Tag Archives: zimbabwe


Zimbabwe can see the light

12_wo_zimbabwe_politics_4We’ve talked this over and over, but now it honestly seems like something good is happening in Zimbabwe.  I know it’s been a minute since we did a politics post, but this needed to be said.

Zimbabwe is one of the worst economic situations in history.  It’s inflation rate is so high that most retailers don’t even take the local currency anymore.  In fact, Zimbabwe recently cut 12 zeros off the end of their currency just to make it reasonable.

Months ago, when it seemed clear that the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangrai had finally beaten Robert Mugabe, there was quite an uprising.  Eventually, Tsvangrai pulled out of the Presidental election run-off because he felt his supporters were getting attacked by government militas and thugs.

Things seemed hopeless.  Now, for quite a few months there have been talks of a power-sharing agreement between Mugabe and Tsvangrai in order to allow the country to move forward.  Things kept falling apart because Mugabe didn’t want to concede control of some of the most important ministries, including the Home Ministry which controls the security services.

But finally things are better.  Morgan Tsvangrai has just been sworn in as the new Prime Minister.  Which means he actually does share authority with Mugabe.  As well, and perhaps most importantly for Zimbabwe, MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti is now in charge of the Finance ministry.  This is tremendous news because the opposition now controls the ministry that may actually effect some change.

Perhaps there is some hope for the country yet.  As further emphasis, the two Deputy Prime Ministers are both MDC members, though one is from a breakaway faction.  The most worrisome situation is that the Zanu-PF and MDC are sharing control of the Home ministry.  There is little hope that an arrangement like this will work, but so far it’s the best deal we’ve seen.

Most papers out there seem to recognize the flaws of the arrangement.  The biggest fear is that it is simply a way for Mugabe to mask his actions and to get away with his crimes.  However, the Times Online takes particular umbrage with this arrangement.  They seem to fear the consequences:

This is not a government of unity, but of coercion and co-option. By joining it, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which Mr Tsvangirai has led for ten years at great personal risk, is in danger of legitimising the very tyranny it sought to end. MDC officials are to be installed in 13 ministries, but none will give Mr Tsvangirai the power to enforce as well as write new laws, let alone rebuild a country brought to its knees by violence, disease and artificial famine.

There is some truth to these statements.  It is true that there is a risk of legitimizing Mugabe’s government.  There is, however, hope.  If the MDC proves deft at political maneuvering they may persuade enough frightened voters out there to truly vote out Mugabe.

However, things are already off to a rough start.  Tsvangirai, as part of the deal, demanded that hundreds of political prisoners be released before he took his oath of office.  Mugabe ignored him.  Let’s just hope Tsvangirai won’t let himself be ignored.

[Source: BBC, Guardian, Times Online]

Featured Politics

Tsvingrai pulls out of Zim. Presidential race

4080 Records is no stranger to the Zimbabwe controversy.  We’ve been reporting on the developments there for quite some time now, and it is with a heavy heart that I must announce that Morgan Tsvingrai has pulled out of the Presidential Race.

Ever since he narrowly won the election a few months ago, there has been major speculation about what the “run-off” between Tsvingrai and Robert Mugabe would be like.  Pretty much everyone has reported that there is a better chance of Mike Jones winning a grammy than of this election being free and fair.

There has been a steadily growing campaign of violence against supporters of Tsvingrai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).  Mugabe has been blaming this on Tsvingrai, somehow claiming that he’s doing this to make Mugabe look bad.  Looking beyond the amusing denials of a senile old man, it is a definite tragedy that this is continuing.  70 MDC supporters have been killed so far, and many more have been detained or beaten.  A major opposition figure is even currently charged with treason, which could ultimately result in the death penalty.

Mugabe has pulled out all the stops, even getting the police to ban opposition rallies.  Somehow, the Zimbabwe court system overturned this ban and gave the opposition permission to hold their rally and campaign.  But the MDC rally was blocked.  This is apparently what caused Tsvingrai to finally pull out.

Here’s what he says:

“Conditions as of today do not permit the holding of a credible poll,” Mr. Tsvangirai told a hastily arranged news conference in Harare.

“We can’t ask the people to cast their vote on June 27 when that vote will cost their lives. We will no longer participate in this violent sham of an election.”

It’s true that the people of Zimbabwe (who are suffering insanely under the rule of Mugabe) were brave in voting against him in the first poll.  In a society that is as tightly controlled as Zim, it will be dangerous for them to try and vote against him again, unless the world pays closer attention.

