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2005-04-01

The Zimbabwe Elections: Opposition Accuses Mugabe of Rigging the Vote

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Yesterday, parliamentary elections took place in Zimbabwe. Reports from the country say that the elections went off relatively peacefully. And for the first time- the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change, was able to campaign openly. The party is the first to seriously challenge President Mugabe’s government since Zimbabwe won independence in 1980. [includes rush transcript]

But even before the election, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangiari charged that the election was rigged. He said "we are not happy with the way the electoral playing field has been organized...This is not going to be a free and fair election."

Opposition leaders and human rights groups claim that the voter roles were inaccurate and that many who tried to vote were turned away. They also point to widespread fear and intimidation before the voting began. President Mugabe dismissed these complaints calling the elections completely free- and the Movement for Democratic Change a pawn of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other Western governments. Mugabe stated that he was "entirely, completely, totally optimistic" of victory for his Zimbabwe African National Union -Patriotic Front party. He called the election the "anti-Blair election."

Mugabe also dismissed the accusations of vote fraud. At a pre-election rally on Wednesday Mugabe told supporters "They know they will lose. They have prepared themselves to say the elections were not free and fair because of this and because of that." We are joined on the phone by two people in Zimbabwe who have been following the election results–Dumisani Muleya is the news editor for the Zimbabwe Independent and Omowale Clay is an activist with the December 12th movement.

  • Omowale Clay, speaking from Harare, Zimbabwe where he observed Monday’s election. He is a member of the December 12th Movement International Secretariat
  • Margaret Lee, visiting scholar as the African Studies Program of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Even before the election, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangiari, charged that the election was rigged. He said, quote "We’re not happy with the way the electoral playing field has been organized. This is not going to be a free and fair election," he said. He repeated the charge earlier today after the polls closed.

MORGAN TSVANGIARI: I am very confident that it will reveal the extent of the fraud constituent by constituent, and by the way, we will be able to tell you — I have already made a preliminary announcement, as you have said, which was: How do you have 10 percent of the voters turned away?

AMY GOODMAN: That was Morgan Tsvangiari, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change. Opposition leaders and human rights groups claim the voter rolls were inaccurate and that many who tried to vote were turned away. They also point to widespread fear and intimidation before the voting began. President Mugabe dismissed these complaints, calling the elections completely free, and the Movement for Democratic Change a pawn of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other western governments. Mugabe stated he was quote "entirely, completely, totally optimistic of victory for his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front Party." He called the election the "anti-Blair election." Mugabe also dismissed the accusations of vote fraud at a pre-election rally on Wednesday. Mugabe told supporters, quote, "They know they will lose. They’ve prepared themselves to say the elections were not free and fair because of this and because of that." Well, today we’re joined on the telephone by two people who have been following the election results. We are joined by Omawale Clay. Omawale Clay traveled to Zimbabwe to monitor the elections. We are also joined on the telephone here in the United States by Margaret Lee, a visiting scholar at the African Study Program of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Omawale Clay is an activist with the December 12th Movement here in the United States. Omawale, let’s begin with you. Can you talk about what you observed?

OMAWALE CLAY: How are you doing, Amy?

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us.

