True to form, President Robert Mugabe and his minions have managed to pervert the electoral process in Zimbabwe’s elections. MDC candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, initially appeared to have over 60% of the vote. That was later lowered to 50.3% of the vote. Then, after a ridiculous delay, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission managed to shave off more votes in order to force a runoff. It’s no wonder that MDC leaders are bitter and suspicious about the prospect of a runoff election with Mugabe. The question is whether it is worth it. The Economist reports…
Mr Tsvangirai faces a dilemma. If he boycotts a second round, he will lose by default. But if he agrees to compete, Mr Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party seem certain to use intimidation, violence and vote-rigging to force people to vote for the incumbent. For now the opposition leader remains abroad, unlikely to return without being offered guarantees of his safety.
A failure of leadership by South Africa’s President has complicated matters. South Africa is only recently recovering from its history of Apartheid. Yet by its inaction on the matter of Zimbabwe, it is imposing a different type of Apartheid on the innocent citizens of Zimbabwe. South Africa is supposed to be the leader in affairs when it comes to the Southern portion of Africa. Rather, they have chosen to side with a dictator who oppresses his people.
It is unclear when the run-off will take place, although it may be within three weeks of the result being officially declared. Mr Tsvangirai and the MDC may eventually agree to take part if there is a much stronger presence of international monitors than before, preferably from the United Nations. So far, the Southern African Development Community, a group of 14 countries in the region, has provided oversight. But the MDC and most independent observers say it is biased in favour of Mr Mugabe. In particular, Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa, has been reluctant to oversee Mr Mugabe’s downfall.
The reasons for Mbeki’s inaction are unclear. I have a hard time believing that he wants to prop up the brutal dictatorship of Mugabe. In fact, there is tension within Mbeki’s own party concerning South Africa’s course of action in regards to Zimbabwe. Hopefully, someone else in his party or in Southern Africa will take charge and take a serious stance.
The UN should take a stance. The West should take a stance, but it is ultimately up to Southern African leaders to say that they have seen enough of the suffering in Zimbabwe. That will make the loudest statement. And it may even resonate with concerned members of Mugabe’s own ZANU-PF party.
The suffering and economic devastation in Zimbabwe is evident to any observer. A boycott by the MDC is not the answer. MDC must see this election through so that they will have a president to support their new majority in the legislature. But they need the support of other Southern African democracies to give momentum to their efforts. It’s time for everyone to step up and drive a nail into the vampiric heart of Mugabe. This is the best chance that the MDC has ever had. It’s best not to squander the opportunity.