AFRICA: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
World stands by as Mugabe inflicts terror in Zimbabwe
, April 26, 2008
Zimbabwe's political opposition has been desperately trying to enlist international support against Mugabe, writes Peter Westmore.Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe who was defeated in a popular election on March 29, but prevented the release of the official results, has embarked on a widespread campaign of terror in rural Zimbabwe to intimidate people into supporting him in a second round of presidential elections.
Under Mugabe's rule, Zimbabwe has been turned into a police state. The economy, once one of the most prosperous in Africa, has been destroyed, with inflation at 100,000 per cent, and opposition leaders bashed, imprisoned or killed.
Western journalists who were in the country for the March 29 election, and international observers, confirmed that after the March election there was widespread rejoicing that the 84-year-old Mugabe had been defeated.
However, Mugabe's henchmen refused to release the results, despite efforts by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to get a Supreme Court order forcing the release of the results. In the meantime Mugabe's party, ZANU-PF, claimed that there had been "irregulars" in the count, and five electoral officials were sacked and imprisoned for allegedly supporting the opposition.
ZANU-PF is apparently "adjusting" the results to show that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai did not get an absolute majority, and will have to contest a run-off poll against Mugabe.
In the meantime, the independent British weekly, the Guardian
, has reported that Mugabe "has unleashed his shock troops, Zanu-PF's militias and those who call themselves liberation-war veterans, even though most are too young to have fought it, in an undeclared campaign of terror against rural voters in advance of an expected second round of presidential elections".
It added: "The violence and intimidation that helped deliver perverted election victories to Zanu-PF three and six years ago were absent from the presidential and parliamentary ballot on March 29, and Mugabe lost. Now they are returning with a vengeance and the ruling party is using results from the first round as a guide to where to exert pressure." (The Guardian
, April 10, 2008).
Opposition activists believe that these tactics — which include murder, beatings and burning houses of known opposition supporters — will succeed. People in rural areas, where most of the population lives, are powerless to withstand the pressure.
In the meantime, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, has been desperately trying to enlist international support against Mugabe.
A key participant is South Africa, which adjoins Zimbabwe, and is now host to over a million refugees who have fled violence and starvation in their home country.
However, the South African president, Thabo Mbeki, has declined to act, although South Africa did intervene some years ago in Lesotho, in somewhat similar circumstances.
The South African president was the chief mediator between Zimbabwe's governing ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change in the run-up to the March election, permitting the presence of international observers and enacting election regulations which required that the election count was conducted in each polling place, and posted outside after voting had concluded.
It was the collation of these results which enabled the opposition to declare victory in both the parliamentary and presidential polls.
However, a week after the elections were held, Mbeki counselled "patience", urging the opposition to accept the "official" results (although they had not been released), while ignoring opposition calls for the international community to intervene.
The South African leader made no public call for the release of the results, which independent observers say were available the day after the vote.
In desperation, Morgan Tsvangirai then approached the president of the African National Congress in South Africa, Jacob Zuma, for assistance.
Zuma is a highly controversial figure in South Africa, having served as a prisoner on Robbin Island with Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders during the apartheid period.
Zuma, a Zulu, was deputy president of South Africa until June 2005, when President Mbeki forced him to resign over a corruption scandal. The scandal involved a multi-billion dollar purchase of weaponry in 1999.Rackeeteering
Jacob Zuma was charged in December 2007 with racketeering, money-laundering, corruption and fraud over the purchase of frigates for the South African navy, a proposed waterfront development in Durban, and lavish spending on Zuma's home.
The trial is set to proceed next August. If Zuma were to be convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of more than one year, he would be ineligible to be elected president of South Africa.
He was also charged with rape of the 31-year-old daughter of a prominent ANC member in 2005, but was found not guilty.
The Zimbabwe opposition leader is in a poor position to have to rely on either Thabo Mbeki or Jacob Zuma.— Peter Westmore.