Once again, Robert Mugabe and his cronies are attempting to maintain their grip on power in Zimbabwe. While disheartening, this act of political thuggery does not diminish the victory of democracy over dictatorship in a country ravaged by misrule and ignorance. Ultimately, this is a victory for the strong hearts and sturdy backs that have carried us here: a victory for all Zimbabweans.
But democracy is an orphan in Zimbabwe. Since the infamous universal declaration of independence in 1965 made by the white government of Ian Smith in what was then Rhodesia – in an effort to block the extension of suffrage to the country’s black majority – the cry of democracy has been ignored. Mugabe’s 28-year rule has similarly undermined the development of institutional democracy.
Adept at stealing elections from the hands of voters, Mugabe is now amassing government troops; blocking court proceedings where we have attempted to seek an order simply for the electoral commission to release the final tally of the March 29 poll; raiding the offices of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC); and casting a pall of suppression and gloom over the country. The feared militias, made up of misguided activists and the same war veterans who pushed for and benefited from the disastrous land confiscations from the late 1990s, are being mobilised. This can only mean, despite some earlier evidence to the contrary, that sanity has been discarded along with truth in the offices of Zanu-PF.
The parliamentary majority the MDC has already attained has clearly been replicated in the presidential results. The MDC has tracked every polling station and recorded the results as they are released, and we can guarantee that Zanu-PF and Mugabe have met their demise in the face of Zimbabwean democracy. As official results will confirm when at last released, a mooted presidential run-off (initiated if no individual reaches a 50% threshold) is a sham. Our country is on a razor’s edge.
How can global leaders espouse the values of democracy, yet when they are being challenged fail to open their mouths? Why is it that a supposed «war on terror» ignores the very real terror of broken minds and mangled bodies that lie along the trail left by Mugabe?
This is a time for strong action. We urge the International Monetary Fund, at its meeting this week, to withhold the £1bn of aid to Zimbabwe unless the defeated ex-president accepts the election results in full and hands over the reins of power. This is also the time for firm diplomacy. Major powers here, such as South Africa, the US and Britain, must act to remove the white-knuckle grip of Mugabe’s suicidal reign and oblige him and his minions to retire.
We have assured Mugabe that the new government will not pursue him legally through government offices. The work ahead is monumental and we need no further self-made distractions. Recrimination is not on the new government’s job list. Our agenda is to restore the rule of law and good governance; to face up to our dire health problems, including an HIV-Aids epidemic; to reconstruct our once cutting-edge education system; to bring our abundant farmlands back into health; to tackle rampant inflation and over 70% unemployment; to encourage foreign investment and public works spending; to depoliticise our security services; to stamp out corruption and graft. Every day the new government is denied, these problems each get worse.
The new leadership is committed to nurturing democracy in Zimbabwe and to begin rebuilding our shattered country. It is time to make a stand.
Morgan Tsvangirai, president of the Movement for Democratic Change.