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HARARE, Aug 1 2013 (IPS) - Zimbabwean analysts say that it will be historical if President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled this country for 33 years, loses the country’s presidential election to his long-time rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and relinquishes power.
A day before the election, Mugabe had told reporters at State House that if he loses he would concede defeat.
On Wednesday, Jul. 31, Zimbabweans in Harare, the capital, woke up at midnight eager to cast their ballots in the general election. In most towns across Zimbabwe, voters began queuing very early on Wednesday morning, enduring the chilly weather in order to vote.
Many, like 32-year-old Loveness Mbiza, a fruit and vegetable vendor from Harare’s Machipisa high-density suburb, feel this election will bring an improved economic environment.
“I have lived under constant surveillance from brutal police in Mugabe’s government who have always chased me from one point to the other, often accusing me of selling my wares at undesignated points in the city, but without providing me with alternatives,” Mbiza told IPS.
“I woke up soon after midnight to be on the queue here so that I could cast my vote early and go back to attend to my vending business. My wish is to see my vote being respected because I know most people are suffering just like me and wish to see President Mugabe shown the door when the results are announced,” added Mbiza.
But Claris Madhuku, a political analyst and director for Platform for Youth Development, a democracy lobby group in Zimbabwe, told IPS that voters should not put their full trust in the new political dispensation that may emerge after this election.
“There is excessive excitement from voters and too much optimism is being invested in a [Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai] MDC-T government that they think will be born out of the elections. But they should allow any dispensation to settle down and gradually manoeuvre its way to rescue this country from its long economic crisis,” Madhuku said.
Zimbabwe is still recovering from an economic meltdown, based largely on Mugabe’s controversial policies. There have also been allegations of widespread corruption and stealing from the state’s coffers by Mugabe and other high-ranking officials within his party.
Between 2003 and 2009, this southern African nation’s year on year inflation was reported as 231 percent. According to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, 85 companies closed down in Harare last year and over 100 shut down in Bulawayo between 2009 and 2013. Unemployment is high, with most people being forced to work in the informal sector.
Independent political analyst Rashwit Mkundu said he foresees the country becoming an economic “powerhouse” under Tsvangarai’s leadership, if he wins this election.
“There is certainly going to be rapid economic recovery in Zimbabwe if Tsvangirai is announced winner of this election. Zimbabwe will fast emerge as an economic powerhouse of the rest of the African continent, possibly overtaking South Africa in terms of economic growth,” Mkundu told IPS.
Mugabe and some of his party hardliners in Zimbabwe Africa National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu–PF) are under economic sanctions from Western nations for violating human rights. However, in March the European Union suspended most of its sanctions, though Mugabe and a number of his followers remain on the list.
Analysts think this election could be the Zanu-PF leader’s last race before Mugabe disappears from the political scene, as he turns 90 years old in six months’ time.
Chairperson for the Council for Social Workers in Zimbabwe, Philip Bohwasi, told IPS that a victory by Tsvangirai would result in a stampede of investors to the country. A number pulled out after Mugabe implemented the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act of 2007. It states that foreign-owned companies are required to sell a 51 percent stake to locals to stimulate economic growth.
“Tsvangirai warms up very well to nations from the developed world from which most investors come. His victory in this election will spark a scramble for investment chances from investors abroad eager to put their investments here,” Bohwasi told IPS.
But Masimba Kuchera, an independent media analyst in Harare, told IPS that ordinary people should be careful not to build their hopes on impulsive policies pencilled in political party manifestos.
“Yes, I know most people who have voted in this election anticipate drastic changes from the MDC-T, which they widely believe will massively ride to victory when election results are announced. But what has convinced them to so overwhelmingly rally behind MDC-T are mere policies penned in the party’s campaign manifesto, which may be an exaggerated piece of paper designed to lure voters,” Kuchera said.
Although the Zanu-PF government, which entered a coalition arrangement with the two formations of the MDC, stands widely accused of being the architect of the country’s economic crisis, many, like 25-year-old Donemore Dziva, a jobless college graduate with a diploma in marketing, hopes for a Zanu-PF victory.
“I didn’t wake up so early in the morning to come and waste my vote on MDC-T because I didn’t see anything worthwhile it did for young jobless people like me during its tenure in the coalition government. I just hope we shall have President Mugabe back when the results shall be announced and let him finish the economic empowerment of locals here,” Dziva told IPS.
Other political analysts here say any win by Mugabe in this election would spell disaster for Zimbabwe.
“Any win that favours Mugabe in this election will be contestable and there is really nothing new that Mugabe has in store to warrant a justified return to the number one job in the land. His return will only further deepen the country’s economic crisis considering that Mugabe has not been successful in mending his dented relations with the rich European nations,” an independent political analyst, Blessing Vava, told IPS.
Harare businessman and owner of a fleet of trucks, Jabulani Gumbo, 56, thinks the large voter turnout is a signal of future great economic strides for Zimbabwe.
“There has never been such voting excitement here, save perhaps for 1980 at independence, and this means something much bigger is set to happen here. People want development to kick-start under a new regime,” Gumbo told IPS. There are no official figures yet available about the number of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots on Wednesday. Initial reports, however, show that the vote was largely a peaceful one.
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