Ruth Weiss: Zimbabwe before the elections (18)

Column 18

Beatrice Mtetwa

The eminent human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, whose arrest had caused worldwide protest, was finally released on bail after incarceration of eight days.(1) She had been arrested on March 17th during a police swoop on MDC-T communication offices and arrest of MDC officials Thabani Mpofu, Felix Matsinde, Mehluli Tshuma and ex-Harare City councillor Warship Dumba. The four, who were bailed after 10 days, were charged with impersonating police, having articles for criminal use n their possession aand contravenining the Official Secrets Act.(2)

Following protests to President Robert Mugabe by MDC-T leader and Premier Morgan Tsvangirai, the two leaders agreed to speak to Police Commissioner Agustine Chihuri to curb police actions.(3)


The arrest of the MDC staff appears to be linked with an attempt by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) to enter the premises of three Zanu-PF Ministers suspected of corruption. The MDC staff apparently assisted ZACC investigators. The ZACC operation was blocked by a High Court interdict.(4) The imbroglio continued and it is unclear whether a probe into the three ministers will continue.(5) Zimbabwe had been placed as No.163 out of 176 on the 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perception list.(6) ZACC general manager Sukai Tongogara reported to the police for questioning. Other staff members were also questioned.(7) Differences of opinions emerged between ZACC officials. While ZACC chairperson Denford Chirinda claimed that ZACC had made "mistakes" in trying to probe three ministerial offices, ZACC spokesperson Goodwill Shana told a press conference that correct procedures were followed in trying to acquire search warrants for the action.(8)

Zanu-PF hit back: ZACCs chief executive, Ngonidzashe Gumbo was charged with fraud and on a state attorney decision not released on bail as ordered by the court. Another ZAAC official, Emanuel Chimwanda, was questioned by police and held overnight.(9) A High Court official, Elijah Makomo was sacked because he facilitated the search warrant.(10) The High Court judge, who issued the warrant for the ZACC operation and also ordered the instant release of Beatrice Mtetwa had ordered, was vilified in a smear campaign (11) MDC-T called for an end to ZACC persecution, seen as an attempt to divert attention from corruption.(12)

Turmoil over corruption within Zanu-PF appears to be part of the perpetual faction fights over the succession.(13) Some Zanu-PF members called for probes into the indigenisation process.(14) A rowdy Zanu-PF Politbureau meeting ended with the formation of two committees, one on leaks of party issues, including those of an alleged plot to assassinate Central Bank chief Gideon Gono, the other to look at Saviour Kusukuwere's indigenisation. There are also other calls, including those of thee MDCs, to summon Kasukuwere before a Parliamentary Committee.(15)

Referendum votes

The Electoral Resource Centre has issued an analysis of the referendum votes with its record number of voters, despite reports of voter apathy.(16)

The voting pattern is said to favour Zanu-PF, with high turn-outs in its traditional strongholds. However, things may not be what they seem. Finance Minister Tendai Biti was not the only one to cast doubts over the referendum results, claiming that the votes were inflated and did not coincide with MDC-T's records.(17) Others have expressed similar doubts and point to the low numbers in voting queues in contrast to the announced record result. National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairman Lovemore Madhuku said the results were doctored. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had initially projected a turnout of 2m, only to announce that 3 259 454 votes were cast, a record for all elections held.

Zanu-PF is known to employ a wide range of strategies to ensure victory by fair means and foul. Suspicious opponents fear that the referendum was a model exercise in rigging ahead of the election, "a dress rehearsal" or manipulation of election results, as NCA political analyst Blessing Vava said.(18)

Election date

The election date is a bone of contention, with Zanu-PF pushing for a June 29 election, (19), while the MDCs maintain this is too soon.(20) South African President Jacob Zuma concurred with MDC. This caused a vicious Zanu-PF onslaught on his advisor Lindiwe Zulu, with the party claiming only Mugabe could decide the date. (21) In a case before the courts, Mugabe pleaded for an extension to June 29 of a March 31 election deadline set by the High Court. The hearing was postponed to April 3, as Tsvangirai, viewing this as a "backdoor" election date announcement, appealed to the court to include him among the respondents. He argued that Mugabe could not set the election agenda without consulting him..(22)


Zanu-PF has defied SADC and blocked the work of President Jacob Zuma's facilitation team. Zanu-PF members of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) refused SADC members delegated to JOMIC and the South African team to join the full JOMIC meeting on March 20th on various counts, including the argument that this infringed Zimbabwe's sovereignty. The stormy meeting ended with the creation of a committee to decide how JOMIC would work with SADC members. A report on future procedure was to be submitted to the cabinet.(23)


The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has found the Zimbabwe Government responsible for the torture and ill-treatment of Gabriel Shumba, a well-known human rights lawyer. The Zimbabwe government was instructed to pay the victim compensation within 90 days. This is the first time in its 26-year history that the most important African human rights body has held Zimbabwe responsible for torture. Mr. Shumba, who sought refuge in South Africa, said his case highlighted that of thousands of Zimbabweans, who have been tortured.(24)

