The title of this post quotes a leader in The Economist this week. It’s worth reading, as is a more substantial treatment of Zimbabwe’s state in the same newspaper. It’s good to see the international media focusing on Zimbabwe, because the South African government – in particular “Number 1”, or Jacob Zuma – seem quite reluctant to do so. For those of you who have forgotten, and for some foreign readers, bear in mind that the current president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe (on the Iron Throne for 33 years now) comprehensively lost the first round of presidential elections in 2008. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) also won the parliamentary poll.
But, the leader of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, declined to compete in the second round of the presidential elections, because Zanu-PF supporters had in the meanwhile murdered around 200 MDC campaigners. And as The Economist reports, the army, the police, the media and the courts are all sympathetic to Mugabe (or perhaps, sympathetic to staying alive) – so little can be done to end these injustices.
On top of that, the electoral commission, and the registrar of the voters’ roll, also seem to be in cahoots with Mugabe, who has sprung a surprise by moving the election date forward, making it more difficult to police that voters’ roll, in order to remove the suspected thousands of dead people who are listed on it, and who will surely be ‘voting’ for Zanu-PF come July 31.
So, what is South Africa – the ‘Rainbow Nation’ and supposed exemplar of democratic best-practice doing about this? Well, as in 2008, the answer is … nothing. Or worse than nothing, in that even mild criticism of Zimbabwe’s readiness to hold elections has been suppressed by our President, the reliable embarrassment that is Jacob Zuma.
The South African Development Community (Sadc) is monitoring the elections, and the Sadc’s mediator in Zimbabwe is Zuma. Last time around, the Sadc declared the (obviously tainted) elections free and fair, and there seems little doubt they’ll do so again, at least with someone as morally flexible as Zuma at the helm. We must pity folk like Zuma’s foreign-policy adviser, Lindiwe Zulu, who last week raised concerns regarding the legitimacy of any election in Zimbabwe before the 2008 electoral reforms were implemented.
Mugabe responded by calling her a “stupid, idiotic woman” and a “street walker”. The South African Presidency’s response? A statement “distancing itself from Ms Zulu’s, ‘unauthorised’ and ‘regrettable’ remarks”, to quote a Business Day report. And today, I read that Tsvangirai’s election organiser has been arrested, just days before the election. Yes, regrettable indeed to point out election-rigging and corruption, Mr Zuma – after all, we don’t want people to think too hard about issues like the latter one, do we?
Outside of election-rigging, Mugabe is more generally an man who routinely says things like “Tutu should just step down, because he supports gays, something that is evil. We say no to gays” or “Obama is one of us – African – but his support for gays is very wrong. The Americans want us to embrace gays. I say go away with your money as long as you support gays”. Odious, in other words, and worthy of general condemnation.
But, after July 31, I have little doubt that the elections will be declared “substantially free and fair”; fear that Mugabe will most likely hold on to power; and am fairly certain that Jacob Zuma will never say a word about how his big man friend up North embodies the opposite of much of what South Africa’s Constitution holds dear. And why would he, when he’s appointed a Chief Justice who seems to hold similar views?
EDIT: Just spotted on Twitter – an account of documents allegedly detailing exactly how Mad Bob plans to steal next week’s elections.