It is majorly the fault of the neighbouring nations, especially South Africa.  It is with their support that Mugabe is able to continue his reign.  In recent weeks, more and more leaders have begun to turn against Mugabe, except for Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa.  If he doesn’t add his voice to the calls for Mugabe to step down, then Mugabe will likely continue his rule for a few years to come.

By not contesting this run-off, Tsvingrai will have handed a default victory to Mugabe.  He’s forfeiting, essentially.

It’s a sad day for Zim, and hopefully the world will take notice.

[Source: Globe and Mail]


South Africa is burning

This is absolute madness.  The LA Times (among many, many others) is reporting on the newest batch of violence gripping South Africa.  Apparently there has been a huge wave of anti-foreigner sentiment that started in Alexandria, a suburb/township near Johannesburg and has spread across much of Kwa-Zulu Natal and some of the Northern Areas of South Africa.

Much of the xenophobic violence is targeted at immigrants from Zimbabwe, or so it seems.  For now, Western and Eastern foreigners (from Europe and Asia) seem to have escaped the brunt of the violence, but it’s still probably a good idea to lay low.

Some of the victims have been actually burned alive while a mob watches, and that is pretty horrifying.  It’s reminiscent of necklacing, a tactic used during the struggle against apartheid to punish “snitches” and still used in other places (including the slums of Brazil).  It’s a brutal form of violence and one that is especially shocking from a democracy like South Africa.  Especially in a time of what should be peace.

I guess the motivation behind the violence is that the township residents accuse the Zimbabwean immigrants of “stealing their jobs”, much the way that xenophobic sentiment in North America (specifically the US) is focused on illegal immigration from Mexico.

The South African government and many other notable figures (including Bishop Desmond Tutu) have condemned the attacks.  The government has also said they would try to protect foreigners from this violence.  They’re accusing the mobs of not actually being xenophobic, but using this as an opportunity for criminal behaviour.  There have been a string of arrests and they’re on the verge of deploying the army.  They’ve already called in reserve police and brought in reinforcements from other regions to help combat the violence, but I think it’s about time martial law was declared.  In a situation like this, good people could easily get swept up and start doing terrible things, so it’s important to nip the situation in the bud.  It would be much, much different if the mobs were protesting, or even if they were just destroying property.  Then maybe we could tolerate it for a little longer.  But cruising around already poor neighbourhoods and murdering people is unacceptable.

The violence must end.

Featured Politics

Zimbabwe is a crazy place

As you’ve all been hearing, Zimbabwe isn’t exactly in the best condition ever.  The recent elections were a huge slap in the face to Robert Mugabe. For the first time, this hero of the revolution has had a major setback.  Instead of the suspiciously large victories he’s been used to, Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party actually managed to lose.

That’s nearly unheard of in this country.  Zimbabwe is a place where election fixing, intimidation and other questionable practices have reached a new level of art.  The opposition has been beaten, arrested, outlawed, all kinds of things.

Mugabe has always maintained a strong grip on the armed forces and uses them to enforce his will.  Even more worrisome is his practice of using “war veterans” from the war for independence,  and youth members of his party to harass and intimidate voters.  Of course this is all denied, but seems pretty well documented in international circles.

And throughout it all, Morgan Tsvangrai has been a huge pain in Mugabe’s ass.  The leader of the main opposition (the MDC) has himself been bloodied and has had a tough go of things, and still refuses to give up.  Immediately after the election, he declared victory and steadfastly maintained that his party, combined with that of another opposition party had won enough to take away Mugabe’s majority in parliament.

Since then it’s been a tense time.  Mugabe has been saying that Tsvangrai may have beaten him in the actual presidential election, but not by enough to win outright.  Instead, they need to go into a run-off.

The reason this caused such a big issue is the fact that there was a huge delay in releasing the tallies of the votes.  It took days before any results were officially released.  Some independent monitors released what they could, but these were spotty at best.  Then came the ridiculous recount procedure that involved over a dozen seats. Interestingly enough, the recount still wound up with the opposition taking over a majority in parliament.

Finally, TODAY, more than a month after the election, the BBC is reporting that the official Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has said that Tsvangrai had won the initial vote.  He got 48% of the vote.  2% less than was needed to avoid a run-off.

Now this number is clearly questionable, but the sheer fact that they’re even letting people know that Tsvangrai won at all is a huge step.  Hopefully this will be the tipping point that ends up with Mugabe leaving.

