Elections in Zimbabwe
On Tuesday last week I listened to a SABC Africa Service program
broadcasting arm into Africa as a whole) when they ran an extract
latest press conference of Thabo Mbeki. It was very interesting and
encouraging for me to hear the South African President stating
1. The MDC and Zanu PF have no option but to talk so that the
problems of Zimbabwe could be resolved.
2. POSA and AIPPA (the two bits of more recent legislation that are
used to control and manipulate local media and political life) had
to be dealt with.
3. The only way forward was through an internationally recognised and
respected electoral process.
Any senior MDC leader could have made this statement. It is and has
been for some years now, the official position of the MDC on the way
out of the mess we are in. Mbeki went on and said that he had spoken
to both the leaders of the MDC and Zanu PF and that "they had
agreed" to hold talks. He then said he had suggested that when talks
were held that they should aim at resolving all outstanding
constitutional issues and the timetable for new elections,
which should be held before the end of March 2005.
Mugabe promptly responded by announcing that elections for a new
Parliament, already scheduled for June 2005, would be brought forward
by three months to March 2005. He also said he had no intention of
talking to the MDC. In several other speeches Mugabe failed to refer
to talks in any way.
In a fascinating exercise, Chinamasa - the Minister responsible for
Legal Affairs then wrote to the UN and asked them for financial
assistance in running the 2005 elections. I am no admirer of the UN
system but this time their response was spot on. They responded by
saying that before they could do so they would send a high level
delegation to Zimbabwe to investigate the
electoral process and then they would act on the basis of the
recommendations made. A list of those in the proposed delegation was
enclosed together with a clear statement of their terms of
reference. With astonishing speed the Minister responded by saying
hurriedly - that is not what we had in mind, we will do the
elections ourselves, thank you!
If that is not a public admission that what they have in mind as an
electoral process, will not stand up to scrutiny, then I do not know
what is! We (MDC) responded by saying that if the March 2005
elections are held under the conditions that prevail today in the
country, then we will not grace the process with our participation.
We will not legitimize what will be another huge exercise in
wholesale electoral fraud.
UN and other diplomatic representatives here have stated that they
support the MDC view and that if elections are held without major
reforms in the process and the general political environment, then
they will not recognise the outcome. The Zimbabwe government will
continue to be an outcast in the global community. So fresh
elections are now scheduled but they will solve nothing - only make
I read Ian Smith's book, Betrayal, this past week. Never could get
up the effort required to do so before, but wanted to remind myself
of what happened to Smith when he was in a similar situation to
Mugabe today. In the book, Smith rightly devotes a chapter to the
Kissenger intervention in September 1976. He had traveled down to
Pretoria with several of his more conservative Cabinet Ministers and
first saw Kissenger. HK outlined to Smith his plan to get Rhodesia
out of the mess it was in and said that this was the best deal he
could get for the Rhodesians in present circumstances.
Smith accepted that HK was sincere and trying his level best. But
his best was not good enough and in private discussions the
Rhodesians resolved to turn the deal down.
At this juncture, B J Vorster came into the picture and in a short
butemphatic intervention he told the Rhodesians that it was over. If
they did not accept the American package South Africa would withdraw
all support. The Rhodesians had no choice and Smith came back from
Pretoria, told his Cabinet the outcome and then went on television
to announce that they had accepted majority rule. It was the end of
Smiths regime. It started the process that brought Robert Mugabe to
power 24 years ago - with aggressive and positive British support in
The players are different, but the situation is very similar and if
anything the relative strengths of South Africa as the regional
superpower and Zimbabwe are even more accentuated. Mugabe can not
say no to Mbeki if Mbeki puts his foot down in the manner that
Vorster did 28 years ago. In 1976, Vorster was acting in the best
interests of South Africa. If Mbeki acted against Mugabe, he would
again be doing so in the best interests of South Africa.
It took the South African Communist Party this week to set the record
straight in South Africa. They had sent a small team to Zimbabwe to
investigate the situation and when they returned they published a
short report. They confirmed all that we have been saying about the
situation in the country and reminded their ANC colleagues that
Zimbabwe was violating all the human and political values that the
ANC had fought for for 75 years before they gained real democracy in
1994. They said that it was Zanu PF that was stalling on the talk's
front and called for more effective action by South Africa to break
The question now is where to next? I am afraid the ball is in your
court, Mr. Mbeki, after all - you did accept the role of "point man"
on the Zimbabwe issue. I once caused a furore in Johannesburg by
stating that if the South African Government did not know how to do
it, they should consult those furry old Afrikaner nationalists in
Bulawayo, 25th February 2004