Disclaimer: I’ve written this post late at night – lack of sleep and deep emotions have led to me not being quite as nit-picky about my writing style and grammar as usual. I just sat and wrote this, allowed the words to come and then posted it with only 5 or so minutes of editing.
Soldiers on the roads. Civilians shot in the back. Foreign journalists and citizens beaten in the streets.
If you have been following the news in the past few days you will have seen the stories coming out of Zimbabwe’s post-election turmoil. It’s very easy, in our day and age, to see the deaths of six innocent people as little more than a number on a page. To just say to ourselves “That’s sad.” And move on. Stop for a second though, stop and think about the fact that each one of those six people had a family and friends. Most of them were working to support their family. They leave behind children who were dependent on them for sustenance.
Now move on a little bit, beyond the horror that is a hail of live ammunition sprayed irrationally into a crowd of scattering, unarmed civilians. To the day after the election results were announced. Reports have been flooding in of the army, unidentified thugs and police officers harassing and beating civilians who are thought to have voted for the opposition MDC-Alliance. Not only the voters, but also the candidates have been intimidated – with reports of multiple MDC-Alliance members going into hiding or being abducted.
These things are all true. They are verified by multiple eyewitnesses, many of them journalists who have taken footage of the incidents and posted it to social media. However, should you happen to open the official twitter page of Emmerson Mnangagwa you would not know any of this has happened. His feed is full of tweets, spun by his British PR specialists, speaking of unity and peace – of a free and fair election and a hopeful ‘new Zimbabwe’.
Rewind 10 years, however, and this doesn’t feel much like a ‘new Zimbabwe’. During the 2008 Presidential Elections over 200 MDC supporters were killed in post-Election violence, forcing then-candidate Morgan Tsvangirai to pull out of the run-off election in order to preserve life. There is no ‘new dispensation’ in Zimbabwe as the current regime has been claiming for the past 9 months. This is the same dispensation, the same brutal regime filled with the same brutal people. Some of which were not only present and involved in the 2008 violence but even in the 1980’s during the brutal Gukurahundi massacres. Mnangagwa himself was instrumental in the Gukurahundi violence – and yet now he runs a nation, using rhetoric of peace and unity.
This is not a new dispensation! There have not been free and fair elections. There have not been peaceful and legitimate polls. It has not only been violence that has marred this election, but a host of irregularities that stand out in stark contrast to the claims of ‘transparency’ and ‘fairness’. To list a few:
- 21% of V11 forms (forms, signed by polling agents, verifying the results of that particular polling station) were not posted outside of their polling stations (as stipulated by law).
- Observers, hired by ZANU PF, were seen at polling stations taking down the names of voters from a few meters away. This process is well known as a vote-buying (should they vote the right way) system. [See NY Times report]
- In one constituency 105,000 people had voted by 5pm. Official reports stated that from 5-7pm another 300,000+ voted.
- The chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) – Justice Priscilla Chigumba – is brazenly partisan, having even been pictured in ZANU PF regalia.
These are just a few of the multitude of irregularities during this election. Many of which have been laid out in the EU Observer Mission statement.
However, while the EU declared the elections flawed and unable to be condoned as fully ‘free and fair’ there were other observer groups that seemed willing to turn a blind eye to the clear fraud on the day. The AU and SADC observer missions declared the elections to be ‘free and fair’. It has not only been the observer missions that have let Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans down, however. Congratulations and endorsements have been flowing in from presidents across the SADC region. Cyril Ramaphosa, Peter Mutharika, Magafuli and company – even EFF leader Julius Malema – have congratulated the incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa and called on Zimbabweans to respect the decision of ZEC, ignoring the brutality that is currently being meted out by a vengeful ZANU PF.
It is nothing new for the Zimbabwean people to be let down by the SADC region, over and over again SADC leaders have ignored the horrendous acts of brutality and the completely illegitimate elections held in Zimbabwe and have endorsed them. Perhaps it is political expediency… or perhaps they wish to normalize the idea of irregular and un-verifiable elections? Whatever their reasons, SADC cannot continue to desert the Zimbabwean people. Because at the end of the day, when everyone else has gone home, it is Zimbabweans who have to live in the country and deal with the results of the election. It is Zimbabweans who have to face the brutality of the regime on a daily basis, it is Zimbabweans who have to set aside their University qualifications and scrounge for whatever job they can find – be it a vendor, or a toilet cleaner – because their government is so thoroughly corrupt and self-serving that they are driving the Nation’s economy into the ground.
We must call on SADC to not be deaf to the calls of Zimbabweans again. Do not let them down for the umpteenth time, do not fail them in their hour of direst need.
To all the Zimbabweans who are caught up in this distressing and deeply tumultuous time – I pray fervently for your deliverance. God does not forget His people, this time of turmoil will pass eventually – these brutes, these evil tyrants will have to face their creator as they stand before his judgement throne. Justice will be done eventually, if it cannot be accomplished on our terms – then it will be accomplished on His.
But do not stop fighting, peacefully. Do not stop hoping, for hope is the lifeblood of change, without hope nothing can change. In the darkest days the smallest bit of hope shines the brightest.