Friends of Zimbabwe

Following the peaceful referendum, the EU lifted sanctions on 81 individuals. Tthose on ten persons remain, including Mugabe, his wife, security forces chiefs and others such as Didymus Mutasa and war vet. leader Jabulani Sibanda remain.(25) The latter has again said that war vets. would not allow Tsvangirai to take power.(26) Zimbabweans in exile say the lifting of sanctions does not reflect real political change.(27)

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, the first Zimbabwe minister to visit the UK in a decade, issued his own communiqué following talks with "Friends of Zimbabwe", which had been initiated by the British government and was attended by representatives of several countries. Chinamasa stuck to the Zanu-PF line that no election observers of countries that had imposed sanctions would be invited. The group communiqué, however, pledged further aid, once creditable elections had been held. Despite sanctions, western governments provided US$2.6 bn since 2009 in humanitarian aid.(28) The EU called for GPA reforms before elections. Zanu-PF rejected this, claiming it was a ploy by the West to achieve "regime change".(29)

Uneven playing field

The period between the referendum and election provides pause for analysis of the parties' position. Some commentators see no chance of an even playing field and urge vigorous MDC campaigning on precisely that ground.(30) The lack of confidence in free and fair elections was highlighted by the recent police actions.(31) A 2012 Freedom House report had spoken of a "fear factor" which influenced Zimbabweans' votes.(32) The Daily News carried an unconfirmed story of Mashonaland East Zanu-PF officials tinkering with the electoral lists to remove registration of MDC supporters. (33) Roy Bennet, MDC-T official in exile, accused Zanu-PF of rigging the election by denying MDC supporters to register.(34) Iran's leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has allowed Iranians to provide Zimbabwe intelligence officers with cyber training.(35)

From the start of the coalition government, Zanu-PF regrouped, with the aim of reversing its humiliating 2008 defeat:

Mugabe decided which Ministries would go to the MDCs and never relinquished the top job;

The President succeeded in blocking every unwelcome move by the coalition partners, appointing officials at will and preventing reform;

Zanu-PF retained control of the security forces. Thus Major-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, who had vowed to stop Tsvangirai from taking power, intends to stand as a Zanu-PF candidate.(36)

The state media, as well as of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) are under Zanu-PF control.

Political violence continued, as did intimidation by War. Vets. and Zanu-PF youth gangs.

The MDCs failed to push through the repeal of legislation such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. These laws were used to suppress basic rights through vague defamation clauses and draconian penalties.(37)

Zanu-PF also benefitted from weaknesses and corruption within MDCs ranks..(38)

Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube, leaders of the MDC factions respectively, had largely been silent on outstanding GPA reforms, but in recent weeks had insisted these had to take place. President Zuma, backed by other regional leaders, showed himself determined to effect these.(39) SADC executive secretary Tomaz Salomão expressed disappointment regarding implementation of the 2008 Global Political Agreement (GPA) and of JOMIC, long considered ineffectual.(40)

The outcome of the election does indeed depend on the forthcoming election campaign and good sense of the electorate.

  1. News24 25.3, AP 26.3
  2. Daily News 24.3SW Radio 27.3
  3. VOA Zim 25.3, Financial Gazette 28.3
  4. Mail and Guardian 22.3
  5. The Zimbabwean UK 26.3
  6. Zim. Independent 22.3
  7. SW Radio Africa 22.3
  8. Daily News 25.3
  9. SW Radio 27.3
  10. New Zimbabwe 23.3
  11. Daily News 26.3, Nehanda Radio 23.3
  12. SW Radio Africa 28.3
  13. Zim. Mail 23.2,Mail and Guardian 28.3
  14. Daily News 27.3
  15. Zim. Daily Mail 28.3
  16. The Zimbabwean 26.3, The Herald 27.3
  17. Zim. Independent 28.3
  18. Zim. Independent 28.3
  19. Zim. Independent 28.3
  20. New Zimbabwe 22.3
  21. Zim. Independent 28.3, Zim. Mail 29.3
  22. SW Radio Africa 28.3, New Zimbabwe 28.3
  23. VOA Zim. 25.3
  24. SW Radio Africa 25.3, 26.3, http://www.redress.org 22.3
  25. SW Radio Africa 22.3, 25.3, 26.3, AP 25.3
  26. New Zimbabwe 25.3
  27. SW Radio Africa 26.3, Guardian 26.3
  28. New Zimbabwe 25.3, SW Radio Africa 27.3, 28.3, VOA Zimbabwe 28.3, http://www.zimdiaspora.com, http://www.africareview.com)
  29. Zim. Independent 28.3, Zim. Mail 29.3
  30. http://thinkafricapress.com/
  31. Daily News 24.3
  32. Zim. Independent 22.3
  33. Daily News 25.3
  34. Nehanda Radio 27.3
  35. Nehanda Radio 27.3
  36. SW Radio Africa 27.3
  37. http://thinkafricapress.com/
  38. Zim. Independent 22.3
  39. Zim Independent 22.3, VOA Zimbabwe 28.3
  40. Zim. Independent 22.3)

Letzte Änderung: Saturday, 30-Mar-2013 10:29:05 CET
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26.3.2013 Ruth Weiss: Zimbabwe vor der Wahl (17)