Monday, April 04, 2005

What the Elections Tell us about Zimbabwe

Enough with the complaints about the poor transparency of the elections already! I almost get the feeling many critics expected the elections to go awry. Oh wait, they actually did articulate their impotent pessism prior to the elections. So if they new things would go bad before they went bad, why didn’t they do something? Speaking of which, I’ve noticed an interesting chasm developing between critics and the proponents of the Zimbabwe elections; the loudest criticism emanates from western nations while Africans and most of the Zimabweans (who are in Zimbabwe) I’ve talked to say the election was free and fair. If not that, Zimbabweans report it was the best election yet in Zimbabwe’s short history.

This discrepancy is not a new trend in how the Zimbabwean saga is playing out in the global media. It certainly is worth noting that in light of the question I posed earlier those with a vested interest in Zimbabwe (i.e. citizens and neighboring countries) could have done something had they decried the elections in Zimbabwe. Whether they will do anything or not is yet to be seen. It’s nonetheless curious to notice that people with no directly vested interest in Zimbabwe (westerners, and people outside Zimbabwe) are crying foul louder than the very owners of Zimbabwean democracy. This is just one of the many intriguing facets fogging a clear perception of events in the Southern African nation.

To me, the question about the validity of the poll is moot for a couple reasons: first as stated above, question it as we may, the fact is Zimbabweans actually did vote on Thursday and they report they did it freely and with minimal intimidation. Besides, as much people might want to accuse ZANU (PF) of rigging, who didn’t know ZANU was going to cheat? MDC’s allegegations were first pitched months ahead of the poll right down to the last hours before the results were announced. See this too. But they still went ahead and contested. So by contesting in the flawed elections, they tacitly endorsed the corrupt election machinery in Zimbabwe.

We must now concern ourselves with the task of deciphering what the election results tell us about present day Zimbabwean society.

The world doesn’t seem to get this yet but ordnary Zimbabweans are not interested in protesting the outcome of the elections. They are more concerned with graver matters affecting their wellbeing. For starters, there’s a drought threatening the food security of many families. Then there’s the rampant AIDS pandemic, and a little problem known as the fastest shrinking economy in the world which has seen astronomical inflation rates and high unemployment. Lay Zimbabweans neither have the time, energy nor resources to fight for their full democratic rights.

Second, it is apparent that Zimbabwan society is divided today. But these divisions are not exclusively along tribal lines as some would like think. The other important distinctions visible in Zimbabwe today are between the rich and the poor; and tax payers and government handout recipients (non-tax payers). And the voting patterns illustrate these well; government handout dependent peasants (mostly rural and non-taxpaying) view the ZANU (PF) government as the source of their wellbeing and so they voted likewise. Meanwhile the rich, educated and tax paying urbanites, realize with disgust what is being done with their tax dollars so they rejected ZANU at the polls.

Recoginition of these division dictate the necessity of finding common ground as the only way forward for Zimbabwe. We must dedicate ourselves to nation building and restoring the glory of our country. To do that we must quickly get over our differences because the hour draws nigh when we will not be afforded the opportunity to come together again. Now is the hour to reach across the divide, join hands and look forward in unity. I don’t know how all this will look like, I only know that the divisions which are now only emerging are too far too deeply seeded among Zimbabweans to neglect.

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