You might have missed it, because I buried it at the bottom of the last (long) post. What follows below is a very funny radio segment from a South African morning comedy show:
About two thirds of the way through, you’ll hear the (fictional) Zimbabwe Embassy phone service offer an option for voters who aren’t sure if they want to vote for Mugabe or for “that colonial lapdog traitor Makoni or for the British organ-grinder monkey Tsvangarai”:
If you are not sure who you want to vote for, in other words, if you are undecided rural voter, wait for the tone and leave your physical address where one of our representative can help you make up your mind very quickly.
Unfortunately, it’s funny because it’s close to the truth. As the folks at Sokwanele have documented, there’s been widespread voter intimidation designed to “persuade” rural voters that it would be in their best interests to support ZANU-PF.
Almost three weeks after the elections, the results of the presidential race haven’t been announced, which strongly suggests that attempts to rig the election weren’t successful. (That’s suggested as well by plans to recount votes in 23 constituencies, the vast majority of which were won by MDC, giving them control of Parliament.) The logical next step would be to release results which show a close race between Tsvangarai and Mugabe, forcing a run-off election.
And there’s evidence that the run-off may be more thoroughly rigged than the first round. Chris McGreal is in Zimbabwe for the Guardian and reports on “Operation Makavhoterapapi” – a systemic effort to punish voters who voted against ZANU-PF through physical violence. The term “Makavhoterapapi” is a Shona term meaning “where did you put your cross?” McGreal reports that many voters chose polling places they believed would not be monitored by ZANU-PF to cast their votes, knowing that they’d be in danger voting for MDC at those centers.
According to McGreal, some ZANU-PF sympathisers are evidently using voting rolls to identify people who went to the “wrong” – i.e., unrigged – polling places and beating them and their families. He notes, “One feature of the beatings is that very few people are killed. It would appear that Zanu-PF has learned that deaths attract attention.”
Another report that’s attracting attention focuse on a ship that was held for some hours today before being allowed to dock in Durban. The ship is of Chinese registry and is supposed to contain arms for delivery to Zimbabwe. It’s widely speculated that the arms are for government troops and supporters, as China has continued to be a steady ally to Mugabe despite international criticism. It seems unlikely that South Africa will prevent the arms transfer, as Thabo Mbeki has continued to insist that there is “no crisis” in Zimbabwe, despite strong international pressure to twist Mugabe’s arm.
Two weeks ago, I was nervous but happy, believing we were on the verge of real change in Zimbabwe. More or less all my optimism has evaporated, a trait that I suspect is common to Zim watchers. Knox Chitiyo has a nuanced, well-informed and extremely dark prediction for the future of Zimbabwean politics in the wake of this election – a strengthened state and military which will refuse to accept the posibility of a President Tsvangarai, even if this means out and out political warfare, and abandonment of the last shreds of functional government in Zimbabwe. Let’s hope he’s wrong.