July 1, 2008

Listening to Zimbabweans

Robert Mugabe won the much-criticised Presidential run-off election held last Friday after his opponent Morgan Tsvangirai had pulled out of the contest, citing the risk to his supporters. Reports, including from Amnesty International, do indeed suggest killings, violence and intimidation of opposition party workers and general warnings that people should vote for Robert Mugabe or face the consequencies.

Calling himself President, Robert Mugabe has attended the African Union meeting in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt. Despite appeals from Western countries, Zimbabwe is not on the agenda, according to the Zimbabwean paper, The Herald, which reports today:

---quote begins
Although speakers at the opening did mention Zimbabwe, their comments were not hostile but encouraged dialogue between the major political parties in the country.

At his swearing-in ceremony in Harare on Sunday just before he flew here, Cde Mugabe said Government was prepared for dialogue with the opposition MDC-T, but only if it came into the talks with its own agenda and not a Western-foisted stance.

AU chairman President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania said while the people of Zimbabwe should be congratulated on the just-ended election, the country needed assistance to move ahead because it was facing serious challenges.

The economic malaise bedevelling Zimbabwe has been a result of the British, American and European Union-imposed illegal sanctions that the West are threatening to deepen following Cde Mugabe’s landslide victory over their favoured MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

In his speech, AU Commission chairman Mr Jean Ping said Africa must help Zimbabwe’s parties to work together in the interest of their country to overcome the present challenges.
---quote ends

Which just goes to show that the official view from Zimbabwe is very different to that portrayed in the West. The lack of overt criticism of the electoral violence by most other heads of state has drawn comment in the Western media, such as The Guardian, which suggests that some other leaders cannot defend the democratic rights of Zimbabweans when their own democratic credentials do not stand scrutiny. There is a suggestion that some, such as South Africa's leader, Thabo Mbeki, are reluctant to criticise Robert Mugabe, because of his support during the apartheid era and his role as a freedom fighter.

Perhaps for some, who may see democracy as something to be exploited rather than be subject to, Mugabe's strong hand in retaining power is also something to be respected.

Comments on The Guardian news story included some saying, basically, 'leave them to it', either with the suggestion Africans are best placed to resolve their own problems or a more dismissive 'they don't deserve our aid' view. I was prompted to post the following comment:


mbe2, your comment that we should leave Africa and withdraw aid prompts two thoughts. Firstly, the net transfer of wealth is not from rich countries to poor in the form of aid, but from poor countries to rich in the form of resources and, despite much debt cancellation, loan repayments. Industrialised countries trade with Africa, usually on poor terms for the African nations, and, for key resources such as oil, bringing chaos (there was a report from Christian Aid a few years ago examining how countries with oil suffered for their riches rather than gained).

Secondly, we are part of a common humanity. Which is why people campaign for debt relief, fairer terms of trade and increased aid in the industrialised world and for democracy and better governance in African countries.

Instead of abandoning Africa, I think it is far better to strengthen links directly with the people of Africa, in contrast to their leaders, to hear their views both on their national situation and on how they would like global problems to be addressed.

The leaders at the African Union meeting are representative of African leaders, but not necessarily of African citizens.

The Simultaneous Policy campaign aims to bring people together around the world to share their views on global issues and discuss, develop and approve the policies they wish to see implemented. An African has as much right to participate in that process as a European, an Asian, people from the Americas, the Pacific, the Middle East etc.


Now, there are Simultaneous Policy Adopters already in Africa - they participate in some of the on-line discussions. But there needs to be far wider involvement if a representative view of the people is to be heard within the campaign. It would also be illuminating and refreshing to hear the views of Zimbabweans on the election without the filter of Western media.

The Herald provides one view: President Mugabe as legitimate defender of the interests of Zimbabweans.

You can hear Robert Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, in a video clip on the BBC website at:

You can read a report from the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a coalition of 38 Non-Governmental Organisations, which seem to be mainly religious groups, women's groups and lawyers. According to information on its site: "ZESN has been observing all elections in Zimbabwe since 2000. For the first time in eight years, due to the late invitation to observe today’s election and a huge reduction in the number of ZESN observers (from 15 433 to 500) by the Minister of Justice as well as the harassment and intimidation of its observers, the Network was unable to field short-term accredited observers to observe the presidential run-off election."

All the same, its report documents violence and intimidation. See:

In most rural areas and some high density urban areas like Mbare and Sunningdale queues were observed amidst reports that people were being forced to go and vote. In Masvingo North, at Matova, St Stanislaus and Mahoto polling stations observers reported that youth militia and traditional leaders were writing down names of all those who were going to the polls as they entered the polling stations and were again asking voters to provide the traditional leaders with serial numbers of their ballot papers as they left after casting their vote. The same pattern was also noted in Esigodini, Chitungwiza, Zengeza and Mufakose where voters were being asked to provide suspected members of ZANU PF with their serial numbers after voting. In Zengeza, a known ZANU PF losing candidate in the harmonised elections addressed voters at her house before they cast their votes ordering them to record serial numbers of their ballots and surrender them to her. In Mazowe Central at Howard polling station, suspected ZANU PF members were recording the names of voters in a register. This was taking place from a distance of about 300m from the polling station.
---extract ends

There are more such details in the report.

I have looked for blogs from Zimbabwe citizens and haven't been able to find much so far (feel free to post links and comments here). One Zimbabwe site does have a forum, where Zimbabweans have posted comments. See:

Should any Zimbabweans find my blog, please do comment. Looking beyond the election, please do give your views on how to address global problems through the Simultaneous Policy campaign by signing up as an SP Adopter (links on the right) and visiting the discussion forum at:

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