Africa News blog
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Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai detained twice in a week, U.S. and British diplomats forced from their cars by police, rallies banned, aid workers stopped from working, reports of violence from across the countryside. The campaign for Zimbabwe’s presidential election run-off on June 27 is being hard fought, literally.
The opposition accuses President Robert Mugabe of responsibility for violence and says 65 people have been killed. The ruling party blames Tsvangirai’s followers and says Mugabe’s Western foes and some aid agencies have been campaigning for the opposition.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s economy plumbs ever greater depths. A U.S. dollar could buy more than a billion local dollars on Thursday. But that was then.
Simba Makoni, the ruling party defector who came third in the first round vote on March 29, called this week for the presidential election run-off to be scrapped. He was certainly not the first to suggest that it might be better to abandon the election and have the rivals try to agree some sort of national unity government.
South African police say at least 13 people died over the weekend of May 17 as a wave of xenophobic violence spread to more townships. Local media put the total death toll at around 20 since the violence broke out, fuelled by widespread poverty and social problems more than decade after the end of apartheid. The bloodshed has included the “necklacing” of at least one man who was burnt to death and it has echoes of the brutal violence at the end of apartheid.
The immigrants, including millions who have fled from Zimbabwe, are accused of taking jobs and being responsible for the high rate of violent crime. They say they are more likely to be victims than perpetrators. The outbreak of violence is another blow to the policies of President Thabo Mbeki, accused both of spreading the fruits of black rule too slowly to his poor supporters and of failing to broker an end to Zimbabwe’s crisis. It is an embarrassment for a country that was once known as one of the most welcoming to immigrants and asylum seekers. Many members of the current African National Congress (ANC) leadership took refuge abroad during the anti-apartheid struggle. Is the rainbow nation losing its unique status as a beacon of liberal attitudes in Africa? Have the South African poor lost patience with Mbeki’s government? What do you think?
After a month of withholdingZimbabwe’s presidential poll results, electoral authorities on May 2 announced what was widely known to be the real outcome: President Robert Mugabe had lost the vote. The announcement gave opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai 47.9 percent of the vote but said he faces a runoff after failing to gain enough votes for an outright majority. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change denounced the result as scandalous and maintained its stand that it had won more than 50 percent of the vote and that Mugabe’s 28-year rule was over.
The MDC faces a huge dilemma. If it boycotts a runoff poll, it would hand victory to Mugabe by default. But in the view of the MDC, human rights groups and Western governments, no fair or credible runoff poll can be held in Zimbabwe under a current climate of violence and intimidation they say is orchestrated by Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF. The MDC and Mugabe’s critics at home and abroad have also condemned the unprecedented delay in announcing the presidential result as part of the government’s grand plan to rig the vote in favour of Mugabe.