Zimbabwe:Peace Biggest Victor

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His detractors said his party couldn’t win elections if they were openly held with no political violence. That’s precisely what Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF party did last week, cruising to its biggest electoral victory after garnering 78 seats against its main rival. The opposition MDC got 41. The biggest winners were transparency and democracy.

Zanu PF, the party that unites the country’s two liberation movements –the Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) and the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu) swept its traditional stronghold—rural areas. The MDC dominates the cities. In the 2000 vote, Zanu PF won 62 seats, MDC 57 and Zanu one seat.

The party’s popular vote grew by more than 11 percent from 48.9 percent in 2000 to around 60 percent. Zanu PF’s 78 seat win means that it now has a majority in the 150 member Parliament in which President Robert Mugabe appoints 30 non-constituency members.

“People in rural areas remain conscious of the brutal war of independence and will not in any way like to be swayed by opposition parties that have strong connections with whites, who they remember as oppressors,� says a political analyst at the Zimbabwe Open University. “Urban people are largely a discontented lot. It’s understandable with sanctions still imposed on Zimbabwe. Problems of unemployment and slow economic growth are there because of lack of investment due to sanctions. But should we sell our country because we want jobs and the British pound?�

Voter turn-out was slightly more than 2.7 million, 10 percent higher than in the 2000 parliamentary election. One independent candidate won a seat in the MDC stronghold in Tsholotsho, a rural area in Matabeleland North province. It was former Information and Publicity Minister Prof. Jonathan Moyo, who broke away from Zanu PF after being barred by the party’s Politburo for convening an illegal meeting which is widely speculated to have been to plan the ouster of Mugabe from power.

Zanu PF jolted MDC in its stronghold, Harare, when one of its candidates Hubert Nyanhongo won the Harare South constituency. The ruling party also won the Chegutu and Chinhoyi town constituencies which have both urban and rural components in them. MDC fielded five white candidates in this year’s parliamentary race. David Coltart, a lawyer, won the Bulawayo South seat; Trudy Stevenson retained the Harare North seat; Eileen Heather Bennett (wife of jailed Chimanimani MDC MP Roy Bennett) lost the Chimanimani seat in the Eastern Highlands; James Ian Kay, a former commercial farmer, lost the Marondera East constituency seat; and, Alan McCormick, was turned back when he tried to snatch the Guruve North rural seat from Zanu PF.

Trevor Ncube, the owner of the Zimbabwe Independent, a newspaper which is strongly against government, wrote an article titled: “Mugabe needed now as never before,� in which he attacked the opposition for failing to launch a formidable challenge to Zanu PF, for being disjointed and lacking leadership to transform the party in formidable opposition party.

Other critics charged that MDC was being driven by elitist imperial forces that had no place for the interest of ordinary peasants and the urban poor. “Many now believe the MDC’s failure to get into power was a blessing in disguise. Their obvious lack of decisive leadership and a clear vision for the nation would have plunged this country into another crisis in the mould of Frederick Chiluba’s Zambia,� wrote Ncube. He is one of the government critics who helped build up Tsvangirai’s media image in 1999 when MDC was formed. MDC has failed to shake off the “white party� image–a stooge party for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George Bush; the party once said it will return land to white commercial farmers once it assumes power.

“Many people within the region continue to rally behind liberation movements because of the parties’ principled stance on land, pan-Africanism, sovereignty and their historical record of fighting colonial rule,� says Dr. Godfrey Chikowore, the head of international relations and social development at the
Institute of Development Studies in Harare.

Mugabe was upbeat about the victory and general conduct of the polls which has since been endorsed by the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), the African Union and other observer missions as largely free and fair and reflecting the general will of Zimbabweans. “For my party and nationally, this is a moment of great joy, of celebrating victory of my party,� he said. “I also want to pass a message to the MDC that in any fight and in any sporting game only one emerges as a winner. The losing side although it gets disappointed must not think this is the end of the world.� He added, referring to Tony Blair: “If he wants reconciliation we are ready.�

The opposition MDC alleged that there was rigging and the electoral process flawed but observers challenged MDC to produce evidence. “In a number of situations, they (MDC) did not bring evidence to back their complaints. In general, we have come to the conclusion that the election does reflect the will of the people of Zimbabwe,� said Mrs. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka the head of the Sadc observer mission.

The March 31 polls attracted much international attention and coverage. People voted peacefully and there were no reports of any deaths, something which made this election different from those in the past.

Tsiko is The Black Star News’s Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare, Zimbabwe. For more reports, please subscribe to the newsstand edition of the newspaper by clicking on “subscribe� on the homepage or call (212) 481-7745.


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