Rule of Law vs. Repression in Zimbabwe

Okay Machisa has been remanded in custody until 30 January© ZimRights

Okay Machisa has been remanded in custody until 30 January© ZimRights

In early 2009, Zimbabwe entered an agreement to form a unity government following contested elections in 2008. Part of that agreement required the establishment of a new constitution through public consultation and a referendum vote by citizens. Due to political maneuvering, purposeful delays, and budget shortcuts that referendum has not occurred. Accordingly, new elections are mandated no later than October 2013. What does all this mean?

It means Zimbabwe, a country without an election free from violence and intimidation in one form or another since really, well, independence, will have elections sooner rather than later. While the opposition party MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) does not have clean hands, most violence is perpetuated by the party with government control for over 30 years, ZANU-PF. Under the unity government, ZANU-PF retained control of security structures in Zimbabwe, and continues to use the police, security agents, and courts to harass, intimidate, threaten and torture civil society members, political opposition figures and human rights defenders.


Mugabe Says Things in Zimbabwe are Just Fabulous

President Robert Mugabe granted an interview to CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour today – his first interview with a Western news agency in years. Mugabe spoke to Amanpour while he was in New York attending the UN General Assembly meeting. The interview yielded many choice soundbites. Here are a few of my favorites:

He denied that Zimbabwe is in economic shambles, saying it grew enough food last year to feed all its people. Which is interesting because the World Food Program is busily feeding 1.8 million people in Zimbabwe and Malawi is busily selling maize to Zimbabwe because it needs to import food to feed its citizens.

In refuting criticisms leveled against his government’s policies by Bishop Desmond Tutu, Mugabe said  “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about, the little man.” Hmmm. The Nobel Peace Prize committee might refute that assertion.

Elections don’t go all that smoothly all the time in many countries,” he said. “Look what happens elsewhere. They didn’t go smoothly here, look at what happened during the first term of Bush.” Ok. Valid that elections don’t always go smoothly. However, if you are going to point specifically at the Bush/Gore contest as your comparative example, you might want to think again; because even though many of us were pretty darn unhappy with how things went down, there are some very stark differences between Zimbabwe in 2008 and the US in 2000.

First, not going “smoothly” is probably a pretty good description of events in the US whereas it masterfully understates events in Zimbabwe. In the time between the actual vote and the final determination of who won, people were not killed, tortured and sexually assaulted in the US in an attempt to create an atmosphere of political intimidation.

Second, our political stand off was resolved by the US Supreme Court and ended with a peaceful transfer of power (whether we wanted it or not). In Zimbabwe, Mugabe had his arm twisted into a power sharing agreement and then signed that agreement with his fingers crossed behind his back.

Now I’m not ever going to say that things are all sweetness and light and wonderful in the US, but I do think Mugabe could have come up with a slightly better comparison if he wanted to make a point that elections don’t always go “smoothly.”

You can watch the interview here and respond in our comments section with your favorite moments.