Could Zimbabwe vote oust Mugabe?
Zimbabweans head to the polls Saturday amid suspicion that President Robert Mugabe may rig the election to award himself yet another term.
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There are few signs of that. Several foreign election monitoring missions have been denied accreditation, and George Charamba, the spokesman for the Ministry of Information has publicly announced that they would scrutinize any request for accreditation by any foreign journalists, sifting out those from "hostile" Western countries such as the US and Britain.Skip to next paragraph
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In recent years, the strongest source of political opposition has come from Mr. Tsvangirai, a former union leader turned politician. While Tsvangirai is credited with courage –facing arrest, including a police beating last year that left his skull cracked – he is also criticized by opposition supporters for lack of strategic vision. In 2005, his Movement for Democratic Change split. One faction is pushing Tsvangirai as their presidential candidate, while another faction – strongly supported in Matabeleland – has thrown its support behind Makoni.
Many opposition leaders now believe that Mugabe can only be removed if his own ZANU-PF party removes him, and if they replace him with someone from within. Makoni, many Zimbabweans say, is that man.
Makoni's credentials as an economist – and his lack of ideological baggage from the liberation struggle – have made him a palatable alternative for many opposition supporters, as well as those within the ruling party who recognize the costs of economic collapse.
Makoni rose up the ranks of the ZANU-PF, serving as the party's representative in Western Europe. But his outspokenness has gotten him in trouble. After proposing the devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar in 2005, Makoni was declared an "enemy of the state" by his former mentor, Mugabe.
Agrippa Madlela, a former president of the defunct liberation group ZAPU who is now running for a senate seat, says Mugabe "will play dirty," but he thinks the opposition's best chance is to back a single candidate who can push Mugabe out from within ZANU-PF. He has given up on Tsvangirai, who has run against Mugabe twice and failed. Now he backs Makoni. "I think if we support [Makoni], we can get rid of Robert Mugabe. This is the only way to spell the end of the octopus."
Resilience in Matebeleland
Paul Siwela, a former senior leader in ZAPU, says that Mugabe's firm control of the electoral process means only he can win Saturday's vote. But he sees "no alternative" to Ndibeles voting in force for opposition parliamentarians who will protect Ndibeles' rights and to push for greater autonomy.
"We are asking, instead of separation, we should have autonomy under a federal government. The status quo is unsustainable. This is going to explode into a crisis with terrible consequences."
Driving his rickety Datsun sedan through the streets of Bulawayo – a cellphone perched against his ear – Pastor Dumiso Matshazi, an opposition candidate, is handing out leaflets and giving campaign speeches at discreet small rallies.
He knows that the ruling party has all the advantages, with free advertising in state-owned newspapers and TV and radio stations, and with electoral officials who will inevitably tip the balance when they can in the ruling party's favor. But he senses that Zimbabweans, and especially of Matabeleland, are willing to make sacrifices this time.
"In 1985, during the council elections, people still voted even after their people were killed," says Pastor Dumiso, struggling to get the Datsun to switch gears. "You have to understand the Ndibele mind-set. It's both resignation and resistance. They think, 'You've already killed so many of us, what do we care if you kill a few more.'"