OMAWALE CLAY: I am speaking to the Pacifica audience from Harare, Zimbabwe. I have been here with a December 12th International Secretariat foreign observer team which was invited by the Government of Zimbabwe to participate in observation of this historic election. I have been here on the ground for two weeks. We have traveled through three major provinces and on election day we viewed over 15 constituencies in terms of different polling stations. And I have something very important to report to the Pacifica community in general and to African people, in particular. Yesterday the people of Zimbabwe resoundingly said they will never be a colony again. Unofficial results have confirmed that Zanu PF has won a major victory, and by all counts will in fact capture over 2/3 of the electoral vote, which will give them the ability to restructure their constitution, to institutionalize the [inaudible] which was always the view of them fighting for the total emancipation of their people politically and economically. So I wanted to make sure to bring back the people, to also let them know, Amy, that democracy in Zimbabwe is not anything new. For the past 25 years as we celebrate the 25th silver jubilee, democracy was brought to Zimbabwe through national liberation armed struggle and it was never given to the Zimbawean people. But since 1980 when the first elections took place, there have been six major parliamentary elections that have taken place, and there have been three presidential elections that have taken place. So no one can teach Zimbabwe democracy. Zimbabwe is teaching it to the African and pan-African world, as well as to the neo-colonizers who are trying to re-colonize Zimbabwe. To give you a little background, Zimbabwe has over 5,700,000 registered voters. For this election there were polling stations numbering 8,256. There were 50,000 translucent voting boxes, Amy, so that everyone could see the ballots that were in the boxes. There were over 7,000 international observers on the ground here and over 203 international press crews. SADC, the Southern African Development Community has election observers on the ground and it is important to note that Zimbabwe is the first country and the only country to hold its elections along the guidelines and principles of the SADC election law. And so the question of the elections in Zimbabwe is really more tied to the question of whether Bush and Blair, Britain and the United States, are able to capitalize on their plan to re-colonize Africans. We all know that the land question in Zimbabwe is why Zimbabwe is in the news. There have been elections and corruption going on all around the third world. Why is all the attention on Zimbabwe? Why is Tony Blair interested in the elections in Zimbabwe? Since the A1 and A2 land reform programs have been instituted, 14,955,967 acres of land have been returned to over 138,235 households in Zimbabwe, and this is historic. Never in the history of the African world has there been a mass transfer of land, wealth, the real wealth of the people been transferred back to the households. So this is what the real issue is, Amy, in Zimbabwe.

AMY GOODMAN: Omawale Clay is speaking to us from Harare, Zimbabwe, having observed the elections yesterday in that African country. On the line with us from the Washington area is Margaret Lee of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, a visiting scholar in the African Studies Program. Your assessment of the situation in Zimbabwe?

MARGARET LEE: First of all, thank you, Amy, for inviting me to participate in this very important discussion. I was recently in Zimbabwe. I have to admit that I was not able to observe the elections. I was recently in Zimbabwe at the end of January and I have followed the Zimbabwe situation for two decades now. While I think that we do have some semblance of democracy in Zimbabwe, I think that one has to give perhaps a more objective overview of the situation. I mean, we know that since independence in 1980, that the Zanu PF has made it very clear that it has no intentions of giving up power to any form of opposition. So if you look at the history of Zimbabwe, the opposition movements that have come into existence have always been marginalized by Zanu PF. Now one of the problems right now, I think, in the country with respect to the opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change is that just like many other opposition movements, it has compromised itself. So one of the things that was very clear when I was in Zimbabwe in January was that there was not the same level of fear about the MDC that existed at the end of 1999 going into the elections of 2000. When I say compromised itself, specifically it aligned itself with the white farmers, many of the white farmers who had a vested interest in making sure that the land was not returned to the indigenous African population. It aligned itself with many individuals in South Africa that were not deemed to be pro-post-apartheid South Africa. It even aligned itself with RENAMO in Mozambique and that was the so-called liberation movement that was involved in incredible atrocities against the indigenous population in Mozambique. So there exist a lot of problems within the MDC. So I cannot honestly say to you that the election was compromised at this point. What I do know is that no matter what the outcome of the election, it is very clear that Zanu PF has no intentions of giving up power, Mugabe has pretty much made that very clear. Also I would like to suggest that — [no audio]

OMAWALE CLAY: He was elected to office. So when you make that statement could you please be factual about it? There have been three presidential elections, and there have been six parliamentary elections over 25 years. You could you not make that same case for probably over half of the countries in the world. So when you make the statement they have no intention, that means that you’re getting ready to make a subjective analysis as if you are in Mr. Mugabe’s brain. Why don’t we deal with the program of Zanu PF. And I understand that you haven’t been to Zimbabwe that much.

