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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mugabe’s Government: Strangely Resistant to Change

Robert Mugabe’s government is signaling rather loudly that it will not only do what it can to influence the vote in upcoming elections, but that it might not abide by election results if they don’t like them.

Zimbabwe’s police chief has warned he will not let opposition “puppets” take power in elections later this month, state media reports.

Augustine Chihuri said President Robert Mugabe’s redistribution of white-owned land would never be reversed.
The MDC has gone to court to try to force the electoral commission to have more polling stations in urban areas - seen as opposition strongholds.

A report by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network earlier this week said there were an average of 2,022 voters per polling station in the capital, Harare, compared to 530 in Mr Mugabe’s home region of Mashonaland West.

In previous elections, thousands of people have been unable to vote in urban areas because of the massive queues.

Last week army chief General Constantine Chiwenga said:

“We will not support anyone other than President Mugabe, who has sacrificed a lot for this country.”

And last month, prison service head retired Major-General Paradzayi Zimondi told all his staff to vote for Mr Mugabe.

You might imagine that a country with six digit inflation, a wrecked economy, and little in the way of opportunities for its people might be in the mood for change. Not Obama level change, mind you, but real change that might allow the country to find its way out of the wilderness. In practice it hasn’t worked that way because of a combination of constitutional rule changes rigged to give the ruling government a head start in every election, strong arm tactics by government agencies, some remaining popularity because of Mugabe’s war record, a system of payoffs and corruption that has allowed Mugabe to influence the most powerful people in the country, no recognizable free press, and the dependency of voters on the largesse of the government.

But there was always the hope that an overwhelming response from voters might provide change when they finally grew tired of their government’s incompetence. For supporters of the MDC and other opposition organizations--not to mention we outsiders who hope only the best for Zimbabwe--can’t help but feel even more disheartened by the increased open defiance of democratic principles. Not surprised, necessarily, but deeply disappointed.

There is a point to be made from this, as well, for us about the dangers of dependence on the government for our livelihoods. I’m going to leave it alone for another day, though.

Read the rest.

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