whatever happened to zimbabwe?

One minute, we are bombarded with election news, with Tsvangirai and the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) laying claim to their victory, and the next…. silence.

It took over a month for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to announce the first-round results. On May 2nd it finally said that Tsvangirai had finished first with 47.9% of the vote, against President Robert Mugabe’s 43.2%. Now it is taking its time to decide when a run-off, which should have taken place within three weeks of the first-round election, should be held.

But it is hard to imagine a remotely fair second round any time soon. Thousands of people have fled violence perpetrated by pro-government militias; many of their houses have been burnt down; others are likely to be too frightened to return home to take part in a second round. The MDC says that at least 20 of its people have been killed and hundreds beaten up. Teachers, many of whom were polling officers in the first round, say they are being hunted down; two have apparently been killed. Independent local monitors complain of being beaten up too, their leaders harassed.

It is unclear how Zimbabwe could even pay for another election. The central bank went into a frenzy of printing to bankroll the first round, which pushed the official rate of inflation to more than 165,000%; the real figure is probably several times higher. The Zimbabwe dollar, which was more valuable than the American greenback at independence in 1980, is now having to be printed in notes of 250m—worth just a bit more than an American dollar. Mugabe, a hero of the independence movement in the 1980s, took the country from white rule to a state of hyperinflation and severe food shortages.

But it is unlikely that he will backdown easily.


~ by k-rock and l-jive on June 5, 2008.

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