The Battle Of Zimbabwe

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“Britain and its allies are seeking to ‘make the economy scream’ a la Chile under Salvadore Allende in the early 1970s when American dirty tricks induced the collapse of the Chilean economy which eventually led to the overthrow of Allende’s government and his assassination in a military coup in 1973,” Baffour Ankomah says

[International: Zimbabwe Votes]


The epic battle for Zimbabwe’s top is set for June 27.


President Robert Mugabe of Zanu PF will be embroiled in a bruising fight with Morgan Tsvangirai who is still riding on a wave of confidence following his narrow win in the first round of the presidential contest on March 29.


Mugabe, the veteran politician, lost an election for the first time in 28 years, when Tsvangirai edged him.


In the presidential poll results announced on May 2, Tsvangirai won 1, 195, 562 votes (47.9 percent) while Mugabe polled 1, 079, 730 (43.2 percent); the other two contestants Simba Makoni and little-known Langton Towungana polled 207, 470 (8.3 percent) and 14, 503 (0.6 percent) respectively.


None of the presidential contestants managed to secure the required majority to win outright and form the government. According to Zimbabwean laws if no candidate gets 51 percent, a run off must be held in 21 days. But owing to a number of logistical and financial reasons, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission set June 27 as the D-Day for the polls which will decide the winner of the presidential race.


Whoever wins in the run-off, automatically obtains an absolute majority unless there is a tie, in which case Parliament sits as an electoral college to elect the President. Zimbabwe is once again hogging the limelight –the psychological war between the country’s major political parties –Zanu PF and MDC-Tsvangirai, the raging political motivated violence, the difficult economic situation in the country characterized by inflation pegged at 355, 000 percent and shortages of basic commodities and other essential services.


All this aside, the major talk in bars, kombis, football matches and other social gatherings is who will win the June 27 poll. “If Zanu succeeds in getting all its  disenchanted supporters to vote in the run-off, Mugabe will be home and dry. If it doesn’t, it would be bye-bye for the 84-year-old revolutionary,” wrote Baffour Ankomah in the New African.


“The urban areas, desperately wanting a change from the economic hardships and collapse of essential services will as usual, vote massively for their traditional candidate, Tsvangirai. But demography is not on their side. Figures show that only 20 percent of the voting population live in urban areas while the rest live in Zanu’s rural heartland where the land issue still resonates most.”


Zanu PF party politicians say the playing ground was not even and was biased in favor of the MDC-Tsvangirai party which got huge support from the Western governments and media and won votes out of the pain arising from the imposition of sanctions on the government.


Mugabe and his supporters say Britain and its Western allies have worked consistently to overthrow them, first by creating and funding the opposition MDC party and what they say are the “so-called” civil society groups working against the government.


“These charges have been routinely dismissed and rubbished by Britain and its friends, but it has not stopped Harare from insisting that, by imposing economic and other sanctions on the country, Britain and its allies are seeking to ‘make the economy scream’ a la Chile under Salvadore Allende in the early 1970s when American dirty tricks induced the collapse of the Chilean economy which eventually led to the overthrow of Allende’s government and his assassination in a military coup in 1973,” Ankomah says.


“The trick has always been to gradually wear down the people of a targeted country via economic hardships and thus push them slowly towards an imaginary ‘tipping point’ from where they will kick out the government. The ‘tipping point’ has almost been reached in Zimbabwe and the results of the 29 March elections were just a reflection and confirmation of that fact. In other words, the people voted with their stomach.”


Critics and the opposition deny this and accuse Mugabe of mismanaging the economy. “There is no way Zanu PF can win a transparent election in Zimbabwe considering the mess in which the country is in,” Brian Ngwenya, a University of Zimbabwe political analyst was quoted saying. “The tide of change is so strong and cannot be stopped by violence.”


Adds prominent Zimbabwe academic Eldred Masunungure: “Zanu PF has realized that violence was the missing factor in the just-ended elections and this time around they are going to use it to ensure victory for Mugabe. In the March elections Mugabe used buses, computers, generators and enhanced civil service salaries but still lost. For them, violence is the only means for a clear win for Mugabe.”


Other political observers say a win by Mugabe in the June 27 presidential election run-off against MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai will render the country ungovernable given that there is now hung parliament.


In the March 29 elections, no party won an absolute majority in either the House of Assembly or Senate. In the Lower House of the Zimbabwe Parliament, the Tsvangirai-led MDC won 99 seats, Zanu PF 97 and the other MDC faction, headed by Arthur Mutambara, won 10. Another seat went to independent candidate Jonathan Moyo, who was backed in the polls by the MDC-Tsvangirai.


The two MDC factions have since agreed to work together giving them a combined total of 110 seats against Zanu PF’s 97. Moyo backs the MDC.


In the Senate, the combined MDC and Zanu PF are tied with 30 seats each and it is the result of the presidential run-off that would decide which party will control the chamber.  Whoever wins the run-off will have the power to appoint 10 provincial governors and five other non-constituency senators. The other 18 seats would be occupied by traditional chiefs. 


There is a clear case of a hung parliament and in such cases, political analysts say there is need for cooperation between the parties in parliament.  If there is no cooperation, then the country will be ungovernable, they say.


“President Mugabe’s choices are limited, but he can dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections in the hope that he will garner more seats than the opposition," Masunungure argues. 


Political analysts feel strongly that it would be impossible for Mugabe to push new legislation through parliament, as the MDC would not assent to any Bill in the House of Assembly. Chances were high that the MDC could refuse to pass budget or Finance Bills and this would be mean a vote of no confidence in the president and government, which would dissolve parliament.


"If President Mugabe has to pass laws such as the Finance Bill and if parliament rejects it, then it would be difficult to rule the country in parliament’s current state," Masunungure says.


At the moment both sides are upbeat that they will the June 27 run-off. Zanu PF has oiled its machinery and seems ready to see its leader win the crucial election. Tsvangirai too, is confident on the back of an earlier win. His supporters even say he is the “president in-waiting.”



Tsiko is The Black Star News’ Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare

 

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