Thursday, 3 April 2008

Ziso: 'And then the silence'

Zimbabwe, 2 April 2008

The atmosphere in Zimbabwe is thick with suspense. Nervous giggles are exchanged, followed by pensive silences. Anything could happen. MDC is confident that Tsvangirai maintains a constitutional majority in the presidential polls and has proclaimed it publicly. The BBC played an April Fool’s Day joke on the country with headline news reading, “Mugabe agrees to resign.” The buzz soon died down when the claim was not followed by any proof or confirmation, but for a second the heart of the nation leaped. Resignation would be a peaceful option, whereas the underlying cause of tension is the very real possibility of a military coup taking place. Other scenarios include three-weeks of violence in the townships in the lead up to a run-off if Tsvangirai is cheated of his 50% plus 1 majority. Already minor skirmishes have taken place between youths in the Harare townships with rivaling ZANU and MDC candidates arrested.

In the aftermath of the election, there were a number of arrests of supporters and candidates of all political factions. In Mashonaland Central, a ZANU MP was arrested for shooting someone, and even in Mvurachena the Mavambo MP candidate for Hatfield and the Senatorial candidate’s daughter spent Election Day imprisoned. A surge of violence in the run-off could lead to the declaration of a State of Emergency and marshal law. In the townships there is already an informal curfew: people are not being encouraged to leave the house after 7.30. Armoured vehicles and riot police are already on guard in these areas. Even during the day the streets of Harare are empty as tension mounts.

ZEC is slowly announcing each parliamentary result from the thousands of constituencies across the country. They carefully announce a ZANU win followed by an MDC win – there is nothing random in the order. It is widely believed that these are delay strategies while piles of papers are reshuffled. Bureaucratic delay is a characteristic tactic of the state, which most Zimbabweans have experienced when getting anything official signed. The election result will be no different. Zimbabwean Television broadcasts football, nature programmes and Japanese shopping shows to the majority of the nation who are left in a vacuum. But those with access to satellite television know that the eyes of the world are on this nation. Whether the military will concede to salute Tsvangirai is the big question. And whether Mugabe will (uncharacteristically) go down without a fight. The Makoni camp will have an influential swing vote in the event of a run-off and have made a profound contribution to Tsvangirai’s apparent win by showing that ZANU PF is not as unbreakable as it would like the nation to believe. But Zimbabweans have watched elections before and hoped for change. Even with all these stresses and tensions we are still hopeful, but with the full knowledge that democracy is not an easy concept for ZANU PF to understand.

We wait in expectation for the Presidential announcement, but ZEC has till Friday to declare it. It is most likely that the silence will continue to the last minute.

1 comment:

William said...

Thanks for the blog - and the insight...