Now as a quick background, Mugabe has pretty much run this country into the ground.  He started off as an incredible, inspirational leader.  But things slowly went downhill.  He was hell-bent on this policy of “land reform”, which basically meant confiscating land from white farmers and redistributing it.  Instead of giving it to the poor and dispossessed as he promised, he gave it to his cronies.  He used this land to help keep his grip on power and ensure loyalty.  This has caused food production to plummet and the economy to tank.  Unemployment is high.  Inflation is over 100,000%.  That’s not a typo.

And the worst part about all of this is no one is even sure if Tsvangrai is a good leader.  He’s a former union leader who became a politician.  I’m not sure if he’s capable.  This is one of those moments that’s become increasingly common (or so it seems lately), where it’s less a vote for a candidate and more a vote against the previous system.

Now we just have to wait and see what happens with the run-off.  Just keep your fingers crossed that we won’t see the same violence we saw in Kenya.


Zimbabwe opposition declares presidential victory

globeandmail.com: Zimbabwe opposition declares presidential victory

In what is potentially life-changing news for a lot of people in the world, The Globe and Mail (among other news sources) is reporting that the opposition in Zimbabwe is declaring victory.

Now that I’ve started writing this article, it seems as if the OFFICIAL results agree. That’s right, the opposition, led by Morgan Tsvingrai, has taken over parliament. According to Mugabe’s government, Mugabe’s party took 97 seats and the opposition took 99, with some seats going to a smaller party also opposed to Mugabe.

Even more crazy, official AND official sources are saying that Mugabe has so far lost the presidential election as well. Now, under Zimbabwean law, if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote than the top two must compete in a run-off. The MDC (the opposition party) is claiming they won 50.3% of the vote, thus avoiding the need for one, but Mugabe’s party disagrees. My money is on them being forced into a run off, because Mugabe still has a lot of clout over the government as a whole and is not likely to go quietly.

The extreme delays in counting the votes has really made people worry about the fairness of the election. Before the election, there was concern that it wouldn’t exactly be free and fair. So far, the violence and intimidation has not exactly manifested itself, which is reassuring enough. Some experts attribute this to the presence of Simba Makoni who has some significant sway over the military as well as having some pretty powerful backers. While he only won 7% of the vote in the presidential election, the mere fact that he chose to face Mugabe may have done something to reassure voters that they can choose to vote for whomever they choose.

There has begun to be some quiet muttering about whether there are negotiations going on to allow Mugabe to retire quietly and with honour. I think that this is probably the best idea, because the ideal situation for ZImbabwe is for this election to go completely peacefully. No one wants a repeat of the Kenya debacle from a few months ago, and I think everyone wants to see Mugabe go with some dignity. Obviously he’s made some serious judgement errors in the last 10 years or so, but most people respect what he did originally to lead ZImbabwe to freedom.

Here’s some of what has happened to Zimbabwe since Mugabe took power:

Today, a third of the population depends on imported food handouts. Another third has fled the country and 80 per cent is jobless. Inflation is the highest in the world at more than 100,000 per cent and people suffer crippling shortages of food, water, electricity, fuel and medicine. Life expectancy has fallen from 60 to 35 years.

As well, something that caught my eye is an interesting little excerpt from a BBC article:

Mr Mugabe, 84, has not been seen in public since the election but Mr Matonga has denied rumours the president had left the country.

He came to power 28 years ago at independence but in recent years Zimbabwe has been plagued by the world’s highest inflation, as well as acute food and fuel shortages.

I wonder why they suspect he’s already left the country?

The sheer fact that the opposition now controls parliament (or at least is able to deny Mugabe’s party a majority) is important news, because it means that some of the more contraversial bills and reform ideas cannot be pushed through. So even if Mugabe retains power as president, he may not have the ability to push through more ideas, like his proposed notion that all businesses in Zimbabwe must be majority black-Zimbabwean owned.

So keep a keen eye on the news the next few days. If Zimbabwe settles down, that means that nearly the whole Southern tip of Africa (Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe) will become much more stable. If so, there is a pretty good chance that economic growth rates will shoot up and maybe help benefit the whole region.

Also, if Tsvingrai wins, expect huge amounts of foreign aid to start pouring in. Britain, the former colonial power of Zimbabwe (back when it was Rhodesia), has been watching this election carefully, as has the EU, UN, and US.