TOPICS > Politics

Zimbabwe’s Election

June 27, 2000 at 12:00 AM EDT


TIM EWART, Independent Television News: Zimbabwe’s opposition came out of the shadows and into the sunlight today. The movement for democratic change was narrowly defeated, but still regarded its 57 seats as a victory over President Mugabe.

JOB SIKHALA, Opposition Member of Parliament: We must move away from the statehouse and go into the rural areas.

TIM EWART: You want him to resign?

JOB SIKHALA: To immediately resign. That would be my first statement in the parliament just next week.

TIM EWART: These scenes were in one of the poorest areas of Harare, the new NDC heartland. There’s been a lot of tension in areas like this for a long time, a lot of intimidation and a lot of violence. There were ZANU PF celebrations too, their winners included Chenjerai Hunzi, the war veteran’s leader who organized the invasion of white-owned farms. He will not be backing down.

CHENJERAI HUNZI: We are not moving anywhere. We’re not going to be deported to some other land. That’s our land.

TIM EWART: President Mugabe campaigned hard during the election. He knew there was much at stake. He remains in control, but his power base has been weakened. ZANU PF no longer has the parliament needed to change the constitution. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvandirai was defeated in his constituency yesterday, but he’s eying a much bigger prize. Today he declared he’ll run for president in two years’ time.

MORGAN TSVANDIRAI: Anybody who believes that the future destiny of this country relies on Robert Mugabe must have his head examined.

TIM EWART: But it’s not Zimbabwe’s jubilant opposition that may threaten Mr. Mugabe so much as it’s wretched economy. These people queuing for paraffin this evening were kept at bay by riot police and security guards. And it was announced today that petrol will soon be rationed.

RAY SUAREZ: For more on the election in Zimbabwe we turn to Simbi Veke Mubako, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the United States, and Kenneth Wollack, president of the National Democratic Institute, a non-governmental organization that monitors election. The government of Zimbabwe refused to allow his organization to reserve their recent election. Mr. Ambassador, let’s start with you. Would neutral observers conclude that this election just concluded was free and fair?

SIMBI VEKE MUBAKO, Ambassador, Zimbabwe: Well, I think the people of Zimbabwe had the opportunity to express themselves, and they did express themselves in large numbers, in my view quite freely. Both sides showed that whatever violence had gone before did not, in fact, stop them from coming out and voting the way they wanted and expressing themselves sometimes publicly that they voted this way or that way.

RAY SUAREZ: Mr. Wollack.

KENNETH WOLLACK, National Democratic Institution: Well, one has to look at an election process not only what takes place on election day, but has to look at the environment we leading up to the election, as well as election day and the post election complaint process. And I think that most groups who have monitored elections throughout the world have come to the same conclusion, and that is that the environment leading up to the election day was fundamentally flawed. It was an environment of fear and anxiety. You had a campaign of violence and intimidation directed primarily at the opposition. You had an unlevel playing field, biased news coverage. You had the legal framework that was also flawed, lack of an independent election commission. It was very positive that election day was peaceful. The process is not completed. There will be a complaint process, and how those complaints are handled by the courts will also contribute to the overall view of this election process. But certainly the process itself was not free and fair and should not be seen as a process that many of Zimbabwe’s neighbors have gone through in recent years.

RAY SUAREZ: Mr. Ambassador, why did your government feel it was called forward to keep Mr. Wollack’s group and other British observation groups out of your country at election time?

SIMBI VEKE MUBAKO: For the British the reason is quite clear. The British have gone out on a campaign against the government from the very beginning. The British government, the British opposition, they even send a member leader of the opposition to Zimbabwe to campaign clearly for the opposition. So they were clearly on one side. They were not unbiased. There’s no reason why it should have been allowed to come and observe a process over which they had already made their own judgments. As for the NDI, as you know the NDI was in fact allowed to observe the process before the election and they made their statement. And the statement appeared to the government not to be unbiased. It was really for that reason mainly that the government then found that if they already made up their minds, there’s no reason to allow them to continue to do that.

RAY SUAREZ: ZANU PF, the party in power in your country, held on to its parliamentary majority but in much, much reduced circumstances. What would have to be concluded by the government today over what the people were telling you?

