Mugabe’s Political Shenanigans Cast Doubts On Electoral Fairness
Presidency By Theft
President-For-Life Syndrome Forces Mugabe To Cling To Power
An Essay By Michael D. Roberts
As the results of Zimbabwe’s elections continues to be what is now a closely guarded state secret, perhaps known only to President Robert Mugabe, the international community for all its handwringing and strident calls for transparency and fairness; for all of its condemnation of Africa’s last reigning political strongman, is powerless to stop what is now an obscene case of “Presidency by Theft.”
It now appears that Mr. Mugabe is hell-bent on retaining the title of “President-for-Life” even as everything is crashing down around him. For one thing he is impervious to the calls of regional African leaders, the international community, and his own Zimbabweans. For another the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has now become irrelevant to Mr. Mugabe’s nefarious political plans. The latest move came as he and his ruling ZANU-PF party declared that the MDC has committed treason – meaning in Mugabespeak, that it is now ineligible to hold political office and is, for all intents and purposes, now outlawed by the gangster regime in Harare.
Now a very dark cloud hangs over Zimbabwe causing the national mood to go from cautious optimism when record number of Zimbabweans cast their votes on March 29, to depressed resignation that the more things change the more they remain the same. The one clear signal in this sordid political mess is that Mr. Mugabe is intent on reversing the popular outcome or the elections by foul means. In a shameless display of chauvinistic bombast Mr. Mugabe has declared that his ZANU-PF will challenge 21 parliamentary results and will commence recounting the presidential vote in 23 constituencies – all without releasing the results.
This political charade is an embarrassment to both Zimbabwe and Africa. Mr. Mugabe’s goon squads have also spirited away to a secret location the members of the Electoral Commission to prevent them from being accessible to opposition party activists. With a deliberate mechanism in place to obliterate any transparency or appearance of transparency, critics of the regime say that it’s rigging time again and that ballot box stuffing with pro-Mugabe votes will be the outcome.
This latest round of political shenanigans has clearly demonstrated to the world that Mr. Mugabe believes that he has a divine right to rule Zimbabwe for life even as his 28-years of dictatorial and despotic rule has devastated the socio-economic fabric of his country and millions of his people now face starvation on a day to day basis. In fact, Mr. Mugabe has betrayed the trust of his own people by his reckless and callous approach to politics and his megalomaniacal behavior that borders on unadulterated lunacy.
It has now become painfully obvious even to a jaded dimwit that Mr. Mugabe has absolutely no intention of obeying or honoring the popular wish or will of the Zimbabwean people at this time. At 85-years old and set in his ways he’s comfortable with the fact that those who owe him – the big shots in the army, police, state party and business – will never desert him because it is in their continued interests to keep him in power. While millions of Zimbabweans are starving and cry out for relief Mr. Mugabe’s small, rich and powerful cronies help him hijack the elections and pretend that everything is all right.
Moreover, his dictatorial quixotic rule is being cuddled by the leaders of the 14-year old Southern African Development Community (SADC) led by South African President Thabo Mbeki whose impotent, wishy-washy quiet diplomacy has not only failed miserably but has largely been ignored by Mr. Mugabe and the ZANU-PF. And yet it is mindboggling in its stupidity and illogic that even as this diplomacy is going nowhere fast South Africa and other member states of the SADC are taking in thousands of fleeing Zimbabweans on a daily basis that threatens to roll out a major humanitarian crisis and strain the social safety nets in these countries.
Mr. Mugabe has betrayed the trust and confidence of all Zimbabweans. But this is not new and all one has to do is revisit his history and record and you will discover that “Good Ole Bob” as his former colonial patrons called him before they fell out was and is no revolutionary but a conceited, arrogant power-hungry tyrant.
For example, Mr. Mugabe always boasts about his “Zimbabwean revolution,” but in reality the institutions of the old Rhodesian state were largely preserved and adopted by the new regime under his control. *”Mugabe’s methods were as brutal then as they are now. The only difference is that Britain and the US did not object to his attacks on ZAPU led by his arch-rival Joshua Nkoma.
Nkomo’s social base was mostly among the Matabele. In 1982, Mugabe launched “Operation Gukurahundi”—sweep away the chaff—in Matabeleland. There were beatings, murders, arson, rapes and public executions. Famine relief was blocked. An estimated 20,000 civilians died before Mugabe declared an amnesty in 1987, which led up to the merger of the two parties to form ZANU-PF (Popular Front-the previous electoral name for ZAPU.)
Mugabe’s anti-imperialist rhetoric was feverish as he dealt with the internal opposition to his regime. But the white farmers had nothing to fear. Land reform proceeded at a glacial pace. By 1998, only 70,000 families had been resettled. Most of them received poor-quality, drought-prone land. White farmers continued to own 40 percent of the land and two thirds of the best agricultural land. Mugabe’s regime has presided over massive inequality in Zimbabwe since it came to power. A new ruling elite emerged under his patronage, like millionaire businessman Philip Chiyangwa, who boasted, “I am rich because I belong to ZANU-PF.” [*WSW article “Zimbabwe: Mugabe government responds to mass opposition with repression” By Ann Talbot, 11 April 2008]