There is little by way of good news that comes out of Zimbabwe these days and for the immediate future it looks like this trend will continue, despite the promise of “free and fair” elections before the end of the year.
Like it or not what happens in Zimbabwe is of great significance to the people of South Africa for many reasons. The two countries have a long historical link and the economic ties run deep, not to mention the fact that some three million Zimbabweans live in South Africa.
Hope is all that most Zimbabweans resident in the country now have to cling to and it is becoming more hollow with the passing years. Their present ruler, Robert Mugabe, despotic racist and tribalist, remains in power by the rule of force. He is surrounded by an oligarchy of similar-minded thugs who control all security services, including the police and army, and are equally determined to keep a tight hold on the reins of power.
What chance then do the promised elections have? The Constitutional Court ruled last week, in line with Mugabe's directive, that elections must be held before July 31 2013, an impossible to implement decree as there are many constitutional changes still to be made. Naturally, the Opposition parties have rejected this and Mugabe will also have to accept the inevitable. So even the courts are tarnished.
The head of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission gave a stark warning on Tuesday that the voters’ roll “is in a shambles” and Justice Rita Makarau admitted some registered voters had their names deleted from the roll – no explanation as to why - as she expressed grave concern about potential election day chaos.
President Jacob Zuma is concerned with events and what may happen. In a rare show of decision he has asked for a clear election roadmap and agreed timelines for polls.
Human Rights Watch said recently: "The leadership of the military, police, and internal security agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation, has remained unchanged and openly supportive of Mugabe."
It was only last month that Zimbabwe defence forces commander Constantine Chiwenga dismissed the leader of the main Opposition party, MorganTsvangirai, and refused to discuss security sector reforms, an essential move before elections can be held. “"We have no time to meet sellouts. Clearly Tsvangirai is a psychiatric patient who needs a competent psychiatrist," Chiwenga said.
Police commissioner general Augustine Chihuri was similarly dismissive of making any changes saying he would not hear of any attempt to reform the country's security sector.
That's not surprising as they were implicated in leading widespread abuses including killings, beatings and torture during the violent and disputed 2008 presidential election run-off.
In fact it has been reported that Chiwenga has already “seized” power from the ailing Mugabe and is, in effect, running the country. He and his fellow security chiefs with blood on their hands are making plans to nullify any election that excludes Mugabe and will take control themselves.
What chance then of a “free and fair” election? The security chiefs are running scared and have all the power in their hands. And the Opposition has majority support among voters as seen in recent elections. It is a recipe for potential disaster.
And it is another worry for our dear president as the last thing he needs at the moment is a coup d'etat on his border and more refugees flooding into SA. There can be no question of military involvement and the political will is at an unreasonable low.
Keep your eye on the developments. And your fingers crossed for a simple solution. But don't hold your breath!