SIMBI VEKE MUBAKO: Well, again, the message I think is very clear. The dissatisfaction with the way government has been running the economy of the country, that’s a main message, and the government is aware of that. And they have to change their management of the economy to improve on it. That’s the main thing. There are personal attacks on the president, and so I don’t… that you can expect in any election. That’s all right, but that’s their own opinion. I think the main problem is the economy of the country.

RAY SUAREZ: Kenneth Wollack, do you agree that this was largely a bread- and-butter vote?

KENNETH WOLLACK: Well, that had a large measure for the voter turnout, particularly in the urban areas. But there was something deeper, I think. I think democrats throughout the world were inspired by the struggle in Zimbabwe, by Zimbabwean democrats for their independence movement, for the movement to end white minority rule in Zimbabwe 20 years ago. But over the past decade, as the rest of the countries in the region, Southern African region and many countries throughout the world, were moving to more open political systems, it seemed like Zimbabwe was going in a different direction. More and more power was being concentrated in the hands of an executive presidency. And I think, in large measure, the citizens of Zimbabwe also said that we believe not one party has all the answers to the country’s problems, that it required different voices. And you had a basically united opposition that provided an alternative. And I think it was a desire also to have a more pluralistic political system, real debate, real discussion, and decision- making that included people across the political spectrum.

RAY SUAREZ: Does this election result, Mr. Ambassador, perhaps stay your president’s hand, Robert Mugabe’s hand, when it comes to the land distribution idea he’s put forward? He said that if he won, it would commence right after the elections, but you’ve had an electoral setback, even though you hold on to power. Might this moderate those plans?

SIMBI VEKE MUBAKO: Well, I shouldn’t think so, because to start with, the president has not lost the election. It’s true that he has had a rebuke from the electorate, if you like. His majority’s reduced, but he has the working majority in parliament. Indeed, he will have 92 out of 150. That’s a fairly good majority to work with, and I think his policies, main policies will go ahead as he has planned them. It’s true he won’t be able to amend the constitution, as you have said in the introduction, without the support of the opposition, but any other side of the policies can in fact be carried out just as the party program says.

RAY SUAREZ: And to take land from current owners and distribute it to other people, he wouldn’t need a constitutional amendment? He could do that with the current working majority in the parliament?

SIMBI VEKE MUBAKO: Oh, yes, very much so. The constitutional amendment has already passed, and all that remains now is to implement the policy. And the policy is already being implemented. Land will be distributed from the first of July. And everything is on course, unless there are objections, which will be dealt with.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, as an observer of the country for some time, Mr. Wollack, do you think that this can be carried out in an economically feasible manner? These are the men mostly who grow the export crops of the country.

KENNETH WOLLACK: Well, I think everyone agrees in the country and internationally that the land reform issue is an important issue. And I think the question becomes how the issue is resolved. There is a new parliament, a parliament that represents divergent viewpoints on how many of the economic and political issues should be resolved in the country. And I think in a sense Zimbabwe is at a crossroads. If the government now recognizes that Zimbabwe today is a multiparty state, de facto and not just de joure and that the parliament is allowed to debate public policy issues and decide on those public policy decisions rather than decisions being made by decree or being made by the executive, then this could be a very positive future for Zimbabwe. And so the question is how the government and how it deals with this new parliament and the new multiparty system that is a reality. The people of Zimbabwe have now given the opposition a voice and the right to participate in the political life of the country.

RAY SUAREZ: At independence, Mr. Ambassador, a lot of the members of the new government proclaimed that Zimbabwe would be what it hadn’t been before, a multiracial state. If the land is seized from the commercial farmers, do you foresee them leaving the country and maybe your country stepping back from that dream proclaimed 20 years ago?

SIMBI VEKE MUBAKO: Zimbabwe is a multiracial state and has always been. The farmers represent only a very small section of the white community, even if I take that. It’s 4,500 at most out of about 80,000 white people in the country. The rest of the people are not affected by the land reform program. And what is going to happen is I don’t think most of the 4,500 will leave. If any, I think there will be very few. Most of the farmers, as I gather, like to stay in the country, and they will have an opportunity to stay in the country. The government has said that not one of the farmers need leave farming. If they want to continue doing so, they will do that. But under the regulations which are promulgated by government, smaller farms and no more than one farm per person. That’s all. But everybody will have a farm if they want to farm.

RAY SUAREZ: Ambassador Mubako, Kenneth Wollack, thanks for staying with us.