MARGARET LEE: Omawale, first of all, please understand that I have actually lived in Zimbabwe, okay? So I have had extensive experience in Zimbabwe and I was just there at the end of January. Now what we do know about the history of elections in Zimbabwe is that most of the elections are very free and peaceful in the sense of the actual election day. But you cannot ignore all the human rights reports, you cannot ignore on the ground assessments

OMAWALE CLAY: Human rights reports that come from international organizations that are tied to western imperialism? Do you mean Human Rights Watch? Do you mean Amnesty International?

MARGARET LEE: I’m not going to get into that, but what I know is that I have read human rights reports coming out of Zimbabwe. I have talked to individuals as recently as the end of January who very much felt that they were living in a military state, actually experienced sitting in Zimbabwe and security guards coming closer and closer to the two of us who were in conversation with two young men from a [inaudible] area, so what I’m trying to suggest is that —

OMAWALE CLAY: Let me ask you a question. Are you saying to me that you believe that Zanu PF is not the party that the people of Zimbabwe have chosen to lead them?

MARGARET LEE: What I am trying to suggest —

OMAWALE CLAY: I would just like you to be very clear about this, because where you’re coming from is —

MARGARET LEE: If you would give me the courtesy —

AMY GOODMAN: Omawale, let’s let Margaret Lee respond to that question.

MARGARET LEE: I have given you the courtesy to speak. So please respect me in that light, okay? And we can have a very fruitful conversation. What I’m saying is that I take a historical analysis of the Zimbabwe situation, okay? And what I’m saying to you that since 1980, Zanu PF has made it very impossible for the opposition movements to gain ground in Zimbabwe. That is a historical fact.

OMAWALE CLAY: Base on what?

MARGARET LEE: There has been most recently, since 1999, incredible intimidation against those who support the MDC. The reason that I started by raising questions about the legitimacy of the MDC is to lay the foundation for the possibility that at this time many individuals, given the fact that the MDC has compromised itself so much, do not necessarily see the MDC as an alternative to Zanu PF, and therefore what I’m trying to suggest is that out of fear of the unknown, namely that they do often fear that the MDC does represent the western imperialist powers, that because they don’t see a government that may be run from the west, that, yes, they do see Zanu PF as the only alternative. It does not necessarily mean that they do not want change, They don’t necessarily see that the MDC is the route to go and therefore —

OMAWALE CLAY: Here’s my — here’s my total disagreement with you.

MARGARET LEE: That’s fine.

OMAWALE CLAY: The basis of what you’re saying sounds totally subjective. I don’t hear it based off of any facts. Let’s microscope the election we’re talking about right now. Because I don’t want to go through a historical thing with you, because what you’re saying doesn’t have substance to it.

MARGARET LEE: So what kind of facts do you want?

OMAWALE CLAY: Can I finish? You’re going into people’s heads and you’re telling me what the people of Zimbabwe, what they really want to do. The people of Zimbabwe fought a national liberation war. It wasn’t a few individuals, it was a mass of Zimbabweans, armed and supporting their right to self-determination. It is 25 years since that time. It is a new democracy, but it is a very clear one on the question of which direction they want to go on. The people of Zimbabwe can choose for themselves who their leadership is and they have resoundingly chosen that. The MDC has been a product of British imperialism. It has been financed by the farmers. It has been financed by the West. In fact, I quote to you, Margaret, Chester Crocker, the Assistant Secretary of State of African Affairs when they were passing the Zimbabwe Democracy Act, one of the points he made to the Senators in testimony, and you can go to the testimony, so it is not something that’s in my head, you can go to the testimony, he said, "To separate the Zimbabwean people from Zanu PF we are going to have to make their economy scream, and I hope you Senators have the stomach for what you have to do." That is a clear statement that the real problem that they have in Zimbabwe is the marriage between the Zimbabwean people and their national liberation forces. Zanu PF is the people of Zimbabwe.

AMY GOODMAN: Omawale Clay, on that note we’re going to have to wrap this up, but we will certainly continue to look at Zimbabwe on this day after the national elections. Omawale Clay of the December 12th Movement, speaking from Harare, Zimbabwe, and in Washington, D.C., Margaret Lee of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, with the African Studies Program, recently back from Zimbabwe.

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