Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Ziso: 'Kick Off'

Harare, 1 April 2008

Election day started smoothly. Driving through Harare at 6.30 in the morning queues of people were already waiting to be counted. 95% of the Senator’s polling agents pitched up to work, most of whom stayed at their stations until mid-day the following morning when the count was finally posted. Their reliability and commitment to ensuring that voting was closely monitored was a reminder of how impressive the Zimbabwean people are. The pace of voting slowed down in the afternoon and by 5pm it looked as if the day was almost over. But of course the storm began to brew as the sun set. Polls officially opened at 7am and closed at 7 pm. All those in the queue at that time would be allowed to vote. At 6.30 polling agents began to call with alarming reports. Truckloads of voters were being bussed in to various sites in the remote farm areas, and in the shanty town of Hopley the atmosphere was volatile. Long lines at the end of the day meant that voting would go on till at least 9pm, with agents spending the night locked in to watch the count. Electric generators had been distributed to many stations, but the election officers did not know how to use them, and counting was conducted, at many sites, by candlelight.

A hushed silence returned to the streets on Sunday, but this time with an edgy tension. Polling agents were transported home and results collected from the 53 stations. A complete study has not been done of Mvurachena but it is clear that MDC-Tsvangirai has won in this constituency by a huge majority winning double of Mugabe’s score. Makoni lagged in third place. It appears that the electorate did not discriminate in the harmonized election and generally voted Tsvangirai for president, with the same scores received by most other MDC-Tsvangirai candidates. The only break in the pattern was the persistence of the incumbent ZANU MP who maintained his hold of the farming area. Fay Chung will not be winning the seat as Senator in this constituency. This is disappointing for the people of this area as she is a committed advocate of great experience and was determined to champion the rights of the Hopley people, but with a six-week campaign it is not surprising that Mavambo did not achieve total victory at once (ka One!) It is most likely that they will now form a party to develop their manifesto and plans for a future government.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is trickling the count out at a snail’s pace. Although very few results have been declared, it is clear that the final fight will be Round Two between the old boxers Mugabe and Tsvangirai. It must be a great disappointment to Simba Makoni, who certainly displayed the most impressive and sophisticated leadership qualities in this election; the Mavambo campaign has been a major revolution in the Zimbabwean political scene and completely reinvigorated what had devolved into a politics of name-calling and dog-fights. The idea that truth can be heard is simple, and the MDC have been saying it for a long time. But it is a great step that some of those entwined in the Liberation Struggle history stepped out of the shadows and admitted the truth, in memory of ideals and dialogues now squandered and forgotten. It is a clear and strong voice that has been hidden by the party for twenty-eight years. Finally it has been unveiled. Although it would be an exaggeration to say that the idealists of ZANU broke out in glorious cavalcade and victory. Only a few recent members defected, Simba Makoni and Dumiso Dambengwa, but their immense bravery and courage is even more impressive for the great risk they took.

The silence has been broken in the family and at last the young son is willing to challenge the father that he once so revered and respected. He has the strength to tell sekuru (grandfather) he is wrong. He has stepped out alone, buffeted by a wave of activism and renewal, Hope and the ideal that good will win out in the end. For Simba Makoni there is no turning back; this is only the beginning.

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