Zimbabwe: No country for old men

Robert Mugabe’s ‘victory’ spells trouble for Zimbabwe

Share

The only good in last week’s elections in Zimbabwe is that they did not descend into violence.

In 2008, Robert Mugabe’s thugs harassed opposition supporters so mercilessly that the Movement for Democratic Change was forced to pull out. Morgan Tsvangirai did join the government in the end, as prime minister, but Mr Mugabe hung on to the presidency, despite the more than three decades of increasingly violent and autocratic rule that have run his country into the ground.

This time around, it would seem, the tenacious 89-year-old has pursued a rather subtler course. By Saturday evening, when he was awarded a landslide victory and a fifth consecutive term of office, few had hopes of any other result. Sure enough, Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party was credited with a resounding 61 per cent of the vote – enough not only to avoid a run-off, but also to alter the recently approved constitution. Yet even sceptics acknowledged that the vote was peaceful and turn-out was high.

There the concessions end, though. Although the polling itself has been endorsed by election observers from the African Union and the Southern African Development Community, critics point to systematic rigging weeks ahead of the vote. The number of ballot papers printed far outstripped the number of voters, with the names of dead people added and many young and urban voters (more likely to favour the MDC) left off. As many as a million people may have been turned away from polling stations as a result. Mr Tsvangirai was quick to cry foul, describing the vote as “fraudulent and stolen”. He is now, justifiably, refusing to participate in any new government and has launched a legal challenge. Nor is this mere sour grapes. John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, has made it clear that Washington does not consider the results “credible”. William Hague has also expressed “grave concerns”, as has the EU.

The question, of course, is what happens next? The priority is for independent investigators to get to the bottom of the allegations of vote-rigging. Yet there is little reason to expect Mr Mugabe to be moved, whatever the conclusion.

All of which bodes badly for Zimbabwe. There is much to criticise in Mr Tsvangirai’s record in government, and questions remain over his ability to hang on to the leadership of the MDC, let alone create the “grand coalition” opposition movement needed to challenge Zanu-PF effectively. Nonetheless, the situation on the ground has markedly improved over the last five years; despite continuing sanctions, the economy is no longer in freefall and standards of living have markedly improved.

A return to Zanu-PF hegemony not only risks a return to catastrophic economic mismanagement and, perhaps, more sanctions. There is also a very real risk that frustrated MDC supporters will refuse to take their defeat lying down. So far, the streets are quiet; but they may not remain so. Zimbabwe’s election may be officially won, but the outcome is far from certain.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Research Executive - Quantitative/Qualitative

£27000 - £31000 Per Annum Excellent Benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

ETL Developer / Consultant

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Geography Teacher, Immediate start, Dover School

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is urgently s...

English Teacher

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: We have an urgent requirement fo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron and Ed Miliband attend the Queen's Speech on 4 June 2014  

Scottish referendum: It's hard for us Labour supporters to admit, but Cameron did good here

Rob Marchant
NO ballots are stacked on a table during the Scottish independence referendum count at the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh  

Scottish referendum: Some divorces are meant to happen – this one wasn’t

Dotti Irving
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week