Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party and Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission have withheld the results of the first round presidential elections and instigated a recount in 23 electoral areas. The recount has been further delayed. This “extra time” has been used by Zanu-PF MPs and supporters to intimidate MDC activists and voters into line before the second round. MPs and government ministers are reported to have arrived in towns and villages brandishing firearms together with armed groups of supporters.
Known MDC voters have been forced into mass meetings and threatened with retribution if they do not vote for Mugabe in the second round. In the village of Nyamuriwo in north-eastern Zimbabwe the homes of three MDC supporters were attacked and set-light in the early hours of 19 April. The MDC had never openly campaigned in the village before but swept to victory on 29 March by a significant margin.
So far more than 3000 people have been displaced, 500 injured and 10 killed in post-election violence. Human Rights Watch reports that Mugabe supporters have set up “torture camps” to beat, intimidate and contain leading oppositionists.
The 18 April independence celebration in the Gwanzura Stadium was used by Zanu-PF as massive show of military force. Mugabe repeated his claim that opposition supporters are part of a British imperialist plot to undo the overthrow of white rule in the country and claimed that fair elections have been “religiously” held since 1980.
Where he had previously won every single election by pumping millions of dollars of state resources into campaigns, this time — and in spite of undoubted efforts at fraud and intimidation in the first round — Mugabe and Zanu-PF lost decisively.
In the short term it is likely that the Election Commission will find grounds for a run-off election between Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC. Continuing electoral fraud and heightened levels of intimidation will almost certainly result in a victory for Mugabe and Zanu-PF. Zimbabwe’s democratic opposition faces a vile and dictatorial regime ready and willing to dispatch military and paramilitary forces to quell unrest.
The action of the Durban dockers and the resistance it has sparked in other parts of Africa demonstrates the possibilities for working-class action and solidarity against the Mugabe regime. Action that could and should be extended in opposition to China’s murderous arms trade in Africa and beyond.