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Sunday, 7 August 2011

How elections are run from the grass roots level in Zimbabwe

Cathy Buckle has started writing again from Zimbabwe, her frightening letter is reproduced below.

Dear Family and Friends,

You can get very dizzy trying to follow Zimbabwe’s progress towards the next election. This week provided a prime example of our endlessly spinning circles.

Just when it looked as if everyone including SADC, Zanu PF and the MDC had come to an agreement about an election being held in the second half of 2012, Zanu PF held a politburo meeting in Harare.

Behaving as they have for the past 31 years and ignoring the fact that they are in a coalition government, they made a decision for the whole country. Wide eyed and open mouthed we listened with disbelief to the news headlines mid week. Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo emerged from the politburo meeting and said:

"The politburo is unanimous that elections should be held this year."

‘Gobsmacked’ is a pretty good description of how we reacted to Gumbo’s ‘unanimous’ announcement. Political Science lecturer John Makumbe put his finger on it for anyone who might be confused:

“They are clearly living in the past and are refusing to realise that they are no longer the ruling party. Now there is an inclusive government and they are part of a three-legged pot, so it’s no longer the politburo which runs the country.”

Not to be deterred, the best was yet to come. Speaking to the Zanu PF Central Committee a couple of days later, Mr Mugabe said: "Having joined government and tasted the warm sweetness of power, the MDC formations no longer want elections. They want elections suspended indefinitely and their governorship extended to infinite."

Coming from someone in power for 31 years that was rich!

As absurd as all the rhetoric and politburo’s unilateral decisions are, events on the ground are already telling the real story of what’s going on in Zimbabwe.

Later in the week, chatting with a man who lives in a rural village, a lot of things started to make sense. Whether elections are held in 2011 or 2012, Zanu PF are readying their game plan. The man described how their quiet lives were being repeatedly disrupted by groups of Zanu PF youths.

It started a couple of weeks ago when Zanu PF officials arrived and all the residents in the village were called to attend a meeting. Democracy doesn’t work at this level: attendance at the meeting was compulsory in that the names of who was present and who was absent were written down. The intimidation has begun.

At the meeting it was the same old same old: the same tired slogans and chants; the same clenched fists, the same rhetoric, the same demand: vote for Zanu PF.

Nothing new to offer their voters then!

A fortnight later they were back. Without warning ten Zanu PF youths arrived, split up into three groups and went door to door, house to house through the village. They called people to come out and said they knew who the MDC sympathisers and supporters were; they said they were writing names down.

“You know what will happen to you if you vote MDC again,’ they said.

And all this when an election is probably still a year away. We shudder to think what lies ahead for Zimbabwe, particularly for the most vulnerable people in remote rural villages. Only one thing will be different this time round and that is the floodtide of technology.

From bustling urban to remote rural, almost everyone’s got a mobile phone now so the news of every threatening visitation spreads like wildfire in the pinging of thousands of text messages. Bravo Econet, you are the fourth vital ingredient in the three legged black pot!

Until next time, thanks for reading,

Love, Cathy.
16th July 2011.
(c) Cathy Buckle.

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