Robert Gabriel Mugabe was re-elected the President of Zimbabwe on Saturday, extending a thirty three year reign at the helm of the country he helped liberate from white rule in 1980. Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU (PF) proved similarly dominant, winning two-thirds of the seats declared thus far.
Now 89 years old, Mr. Mugabe and the ZANU (PF) have ruled Zimbabwe since independence, seeing off numerous challenges through a recipe of realpolitik and control of security forces and institutions of state.
The victory was as comprehensive as it was controversial with Mr. Mugabe sweeping the polls with 61 percent of votes cast, nearly twice as those polled by Morgan Tsvangirai, his closest rival, amidst opposition allegations of fraud. At the time of press, Harare was calm with none of violence of the 2008 election in which security forces killed 200 people after Mr. Tsvangirai emerged as the front-runner in a presidential run-off.
In 2008, Zimbabwe’s neighbours intervened to force both sides into an uneasy coalition, but four years later the country is confronting the same questions. “We do not want an election in which the referee throws away the whistle and joins the other team,” Mr. Tsvangirai said at a press conference at his residence.
He labeled the entire process a fraud, offering an example of how 10,000 of 17,000 votes cast in a particular constituency were by assisted, uneducated voters: unusual in a country with 90 percent adult literacy.
His party shall challenge the results in court and will submit a dossier of alleged malpractices to the African Union (AU) and the South African Development Community (SADC) and has asked them to intervene to avoid a “constitutional, political and economic crisis.”
Yesterday, both bodies offered a cautious endorsement of the process, maintaining that the election’s many inconsistencies did not fatally flaw the outcome.
Senior ZANU (PF) hit back at the MDC’s allegations. “The election has been declared free, fair and transparent,” said Emmerson Mnangagwa, a senior ZANU (PF) leader, “We have 61 percent of the vote, we have the capacity to rule for five years.”
In the run-up to the election, ZANU (PF) leaders had spoken of the humiliation of having to share power with a opposition that they consistently project as a tool of western powers like the United Kingdom and the European Union who have imposed sanctions on the country.
“The people have shown their respect for the father of the nation by giving him back his position as President,” Saviour Kasukuwere, the ZANU PF minister for Indigenisation, “We want to focus on developing our economy. Our message is, let the sanctions go and lets do business.”
In victory, Mr. Kasukuwere said, the ZANU (PF) seeks to deepen an indigenization policy in which 51 percent of all large private companies must be owned by black Zimbabweans, or the state.
The indigenization programme, the ZANU (PF) hopes, shall galvanize its base in much the way of the land distribution programme of the mid-2000s in which 170,000 black families were given land seized from a handful of white farmers.
Critics fear that such policies shall lead to capital flight, but the government believes that Zimbabwe’s substantial mineral deposits and highly educated workforce shall convince international capital to stay.
“We have our manifesto which we are going to implement thoroughly: Indigenization, empowerment, development and employment creation,” Mr. Mnangagwa said. Critics fear that such policies shall lead to capital flight, but the government believes that Zimbabwe’s substantial mineral deposits and highly educated workforce shall convince international capital to stay.
The opposition believes its concerns must be addressed before the process is termed legitimate and sanctions lifted. “Mugabe needs the AU and SADC. He needs the MDC,” said Mr. Tsvangirai, when asked what leverage he had in the current situation.
However, ZANU (PF) leaders appeared confident. “The west must find a ladder and climb down and respect the views of the people of Zimbabwe,” said Mr. Mnangagwa, “A democratic election has taken place in Zimbabwe, what else can they do?”