Zimbabwe: The day that democracy died
Democracy was fatally wounded in Zimbabwe a long time ago. In fact, it is unclear whether ever the concept of "democracy" ever existed in such African nation. Since it became an independent state in 1980, Zimbabwe has been ruled by an individual whose populist ideas, brutal repression, corruption, and addiction to power have turned the once-prosperous country into an economical, political and social disaster: From being known as the bread-basket of Africa due to the exports of food from the fertile Zimbabwean soil to the rest of African nations, Zimbabwe is today a country sunk in a 150,000% annual inflation rate (by far the worst in the world), with an unemployment rate as high as 80%, and with a political system where president Robert Mugabe and his party, ZANU-PF, do not allow any sort of criticism (let alone opposition) to the regime.
In these times of turmoil for Zimbabweans, most of which are surviving below the poverty line and lack the very basic goods and services to live in humanly-acceptable conditions, it appeared that the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his party, Movement for the Democratic Change (MDC), would finally bring Mugabe off power after their victory on the presidential elections held earlier this year. But even though Mugabe and ZANU-PF lost control of the Zimbabwean House of Assembly and the Senate for the first time since the independence of the country, they managed to manipulate the elections enough to call a run-off election scheduled for June 27, 2008.
From March to June, ZANU-PF had enough time to learn from their mistakes to make sure that they don't lose the election in June, as they did in March: As a report from The Guardian explains, ZANU-PF organized groups to seek and beat people who voted for the MDC in the previous election, to make sure that they 'change their minds' for the run-off voting. Civilians were even killed by these groups. Their crime? Wanting to be freed from the oppression, dictatorship, and crisis that Mugabe's regime has created as a means of keeping power.
Violations of human rights in Zimbabwe know no limits under Mugabe's rule, and it goes from censorship of freedom of speech, to threats, to beatings, to assassinations, and to any necessary means that help Mugabe and his party to keep in office. As a result of that, Morgan Tsvangirai decided today to pull out from the run-off election. Although he has not undergone the official procedures to quit his candidacy, it appears to be imminent. If Tsvangirai pulls out officially, that would mean the permanence of Mugabe and ZANU-PF in power.
We cannot blame Morgan Tsvangirai for his decision. At the end of the day, his rationale makes a lot of sense: "We in the MDC cannot ask them [the voters] to cast their vote on June 27, when that vote could cost them their lives". And it is not only the voters' lives, but Tsvangirai's own life is at risk as well. Let's not forget that he has also been subject to arrests, tortures, beatings, and other violations by Mugabe's forces. But having the opposition out of the run-off election also means a victory for Mugabe's oppressive methods, and moreover, it shows that democracy in this African nation is dead... and the hope for better days remains a distant dream.
More information available on The Globe and Mail.