July 3, 2000
I feel cheated. There was supposed to be some good TV coming on. Not actually good, you understand, more addictive. This was the prospect in Zimbabwe, of some foreigners acting as, well, foreigners. You get the picture? First the ruling party intimidates all the electorate, then they stop them going to the polls, especially in opposition areas and we see a few gory wounds on TV for tea time. Then we get the breathless reports of blatant ballot rigging. Then there is the election result where the opposition gets two seats if they are lucky. The whole country erupts into a display of "people power" and with a bit of covert or overt support from the big powers overthrows the crooked government. We all go to bed in the happy knowledge that once again justice and good taste have won through. However, that did not happen. Zimbabwe actually had a peaceful and fair election.
Here's an amazing fact, Zimbabwe's election was more democratic than most of the third world "democracies." The communal fighting seen in South Africa, where the ANC often tries to wipe out significant opposition, is far worse than Zimbabwe (of course we must blame Inkatha for daring to oppose the ANC). Kosovo is in the midst of a brutal power play with various factions of the KLA wiping out internal dissidence, in the spare time they have from the strenuous work of clearing out all non-Albanians. India, especially the Bihar region, always sees intense violence around election times. In the last election, around a thousand Indians died in the violence. Compare that to the thirty who died in Zimbabwe. When we remember the human rights abuses perpetrated by the fifth brigade in Matabeland, and the lack of protest they attracted, this makes the sudden interest in Zimbabwe even more bizarre. Every death is a tragedy but where there are fewer deaths, it is a good indication that the election was probably freer than before.
The British press seemed less keen on reporting the actual result of the election. This was that the ruling Zanu-PF party scraped a narrow victory in the direct election, which becomes a bit more substantial when taking into account those MPs whose appointment, is either directly decided, or strongly influenced by the president. The result was accepted as legitimate by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. In fact, the only people not prepared to accept this result, with reservations, was the European Union. Where was the blood bath? The election was peaceful and had the highest turnout since independence. Where was the ballot rigging? The opposition piped Zanu to the post, when some government spokesmen predicted the opposition picking up three seats. Where was the civil war? The vigorous free press belies the autocratic image assiduously portrayed by the, government controlled, British Broadcasting Corporation. The MDC did so well that many are treating this as a victory for it, but we do not see the civil war that we were predicting.
Zimbabwe is still in the Congo, mining diamonds. As long as Zimbabwe is there then there will still be some interest in the country. Many members of Zanu-PF are looking at either replacing Mugabe or defecting to the opposition. If either of those two outcomes happens (and I think this is unlikely) then the pressure to remove the troops from the Congo will become overwhelming, as this is a futile war for most in Zimbabwe. So there is a stay of execution on Zimbabwe, and the West will allow the White farms to be taken over. However, if Mugabe stays on and Parliament stays on side then the pressure to remove Mugabe externally will increase. There is a plan to "evacuate" British civilians, which could easily topple Mugabe as a side issue. The idea that black Africans can be trusted to pick their own leaders seems to rest very much on which leaders they pick.
Diamonds are still critically important, as Peter Hain, the South African minister in the British Government, said on Thursday:
In the face of enormous suffering caused by the diamond-fuelled wars in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have a duty to ensure that we are doing as much as we can.
Watch those three countries. The West will do as much as they can to keep the diamond monopoly on the road.
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