC is panicking…staring defeat in the face.” And the Court dismissed the MDC appeal. Surprise!

Also on Thursday, the Johannesburg-based Foreign Correspondents’ Association issued a condemnation of the Mugabe government’s media accreditation, saying that in canvassing its 192 journalists from 122 world media organizations, the organization had concluded “that rare approvals were given according to race and nationality.”

Meanwhile, Tsvengirai’s campaigning was curbed in the rural areas after his South African pilot was arrested and could be charged with overstaying his permit to be in the country, although it only expired during his incarceration. (The pilot is said to hold a British passport and just btw: Mugabe hates the British with a passion bordering on obsession.)

Other Moyo charges include: not enough polling stations in urban areas, seen as MDC strongholds. Moyo reckons that when you take the number of voters in those areas and the number of polling stations, plus the number of hours the polls are open, each voter would have about 22 seconds to vote. That vote would be cast not just for president, but for the first time in a synchronized poll, for legislative candidates, as well.

Noting the three million extra ballots that were printed (the government says as a “contingency” measure) and the limited access to the state-controlled media by opposition candidates, Moyo argued that the election campaign was “never meant to be an even playing field.” The government is also allowing policemen to assist voters in the ballot box and recently delivered government handouts of food and farming equipment to rural voters, traditionally strong supporters of the ruling party.

From the list of grievances, it sounded like Moyo was conceding defeat and so I asked him if that were the case. “We are not contemplating a defeat,” he responded, “We’re saying we will win. We are arguing, however, that the other side is doing everything possible to throw the election.”

And many human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, agree, if not on the victory statement, on the advance rigging. Their websites contain their critiques. And the South African Center for the Study of Violence and Torture has just released a study on the impact of violence on the elections.

Critics also complain that one potential problem is that only election observers from countries friendly to the Mugabe government have been allowed to monitor the election. But Moyo was cautiously optimistic that they “will do a better job” than in 2005, when they affirmed a process most of the world called unfair.

And Moyo argues that many of those involved in the previous “Mugabe rigging machine” are now on their side, leading one of the “Coalition of the Banned” to ask if that meant Moyo’s side would be as good at rigging as Mugabe’s.