Zimbabwe Elections: What are Africans hoping for?

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Mugabe-TsvangiraiInternational Crisis Group

Mugabe-Tsvangirai

Many things have been written and said about the nation of Zimbabwe. Many of them are depressing, to say the least. But the country could be on the verge of change, if a new president is elected on July 31. The elections may pave the way for a new narrative, something entirely new, for the country.

That would be good news for the Southern African region, where lots of Zimbabweans have taken refuge while their country struggles to reform and to feed its people.

If change happens in Zimbabwe as some have predicted, the world would see someone other than long time President Robert Mugabe take control of the country’s destiny.

A new destiny would involve a more free press, a more open government, a more active civil society where citizens are free to peacefully protest, without fear of arrest or police intimation and where there are jobs for everyone. Zimbabweans would be looking forward to a country unhinged by the trappings of authoritarian rule and dictatorship. They would be free at last.

But that’s only hope. What is hope? Emily Dickinson said poetically, “hope” is the thing with feathers. It perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words, but it never stops.

Are there any parallels of hope for Zimbabwe?

If hope for a peaceful outcome in Zimbabwe could be likened to “a thing with feathers”, there’s the possibility that our hopes can easily be dashed away. It could fly-off or disappear in a moment’s notice, just when everyone was hoping for the better. Also, that same hope could return or remain perched on something, hoping and never stopping.

There are hopes for a possible new leader in Zimbabwe.  That new leader would be the current prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, whose Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has shared power with Mugabe’s Zim­bab­­we African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party since 2008.

Mugabe has said he would readily step down if he is defeated in the elections. That is another hope. Will he be defeated and will he step down if he is defeated?

In Zimbabwe Elections: Mugabe’s Last Stand, the International Crisis Group (ICG), a nonprofit which works to prevent conflicts around the world, states in a July 29 briefing about the country:

“Conditions for a free and fair vote do not exist. The voters roll is a shambles, security forces unreformed and the media grossly imbalanced. The electoral commission is under-funded and lacked time to prepare. Concerns about rigging are pervasive, strongly disputed results highly likely”

“A return to protracted political crisis, and possibly extensive violence, is likely, as Zimbabwe holds inadequately prepared presidential, parliamentary and local elections on 31 July, ” the reports says.

If either the ruling party or the opposition feels cheated, there could be consequences, the ICG says. But it adds, “Repeated calls from all parties to avert a repeat of the 2008 violence have tempered intimidation tactics, but as campaigning has intensified, incidents have increased, raising fears for what may happen, especially if the presidential contest again goes to a run-off.”

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