I've been waiting patiently to be able to bring you the results from elections held in Zimbabwe on July 30th. Patience is a must, in African affairs, as things move slowly... very slowly. Future time is expresssed, in Zimbabwe, in phrases with rather vague meanings, which I'll translate for you:
- "Just now", as in "The results will be announced just now." Read: "at some time in the future, but not "now now".
- "Now now", as in "Could we have them now now?" Read: "sometime today".
- "Now now now!", as in "Do it now now now! I'm not going to wait any longer!" Read: "Move your ass, you [racist epithet deleted. Ed.]!"
Old Africa hands, like Walt, were therefore unsurprised when the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), comprised of appointees of the ZANU-PF party which has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, announced on July 31st that results of the voting would be released, not "just now" but as soon as every last one of the 10,095 polling stations had counted every last one of the ballots.
Elections were held for every office from the presidensity to Zimbabwe's rubber-stamp parliament down to municipal councils. The only race of any consequence pitted 75-year-old Emmerson Mnangagwa, who ousted Comrade Bob Mugabe in an almost bloodless coup last November against Nelson Chamisa, age 40, who succeded to the leadership of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) after the death of its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
The ZEC has released results of the parliamentary and local elections in dribs and drabs, from July 31st until this afternoon, local time. The commission has said the vote was conducted properly in accordance with African tradition under the vigilant supervision of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, and was therefore free and fair.
Supporters of the MDC disagreed, and the longer the ZEC delayed announcing the results of the presidential race, the more they complained that the fix was in. One observer, with experience of elections in the USA, said he was reminded of the delayed announcement of results in Philadelphia, where Democratic election officials would call their counterparts in certain black districts to ask for the vote count, at which time they were asked, "How many votes you need?"
Yesterday the opposition supporters got fed up waiting, and took to the streets of Ha-ha-harare, the Fun Capital of Africa, to express their anger. Zimbabwe Newsday, which was apparently afraid to print anything at all yesterday, reported this morning that at least six people were feared to have died last night, while several others sustained gunshot injuries after soldiers and police in Harare used brute force to suppress MDC Alliance activists protesting against alleged electoral theft of their vote by ZANU-PF and the ZEC.
Harare's Central Business District resembled a war zone, as soldiers drove around in their armoured vehicles, stopping every now and then to beat bystanders with sjamboks (still in use after the bad old apartheid days, but it's black on black now). They fired live ammunition indiscriminately at anyone found in the CBD, with several passersby caught in the cross fire.
Once-and-future President Mngagwa said this morning that his government has been in touch with the main opposition leader in an attempt to ease tensions after the election-related violence. Mr Chamisa said only that "We must maintain this dialogue in order to protect the peace we hold dear." Errr, yes. If you know you're going to lose an election in Africa, it's best to start backing towards the door as soon as the outcome can be discerned.
In a series of tweets, Comrade ED* called for an "independent investigation" into the violence in Harare, saying those responsible "should be identified and brought to justice." By that, he obviously meant the opposition, though some international observers criticized the military for opening fire on unarmed civilians. Those observers obviously need to cleanse their minds or their racist assumptions and get used to African ways.
* Footnote: Comrade Mnangagwa's supporters and the local meeja refer to him as "ED". Apparently no-one has told them that "ED" is commonly used here in the civilized (?) world to refer to a little problem that some men have.
Further reading: "Zimbabwe's elections turn violent", The Economist, 2/8/18. "So much for a fresh start...."