Zimbabwe: a country so filled with action, heartbreak, and inspirational stories that it could be an action movie.
On Aug. 3, it took another twist. As Zanu-PF, the party that has been in power since 1980 (Zimbabwe’s independence), once again won the election, this time there was talk of a rigged count, something that could tear the country apart once more and bring it back to the days of Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe liberated Zimbabwe in 1980, coming to power with bold statements against colonialism and consumerism. However, as the years progressed, the power went to his head.
Miss Catherine de Swardt, a born and bred Zimbabwean national, as well as a new English teacher at Woodstock, said that Mugabe “uses nationalism as a front” to justify the misdeeds he did against anyone who tried to take power away from him.
One example of this was in 2008 when Mugabe lost the election to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party; his supporters raped and killed the women and children of the opposing party’s supporters until the men backed down. They justified it saying that they were doing wrong by the country.
Furthermore, the corruption in his government led to an astronomical inflation rate of around 231 million percent. Ms. de Swardt said that it got so bad, that to go out for dinner, one had to bring “crates full of money.” When buying anything, “the money was weighed” because of the sheer amount of notes.
However, this year was a change from the tyranny of Mugabe. For the first time in 37 years, he would not be running for president, after he was removed in a coup back in November.
Citizens finally thought that they could have a chance for change. While many things have been far better for the people this year, the threat of a rigged election shows that change is still a distant goal.
With around 85% of registered voters voting in what was promised to be a fair, free vote, and a time characterized with little violence, all started to fall away on Aug. 1 when protestors took to the streets of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, demanding the election results, leading to the involvement of the army and an aftermath of six dead.
On Aug. 2, the election results came out and Mnangagwa, the temporary president after the coup, won with the Zanu-PF party with a majority of 50.8%. Despite this win, there was a dispirited silence over the country as many MDC supporters, and even Nelson Chamisa, the leader of MDC, claimed that they were the actual winners.
Chamisa said that ZEC (Zimbabwe Election Commission), rigged the election by adding extra people who voted for Zanu-PF, leading to an election that was “fraud and illegitimate.”
It seems impossible to prove this claim as he and his supporters have no power and no proof; however, they are trying to use photos of voting booths to prove that the numbers don’t add up.
Ms. Catherine said, “[Mnangagwa] wants the election to appear free and fair.” However, he was temporary president and Mugabe’s right-hand man who was in charge of hiring ZEC, so “how free and fair can they be?”
The question comes down to what is best for the country: If MDC continue to fight for this it could lead to more conflict and unrest in a country that needs peace to get back on its feet; but if they let it go, it could lead to another era with a government that thinks they can get away with anything.
“From a moral standpoint, it’s good they [MDC] fight, but from a pragmatic standpoint they should let it go,” Ms. Catherine said.
Politics, corruption, and violence all boil down in the country that has been through so much turmoil but continues to persist, for a future where they can talk about these actions with pride. One only hopes that they can achieve their dream.
Photo by Seoyoung Yoon