Zimbabwe: Violence Continues as Run-Off Approaches

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By Ntama Bahati

To this day Robert Mugabe is determined to remain in power at all cost.
His strategy is to rule by force, particularly with violence against those
who supported his opponent Morgan Tsvangirai during the first presidential election
round on March 29, 2008.   As June 27, the
run-off day approaches, he continues using intimidation to discourage people
from exercising their right to vote.   Mugabe’s
ruling party, the Zimbabwe National African Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) restricts
people’s freedom of expression and the information available to them whereby
people have no access to printed newspapers or objective electronic media coverage
other than the pro-Mugabe’s.  Like any dictatorial regime, controlling public life of the citizens is central to
keeping power in the hands of a few.
ZANU-PF has extended its violence against the opposition supporters to the
countryside, causing massive displacement of the people in order to prevent
them from reaching the polling stations where they are registered to vote.  In some cases people are told, without any
explanation, not to show up to polling stations; a warning about what to expect
on election day and after if Mugabe loses.
Additionally, while the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (ZEC) is supposed to run the election process, members
of the army have been enrolled as election officers, the same army that is spreading
fear countrywide in favor of Mugabe.
Some of election officers who served on March 29 have been detained and
are waiting to face charges, others have been forced to leave their homes or
have been killed.

Another significant challenge faced in the run-off is finding both election officers and observers. A process of reaccreditation of every observer, local and foreign even those who served on March 29, has been required by the government, a process that has been denying accreditation to many election observers.  This raises concerns about the transparency and the fairness of the election.  The only observers who have been approved are those from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).  Compared to the number of polling stations across Zimbabwe, SADC observers alone cannot provide the monitoring needed to ensure fairness and transparency.

Zimbabweans, who want to free
themselves from the oppression and exploitation of one of their own, Robert
Mugabe, who once called himself the liberator, continue to pay enormously with
their lives in the country and abroad.   On
top of the victims of starvation and a constant crumbling economy, more than 50 people
have died in Zimbabwe since March 29 , and many more have been killed by South
Africans in South Africa
where the sought refuge running from the misery caused
by Mugabe’s government.  One thing Zimbabweans
long for is to see the end of Mugabe’s 27 years in public office, as primer
minister from 1980-1987 then president to this day.

There are some signs of hope despite the difficulties.  First, the opposition has the majority in the parliament for the first time as a result of the elections in March.  This means that if the president is incapacitated or dies, the parliament has constitutional
right to elect a new president, and they would vote for a leader outside of the ruling party that has failed their nation.
Second, the acceptance of a run-off was an unthinkable scenario after Mugabe’s defeat.   With his military power, he could have silenced the opposition indefinitely.   We can only hope that he will abide to the
rules of the democratic electoral process on June 27, 2008.

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