To Participate or Not?
In March this year the government of Zimbabwe announced that they were
to hold the next scheduled parliamentary election in March 2005. They
they were giving the country a year in which to prepare itself for this
event. They also made the snide remark that they thought it would give
MDC time to get ready for the election.
Since it was formed the rationale of the MDC has been to fight
we have said from day one, that we believed in a democratic transition
was peaceful and lawful. We have strictly adhered to those principles
despite 4 years of extreme provocation.
However, when we came to consider what it would mean to go into another
election under present conditions, we paused for thought and eventually
out and said "unless the following 15 demands are met, we will not
the election". Since then we have come under intense pressure from the
regional and international community to run again. We have not moved
position and continue to say that until our demands are met, we will
contest the election.
Hope rose when the SADC summit of regional leaders agreed to a clear
principles by which they would manage the democratic process in their
countries. Mugabe signed and the region breathed a sigh of relief. We
watched, suspicious and cautious from the sidelines. What would that
old devil, Mugabe do?
Well now we know - he has bulldozed through Parliament new legislation
will further weaken the democratic process and tighten his own grip on
administration of elections. He has made some token concessions in the
direction of free and fair elections but these steps have been totally
overwhelmed by the tightening of laws governing the electoral process,
role of civil society and the media. On the ground there is no
any of the other instruments of suppression that he holds. There is no
freedom of speech, no freedom of association; the legal system is still
being used every day to suppress opposition activity and to maintain
total grip on all civil activity.
The food weapon is in place and ready to be used, the message that "you
cannot do anything without us" is being spread across the country.
is being told to stay in line or else. The slightest threat of public
protest or dissent is greeted with overwhelming force.
But just as serious is the total lack of regard for Parliament. Serious
questions asked by the opposition are treated with distain. Opposition
are threatened in public by Zanu PF Ministers and MP's who are quite
they will face no recrimination. New legislation that is in conflict
the Constitution is simply rammed through Parliament and a compliant
Court can be relied upon to back up the actions of the State. Even the
standing rules of Parliament are abused daily so that nothing stands in
way of the State.
The reality is that Mugabe has no intention of holding a free and fair
election in Zimbabwe any time in the near future. We are in effect
just another form of the classic African coup - carried out under the
noses of the region and the global community. The question is do we
the process by our continued participation?
The answer is clearly no! Not while this farce is being played out. We
not live in a democracy, we live under a dictatorship. We do not live
free market economy; we live in a kleptocratic State. We do not have a
functioning Parliament - that is simply expensive camouflage for the
real activities and it is time we brought the masquerade to a close.
I know we have not yet made that decision but it is clear that few of
key demands are going to be fulfilled. It is also simply too late to
contemplate an election in March 2005 when certain of these fundamental
reforms have not been put in place. So if Mugabe sticks to his guns on
issue of timing and Mbeki on his stance of non-intervention in the
of another African State (unless it is in West Africa or the Great
region or at war with itself using military arms), then I simply cannot
the MDC contesting next year's election.
What does that mean? We have already been joined in our stance by two
minority Parties who have also said they will stay out of the process.
UN has not been asked to help with the election because that would open
the process and it is already too late for UN intervention. Will Zanu
declare itself the winner of all 120 seats - Mugabe then appoint
seats and then declare that Zanu is re-elected for another 5-year term?
Such an outcome would be a disaster for everyone. It would close the
any sort of democratic process of change, cast a pall across the whole
Southern Africa, keep all forms of international and multilateral aid
down and give NEPAD a crushing blow. Zimbabweans would continue to flee
country as economic and political refugees and living standards and
expectancy would continue to shrink.
We all know this - and yet we search in vain the international press
sign, that we are even a discussion point. So far I have seen no sign
the global community is concerned or has any sense of urgency about the
crisis in Zimbabwe. If we got hold of a few AK 47's and shot a few
that would change overnight. So long as we do not prepared to start
shooting - we are a problem that can be ignored. The fact that 5
people have died or fled the country is not an issue. That life
has crashed from 59 years in 1990 to 35 years today. That half our
population is hungry and malnourished. That our hospitals are
our schools, day care centers simply does not matter.
South Africa continues to stand on the sidelines, Pagad, the deputy
of Foreign Affairs says "show me the bodies and we will act", his boss,
Zuma, says they are "not taking sides." OK - if that is how you want to
the game, so be it, we hope they can live with the consequences.
Bulawayo, 17th November 2004.