Mon, Mar 25, 2002 - Page 9 News List

Morgan Tsvangirai takes on Zimbabwe's election process

Mugabe's ZANU-PF kept observers out of six out of 10 rural polling stations. The stations without observers also show the highest returns for the president

By Morgan Tsvangirai

ILLUSTRATION: MOUNTAIN PEOPLE

Before Zimbabwe's Presidential election earlier this month, I believed that if the election were not handled properly, there would be serious fallout in the country and throughout Southern Africa. Despite the shadows of war and terrorism, I called for a fair and free election. Zimbabwe's people did not get one. Instead, they got terrorism.

In the two years that led up to the Presidential vote, the people of Zimbabwe were subjected to severe intimidation, harassment and fear, all of which was carried out as part of a broader program of state-sponsored terrorism by Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). ZANU terrorism was conducted by rogue elements among the veterans of Zimbabwe's war of independence two decades ago, as well as by government militiamen and youths, all of whom were actively aided by the police.

This intimidation and violence meant that my party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) could not reach the electorate in large parts of the countryside. In addition, the government of President Mugabe, my opponent, effectively disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of urban voters, particularly in the capital city of Harare and in the city of Chitungwiza. Because of an inadequate number of polling stations, I believe that in Harare and Chitungwiza alone more than 360,000 people stood in a queue to vote but never gained the opportunity to cast their ballot.

My concerns about the legitimacy of the election results are further raised by interference by Mugabe's militia, whose members prevented the MDC from placing polling agents in 52 percent of rural polling stations. By the end of the voting, our party had no observers at six out of 10 rural stations. This effectively meant that Mugabe's supporters could have their way at these stations. We are compiling a comprehensive list of the polling stations where ZANU supporters had solitary control. In our investigations so far, a pattern has emerged even at this early stage: these polling stations recorded the highest number of voters for Mugabe.

In light of all the evidence, I cannot accept the Presidential election results in which Robert Mugabe, the sitting president, was declared a winner this month with 56 percent of the 3 million votes tallied. The official results do not reflect the true will of the people of Zimbabwe and are illegitimate in the eyes of the people.

Zimbabwe's people have been cheated of their right to freely and democratically elect a President of their choice. The contest over the election results is a political issue that must be resolved politically. Food and fuel are in short supply, jobs are vanishing, inflation is running at more than 100 percent. The people of Zimbabwe deserve a celebration for their courage and determination. We may yet get one.

As I write, I am saddened because Mugabe's regime remains intent on defying the people's will. Whatever may happen, I as the people's loyal servant am with them all the way. The government may want to arrest me. Indeed, I was arrested for treason even before the election. At worst, they may even wish to kill me. But the government will never destroy the spirit of the people to reclaim their rights and power.

The power to achieve democratic change is in our hands. We may have moments of fear in the days ahead, but we must never let despair overwhelm us. The tide of political change is irreversible. But we must be prepared to pay a high price for our freedom. President Mugabe and his cronies are afraid of the people and we have heard they may do anything to kill the messenger.

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