Monday, 31 March 2008

Do the elections spell hope for Zimbabwe?

Twenty-eight years of rule by Robert Mugabe has proven to be something of a disaster for Zimbabwe. As the years have passed, repression accompanied by economic ruin have increased in intensity. Over three million Zimbabweans have relocated to South Africa - most of them illegally - so as to be able to earn a living.

The weekend saw the latest round of elections in Zimbabwe. The results of each polling station were counted and posted outside. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change or MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai have tallied up these votes to indicate a land-slide victory for the opposition. But the official and far from independent electoral commission is releasing the results at a snails pace.

Perhaps the trickle technique is a way to test the patience of the population eager for change. If violence breaks out it could be a pretext for military rule with Robert Mugabe still at the helm. Maybe the ruling party just needs more time to rig the results to achieve a win. Or could it simply be that the electoral commission are totally incompetent and very slow at doing their jobs.

This morning a caller to a radio station said that it felt like New Year's Eve in Zimbabwe as jubilant crowds of people celebrated the (expected) opposition victory. As the day drew slowly on the festive mood has been subdued and replaced with the realisation that even with the majority of votes going the MDC, Zanu PF could still try to claim victory.

48 hours after voting closed only 52 seats have been announced. By now, the government should have conceded defeat. The new government should be preparing to start with the huge task of reconstruction of this devastated land.

If Mugabe does steal this election - something that is beginning to look like a reality - what will the world do? What will the United Nations do? What will Zimbabwe's neighbours do? What will the South African government do? Continue with its policy of 'quiet diplomacy'?

The answer, of course, is nothing. Absolutely nothing.

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