The Death of Democracy in Zimbabwe

If nothing else, the Senate elections have clearly revealed the futility of elections in Zimbabwe as a means of changing those who have the responsibility of government. We knew it before, but it has never been as clear to us as it is now.

The results were very revealing - if we adopt my hypothesis as spelled out in the last weekly letter, that Zanu PF held back in Bulawayo to give the MDC pro Senate faction some seats and that in those seats rigging was minimal, then we get the following picture nationally. In the five Bulawayo Senate seats the poll was 7,5 percent of the voters registered. Across the whole country 631 000 voters turned out, 3 per cent spoiled their votes and 124 000 voted for the MDC candidates despite the boycott call by Morgan Tsvangirai. This meant that 450 000 voters voted for Zanu PF. The total poll being 19,48 percent of the voters registered in the contested seats.

Now if we assume that the Bulawayo vote (where the MDC pro Senate faction is strongest and has the best case for participation) is a reflection of the "true" vote, then this percentage poll estimated for the whole country means that some 388 000 votes were fabricated to ensure a Zanu PF "landslide". That is some 86 per cent of the Zanu vote and suggests that the true poll for Zanu was only a miniscule 62 000 votes or less than two per cent of the number of registered voters.

This may be an extreme calculation but it suggests the magnitude of the nonsense that goes on in an election here run by this collection of clowns masquerading as democrats. If we take just one seat - that for Chipinge and Chimanimani - here in an area where Zanu PF has not won a seat in 25 years, they polled 36 000 votes, some 22 per cent of the total number of registered voters. In the last election that could be counted as reasonably run - June 2000, Zanu lost both seats by huge margins. This is clearly simply not possible. In fact I said to a friend who comes from the area jokingly - "so you guys have woken up and voted Zanu PF at last", to which she replied "come walk with me down the street of Chipinge and say that in public and you will be beaten to death!"

On the day that I went up to Harare last week, the headline in the Herald was "Mutare Mayor to be thrown out". If we ignore the state of national elections and look at what has happened in local government elections the situation is equally shameful. In the last national local government elections the MDC won comprehensively in 13 out of 15 urban councils. These victories were especially marked in the larger centers.

Since then we have seen the Mayor and entire Council forced out of office in Harare, the Mayor of Chitungwiza suspended, the Mayor of Mutare thrown out of his office and now facing suspension and the Mayor of Chivu thrown into jail on spurious grounds. All other MDC Mayors face constant threats against their tenure and administration In the Rural District Council of Hwange - one of the few controlled by the MDC, the elected Chairman was hounded out of office and has now fled the area and is living in Harare.

Local government is already in a terrible state - lack of resources, the State not paying its bills, shortages of foreign currency for essential imports and urban populations growing rapidly without any consequential investment in water and sewerage. Our cities are a health time bomb. I talked to the Mayor of Bulawayo the other day - a man who has done a very commendable job for the City. We discussed a private sector initiative to solve the cities water crisis - he concurred with the ideas but said that his biggest problem was that the Minister of Local Government would not back it because it would be seen as an MDC initiative. In the budget there was no allocation for the new water supplies either for Harare or Bulawayo!

In the Presidential election in 2002, it was estimated by those with access to the data that some 800 000 votes were fabricated - we know who did it and where and how it was done. Without these fabricated votes Morgan Tsvangirai would have won that election by 65 per cent to 35 per cent for Robert Mugabe and we would have been living under a MDC government right now. Instead Mugabe claimed a massive victory over his rival and when this victory was taken to Court for an urgent hearing, it was simply sat on and today - 3 and a half years later, has not been heard. In exasperation the legal team representing Morgan has now appealed to the Supreme Court to do "something" about the refusal of the High Court to hear the case. It took the MDC three years to force the Registrar General to bring the election documents to Harare for examination - a process which is only now under way.

The people no longer have any faith in elections - and what a tragedy that is for the country and for Africa at large. I can remember like yesterday the enormous excitement in 1980 as millions went to vote to bring about the selection of leadership to take the country forward after years of war and isolation. I was on duty at a polling station and can recall the queues of ordinary people - the old, the young, the educated and the illiterate, workers and millionaires all standing in line with a common cause. The emotion of those for whom this was the first time to vote was plain for all to see and was deeply moving.

Now those same people say what is the point of voting - we vote and they steal the result, we vote and they beat us, we vote and they starve us and deny us access to jobs and schools. Who can forget those vivid pictures from the June 2000 election of hundreds of thousands of people lined up at midnight demanding "we want to vote", the riot police using dogs and tear gas to drive them away from the polling stations when it became clear that they could not all vote - Zanu PF wanted to close the vote down while they were ahead.

Who will not forget the stunned expressions on the faces of all when in 2002, the State radio announced the "result". Ordinary people everywhere said, "We did not vote like that!" For me personally it took about six months to pick myself off the floor of that election. What was just as bad was to then watch the Zanu PF administration punish those districts that had dared to vote against the monolith.

But if we cannot change our government or our Councils by voting, then what can we do to get change when we feel that those in power are not acting in our interests? Do we really have to start killing each other again to get change? Today as I write, the UN has a senior staff member here to investigate our situation. I guess it is too much to ask that all he does is insist that next time we vote - if we ever get there, we will have the UN supervise the whole process so that we can vote for real change with the confidence that we will not be cheated yet again.

We were told for many decades that the struggle in places like Zimbabwe was for "one man one vote". Post independence history suggests otherwise. However, this should not in any way detract from the fact that our people want to vote for the leaders of their own choice. To deny them that make mockery of everything the earlier generations of leaders in Africa stood for during the long road to democracy in Africa. No one knows that better than Mugabe.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 4th December 2005