Leading article: The people have spoken. Mr Mugabe must listen

Share
Related Topics

The silence from the ruling party in Zimbabwe could mean one of two things. It might mean that a massive rigging operation is taking place at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to turn around what looks like a resounding electoral defeat for President Robert Mugabe – and make it look like he has just scraped past the 51 per cent of the vote needed to avoid a second round of voting, and give his party a majority in parliament. Or it might be that the ruling elite is engaged in a frantic process of negotiation over who will tell the ageing despot that the time has come when he really does have to step down. We can be hopeful it is the latter since the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has said privately that its leaders have put out feelers to the faction of Zanu-PF which is least sympathetic to its boss to try to arrange a peaceful transfer of power.

Mr Mugabe has fiddled the result in at least two previous elections, in 2002 and 2005. But things are different this time. On previous occasions the majority of the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, was narrow and the vote-rigging required was possible to disguise or deny, at least to the extent that a good percentage of the electorate remained in a state of doubt. This time his defeat has been so thundering that vote-rigging would be seen to be blatant. The Mugabe regime can stay in power only with a heavy show of force from the army and police, whose chiefs were, as recently as Sunday evening, publicly declaring that they would not allow a victory by Mr Tsvangarai.

Opposition politicians have been canny this time in getting the results published in individual constituencies as soon as the counts were complete. It will be much harder for the Electoral Commission to cook the books in the final reckoning. The MDC has claimed, on the results declared in 128 of the country's 210 parliamentary districts, that Mr Tsvangirai has around 60 per cent of the votes, almost double what Mr Mugabe has mustered. Observers inside Zimbabwe say privately that almost 80 per cent of the result is known and that six Cabinet ministers, including several of Mr Mugabe's closest cronies, have lost their parliamentary seats.

Even Mugabe strongholds which in the past bought his rhetoric about the endless war of liberation, and his constant attacks on the British Government, have turned away from him. They clearly would have preferred it had he stepped aside last October when his Zanu-PF colleagues urged him to stand down while he was still the revered liberation hero and allow another of their gang to take over. Mr Mugabe gambled and he has lost.

The leader of neighbouring African countries must now make clear that the will of the Zimbabwean people must be upheld. The opposition must not be persuaded to go to the courts, a strategy they tried last time without success. Nor is there now a case of international mediation of the kind that Kofi Annan conducted in Kenya, where so many ballot boxes were destroyed that it was impossible to know the outcome of the poll. The vote in Zimbabwe has already been recorded locally.

The key may lie with the army chiefs whom Mr Mugabe consulted on Sunday night, fearful of their possible reaction to a defeat. They pledged their loyalty then. But now that the people have spoken so decisively they should change their minds and force the change that the voters require, if necessary initially through a government of national unity pending properly free elections. For one thing is clear, whatever happens in the days ahead, things can never go back to how they were a week ago. A turning point has been reached in Zimbabwe. And not before time.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: the strange case of the errant royal pronoun

Guy Keleny
Flowers and candles are placed at the site where a refrigerated truck with decomposing bodies was found by an Austrian motorway  

EU migrant crisis: The 71 people found dead in a lorry should have reached sanctuary

Charlotte Mcdonald-Gibson
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future