Mugabe demands a miscount

2008-04-05 00:00

It is extraordinary that on a playing field tilted to ski-slope proportions in his favour, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party still failed to win the parliamentary election. Even with electoral fraud continuing during the protracted, almost week-long counting process, Mugabe will at best achieve a run-off for the presidency against the Movement for Democratic Change’s leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

Assuming that Mugabe does not revert to African dictator type and send in the military to solve his woes. All in the name, of course, of protecting Zimbabwe’s national sovereignty from rapacious former colonial powers, who want to throw it a £1 billion economic lifeline, if he goes.

That the election fixing — shamelessly facilitated by Southern African Development Community (SADC) electoral monitors who declared the elections “free and fair” even before the voting started — ultimately failed can be credited to modern technology. The MDC achieved almost nothing in its negotiations with Zanu-PF on how the elections would be conducted, except agreement that the parliamentary results, as well as being forwarded to Harare for “processing”, would be pasted up outside each polling station, the moment that they were known.

In a stroke of genius, thousands of independent monitors with digital cameras were deployed throughout the country, including to the inaccessible rural polling stations. The moment the results were pasted up, they were photographed and the pictures sent by SMS or satellite phone to an independent results centre, set up in South Africa.

While the government election authority, headed by a Mugabe-appointed military man, tried desperately for days to slice-and-dice, inflate and rearrange the votes to achieve a Mugabe victory, the South African centre quickly did the damning arithmetic for them and beamed the results around the world. Outwitted, the Zim government authority had to trail dispiritedly in their wake, whinging like a recalcitrant schoolboy.

The Zimbabwean election saga is by no means over and when it eventually stumbles to its likely conclusion — the exit of Mugabe after 28 years in power, after three previous stolen elections, the destruction of the economy, the displacement of three million people and suspension of the rule of law — SADC and the South African government will no doubt be patting themselves on the back for having brought the messy business to a conclusion.

They should refrain from doing so. Their role was ignoble, dishonest and prolonged the suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans, whatever they might have brokered in these, the closing days of the Mugabe era.

Given the esteem in which Comrade Bob is evidently held by the ANC, South Africa should offer him political asylum. We already have Haiti’s Jean-Bertrande Aristide and Mugs could bring along his great pal, Mengistu Haile Mariam, who is sheltering in Harare from genocide charges brought by Ethiopia, the country he once ruled.

Mugabe would likely find South Africa under the new ANC very much to his taste. It has steadily become more Stalinist and its intolerance of criticism is reaching Mugabe-like proportions.

The ANC this week spewed abuse against Professor Barney Pityana, the vice-chancellor of the University of South Africa, for daring to suggest that there are some moral issues that make ANC President Jacob Zuma unsuitable to lead the country. The South African Communist Party Youth League ranted against the “disrespectful and dastardly remarks made by the deplorable” rector, and — more obscurely — noted that his contribution to the liberation struggle was politically empty because he was “a boarding academic and political demagogue tourist”.

One can see the influence of Marx on the SACP. Groucho Marx, that is. It’s worth noting that one of the strongest objections articulated by the Zuma camp towards President Thabo Mbeki was that he is intolerant of criticism and demonises his opponents.

Finally, to really warm the cockles of Mad Mugs’s heart is the draft land expropriation legislation, which sets South Africa on the path to Zimbabwe-style farm seizures and collapsing agricultural production. Offered the honorific of Your Exalted Excellency and a job in the Mbeki cabinet as Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs, Robert Gabriel will transplant himself across the Limpopo before you can say “colonial dispossession”.

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