Through the Looking Glass

If it were not so serious, it would make a fine story for a farce. Following the March 29th elections (which were heavily rigged to try and give Zanu PF a victory) they delayed giving the results for a month and then simply falsified the Presidential ballot. Following the June 27th vote - Zanu PF was claiming a victory within 24 hours, we expect the results to be released this afternoon - 48 hours after the poll closed and the Chief Justice is standing by to swear Robert Mugabe in as the new President!

When the MDC claimed victory on the Tuesday after the March 29th poll, based on a parallel vote count - they were accused of 'treason'. One of the charges on which Tendai Biti was arrested was just that. Now Zanu and Mugabe do the same thing - in advance of the ZEC results and its all OK.

On the 29th March Tsvangirai won with 54 per cent of the total poll - still not confirmed by validating the actual returns, which are held under lock and key by the State. They struggled for a month to try and wriggle out of that one eventually, just brushing aside the need for any validation process and simply announced that a run off was required.

This was followed by two months of intense, nation wide, State managed and executed violence against the MDC and its supporters. Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, tens of thousands have been injured - many with serious injuries, hands and feet amputated, broken limbs, smashed hands. Food aid to millions cancelled and what food was left was brought under strict political control. Indoctrination centers were established in every district in the country and tens of thousands subjected to arbitrary orders to attend activities in these centers at which they were threatened with further violence and injury if they 'voted the wrong way'. At public rallies the regime promised a return to war if Tsvangirai won.

The MDC campaign for the run off was not allowed to even get started - rallies were banned and when a High Court Judge ordered the police to allow a rally in Harare, the police stood by as armed thugs from Zanu PF militia's attacked those attempting to go to the venue. Live ammunition was used and there was no attempt to even hide the role of the militias. The police affected not a single arrest.

The offices of the MDC were raided on several occasions, thousands of MDC officials were arrested and at the end of the campaign it was estimated that 2000 were still in custody - most without charge. Tsvangirai himself was not allowed to move freely, was given no space - even for adverts - in the dominant State controlled media and his personal safety was threatened.

Had Morgan not pulled out of the elections the violence would have intensified. The 27 000 polling agents that had been trained for the poll would have put their lives on the line and many would have not even got to their polling stations. The 2 000 or more volunteers who were standing by to supervise the poll would not have been allowed to do their job and without polling agents and independent observers the poll would have been massively rigged. We already knew that the armed forces had been forced to vote under supervision and that 130 000 votes had been obtained by these means. We also knew that hundred of thousands of false ballots were in regional army barracks awaiting deployment to selected polling stations. Add to that the issue of multiple voting, secret polling stations, supervised balloting in rural areas and the whole back ground of violence and intimidation and you get a clear picture of just what a farce this has been.

At about 16.00 hours on Sunday - less than 48 hours after the poll closed, ZEC announced that Mugabe had won with 85 per cent of the votes cast, Tsvangirai only got 15 per cent. What three months can do for an administration - counting down from 30 days to less than two, 27 per cent total votes for Mugabe to 85 per cent! As much as anything else, this is a step too far for Mugabe - it's just not credible. The same number of ballots were cast, 2,4 million. At our local polling station Mugabe got 24 votes, Tsvangirai 38 with 80 spoilt ballots. Overall there were less than a third of the total votes cast in March. By my simple mathematics - they must have ballots stuffed at least a million votes to get this result.

Fortunately, because of the courage of a number of journalists who risked their freedom to come into the country illegally and report on events, as well as the courage and determination of local activists and diplomats, all of this was well documented and reported on in the international media. The regime here simply could not hide the facts behind the charade.

I have been away from home for a month to have a stent inserted to improve blood circulation. I drove up to Bulawayo this morning and was shocked by the state of the country. My staff all reported that their families had fled their rural homes for safety in towns, a dead body was found this morning on the side of the road just 500 metres from my home - no identity or clothes - just dumped on the side of the road. When I left the Rand was trading at Z$35 million to one, yesterday it was trading at Z$1,5 billion to 1. The toll on Beitbridge was Z$5,4 billion when I went out; it was Z$100 billion when I came back. The road was deserted and the Town of Gwanda eerily quiet and also deserted. Only the roadblocks looked the same!

At home no salaries had been paid - what should you pay when a 10-kilogram bag of maize meal costs Z$70 billion! Stores are empty, people angry and hungry and virtually everybody is talking about the very real possibility of flight to another country. I have yet to see my own staff or get into the office - that will be on Monday. What do I tell them we are going to do? How do we survive? What hope is there left once the mafias are back in charge in Harare and the looting and violence carries on?

I do not think South Africa can absorb another 2 million or more Zimbabwean refugees. I also think that the African Union must be close to deciding that they have had enough of Mugabe's antics. The political price of ignoring his misdemeanors is now so great that I think we can expect some sort of action to resolve the crisis here next week. How we in the MDC will handle any negotiations is another matter - but I am sure they are coming.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 29th June 2008