By Clutton Patsika
Today, Monday 23 June, begins the count down to election run-off in economically battered and mismanaged Zimbabwe. In the proceeding four days the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) will probably have lost more souls as violence peaks to horrific levels akin to the 1980s Gukurahundi War in Matabeleland.
This week could be the penultimate slip to sweet freedom and democracy for the majority of Zimbabweans or the slide into civil war.
Presently, violence has spread to the bedrock of MDC support, Harare's dormitory town of Chitungwiza, where mutilations, murders and kidnappings of MDC supporters have been intensified. This means violence has officially come to the urban areas as the ruling party's strategy is probably to weaken voter turnout even in the urban centres.
Apart from violence, as reported by the Association of Zimbabwean Journalists or eTv, there has been a complete blackout of the opposition in the state-controlled media. Journalists who have shown affinities for fair reporting have been effectively fired and many beaten to silence. Privately-owned newspapers have had their staff threatened and as in the case of The Zimbabwean, a critical weekly newspaper, copies have been burnt while on delivery. Any other access to independent opinion such as through satellite television is under threat with reports of Zanu PF militia having pulled down satellite dishes from homes to shut out any information that is contrary to the staple propaganda being dished out by the state television, ZBC/TV.
The wave of attacks has been effectively one-sided suggesting that the opposition has not retaliated. For months building to this ultimate week we have seen an opposition stretched to the limits of patience by a government bent on not ceding power.
The government seems to have used all the tricks in its terror campaign to justify an end to the run-off and so a perpetuation of its rule. While the MDC enjoys majority support, the easy solution would have been to launch an offensive against the brutal regime. In my opinion the government of President Robert Mugabe would not have been able to sustain or let alone quell this offensive.
This entire scenario, happening in a climate where 90% of the population is unemployed and the rate of inflation nearing 200 000%, would have presented a genuine opportunity for rebellion.
But it has not.
So, this can only mean that the people of Zimbabwe are determined to go through the process of democracy as represented by the democratic forces of which the MDC is one. Given this kind of patience, it is crucial that the MDC takes one more step backward and never allow itself to retaliate and blow the opportunity to prove that President Robert Mugabe has lost the plot and must leave office after the 27 June run-off. It must also focus on a government of national unity only when Mugabe has accepted that he is the vanguished. Otherwise, pulling out of the run-off now would be a worse legitimisation of Mugabe's rule.