Yesterday I was down near the Botswana border trying to locate the
the killing of two MDC activists. We called in at a small store and
the people there to ask if they had heard anything. I spotted some
asked what the price was. '30 000' they replied and a young man
against the counter chipped in 'Z$30 million'!
He was right because we have already cut three zero's off our
months ago) and in the old currency it would have been 30 million
Prices are now doubling every week and soon the regime here will have
repeat the exercise and chop another three zero's off the currency
issuing new notes. I am told they are ready to do so and are
make the change without notice.
In this situation life is becoming more and more difficult although I
always astonished how ordinary, simple people adjust. I asked a peasant
farmer trying to sell a chicken on the roadside how much and he
with a wave of his hand '60 or 70'. He was of course saying 60 to
thousand dollars. Quite a realistic price at the time. Then there is
ubiquitous parallel market for foreign exchange. In a country where
transactions are illegal and foreign exchange is not legal tender, you
ask anyone on the street what the price of the Rand or the US dollar
get an answer. In fact the rate changes every half hour or so and
this is communicated across the country.
The herdsmen were finally able to get the Zanu PF into the pen in front
the dip tank. Much mooing and kicking up of heels. But they got them
the pen and we are now looking at them and deciding what to do next. I
understand the actual talks went well and it has been agreed just what
next talks will be all about. Detailed positions are now being worked
including specifics and a further round of talks is planned for the
It appears that Mr. Mugabe opened this Pandora's box himself. He
the December SADC Summit for the region to intervene in the Zimbabwe
and asked them to 'mediate' between Britain and Zimbabwe. Alleging
time that all of Zimbabwe's problems were caused by 'sanctions'
the international community co-ordinated by Britain. SADC engaged and
discovered what all of us already knew: the crisis in Zimbabwe is home
Then as the crisis deepened the SADC leadership became increasingly
agitated. This led to the emergency Summit in March and the agreement
Mugabe that he would participate in multiparty negotiations to bring
crisis to a close. The SADC is now holding Zanu PF and Mr. Mugabe to
The crucial issue is what would constitute a 'free and fair'
Zimbabwe? If that is defined and then interpreted into the Zimbabwe
situation then Zanu will face its first challenge on a level playing
since 1980. Clearly you cannot even imagine such an electoral process
For a start all opposition forces are regarded as enemies of the State
treated as such. On a daily basis opposition activists are beaten,
and even killed. The majority of planned opposition activities are
either officially on one pretext or another or simply stopped by brute
Then all State controlled media - the electronic media and television
all daily newspapers are tightly controlled and directed. They pour out
daily diet of propaganda that is designed to denigrate the leadership
opposition and promote the political interests of the Zanu PF. One of
three weeklies is now owned and controlled by the CIO and the other two
less than aggressive in their pursuit of the truth.
The whole electoral process is controlled by the State and is also
by the military; from the registration of voters to the issue of
documents. The voter's roll is manipulated and used to strengthen the
PF position in all areas where they think they might face a serious
challenge. Supporters of the opposition are regularly disenfranchised
denied access to the voting system.
The boundaries of voting districts are manipulated in classical fashion
state appointed delimitation Commissions and voters are transferred
district to another. The postal ballot is managed and controlled and
military required to vote under supervision. The votes of those who
abroad are simply excluded.
All essentials for life are in short supply and are tightly controlled
the State. So basic staples and food aid are used throughout the
intimidate whole communities and voters in particular. Traditional
are used to reinforce this situation by demanding that the people in
districts vote for the ruling Party or face penalties of one kind or
another - even threatened with expulsion from their homes.
Then the State uses all its power and resources to foster a system of
patronage that can turn a penniless peasant into a Mercedes driving
billionaire in hours. Cars and perks are dished out like confetti and
who dares to oppose the regime is denied any official support.
for the opposition are ambushed in their districts and burnt out of
homes. They are kicked off irrigation plots and denied housing stands
urban areas. Men in dark glasses watch their every move and they can
rest at night in their own homes.
Free and fair elections are impossible under these circumstances. The
problem is that any relaxation of the system of oppression will open
floodgates and Zanu knows full well they will be swept away by popular
dissent and a tidal wave of electoral activity. I do not think they
able to walk away from this challenge this time and I am just waiting
who is going to run first. If I were in their shoes I would be planning
20th June 2007