Tsvangirai to boycott 2011 Zimbabwe Presidential elections?

THE tents are going down in Tahrir square and crowds are thinning out as Egyptians go home to celebrate a three week revolution that saw Mubarak out of power. However, questions are being asked if similar revolutions will engulf other countries ruled by dictators – especially in Africa.\r\n

It is true that less than two months in the new year, Egyptians are experiencing a new kind of new year, a dawn of an era without Mubarak who ruled the country for thirty years.

Similarities abound elsewhere in Africa where leaders believe they should be in power for life.

President who did not let go 

In Ivory Coast for example; President Gbagbo lost an election to Ouattara but refused to cede power despite international pressure. Organizations such as the UN, African Union and the Economic Union of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed that Ouattara had won saying he was ‘almost universally acknowledged to have defeated Gbagbo at the ballot box.’ Gbagbo continues to defy calls for him to step down.

In Kenya, Mwai Kibaki was pitted against Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement in 2007 election which he is believed to have lost. He however gave in to the formation of national unity government following intervention by Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General. This only came about after a political and humanitarian crisis that saw 30 unarmed civilians killed in a church near Eldoret – a town in Western Kenya.

In Zimbabwe, the country’s fragile compromise unity government has just passed its two year mark despite President Mugabe’s calls for elections to coincide with the power sharing anniversary.

Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change agreed on power-sharing in 2009. This followed a ruined economy and a near-civil war in the aftermath of a bloody election where Tsvangirai was widely believed to be the winner.

Already tensions are mounting in this Southern African country as civilians continue to suffer harassment and intimidation by agents of Mugabe’s ruling Zanu (PF).

Speaking to the UK Guardian newspaper recently Tendai Biti, deputy leader of the opposition MDC observed that violence, hate speech and unconstitutional statements from generals are on the increase in Zimbabwe. He believes that they will be blood-bath during the oncoming elections – but ruled out a boycott.

He said: "I think boycott politics doesn’t work. We will participate without a doubt but it will not be ideal.”

Why then do Zimbabweans continue to tolerate Mugabe’s dictatorship?

Pundits world over believe Mugabe will stay on as President regardless and have described Zimbabweans as docile, politically unimaginative and lazy people who have no will for revolution such as happened in Tunisia and Egypt.

In a recent article titled “Zimbabweans cannot outsource their revolution” Jacob Dlamini, a South African writer suggests that Zimbabweans cannot forge their own revolution to rid of Mugabe, but are waiting for outside help – especially from South Africa.

He queries: “Why the Movement for Democratic Change, whose roots are supposedly in Zimbabwe’s labour movement, has yet to organise a successful strike, stay away or other form of popular protest?”

This statement among others suggests that Zimbabweans are incapable of fighting for their own freedom and dignity.

This is not true.

Zimbabweans are a resilient people, hardworking and productive; and have not only fought for their 1980 independence, but also assisted South African political movements such as Inkatha Freedom Fighters and Mandela’s ANC against apartheid.

They are not strangers to struggles for political self-determination. During the British South Africa Company rule (1890 – 1923), Zimbabweans launched an uprising against colonial settlers. This was to be their first taste of fighting for freedom despite their inferior weaponry.

Once again between 1964 and 1979 Zimbabweans took up arms against Ian Smith’s minority regime and succeeded in securing the first ever majority rule in 1980, resulting in the creation of Republic of Zimbabwe.

Manipulation and appeasement

Zimbabweans experience Mugabe as a cross to carry; and a man determined to stay in power regardless.

It is therefore with no doubt that Mugabe has become so entrenched; and continues to use force to stay in power. He is a fiercely give no quarter politician and is driven by failure not to accommodate but to isolate, and divide his enemies.

A carrot and donkey story

In the carrot and the donkey story, a carrot is tied to the end of a string, which is attached to a stick protruding from the donkey’s harness. No matter how many steps the donkey takes in pursuit of that carrot, he never gets any closer to his goal; and it is an impossible task. In the meantime while the donkey attempts this impossible task he is moving forward, which is the desired effect.

This is exactly the situation Zimbabweans find themselves today. In the 1990s when people started political dissent Mugabe unleashed war veterans and his militia to invade white owned commercial farms on the pretext of land redistribution. This amounted to nothing but appeasement – many of the farms being taken over by generals and Mugabe’s cronies.

It is clear that as things stand, while Mugabe may stay on, he will leave behind a negative political legacy that damages not only ordinary Zimbabweans but the country that used to be the breadbasket of Southern Africa.

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