June 27: Lest we forget


TODAY is exactly five years after Zimbabwe had perhaps its bloodiest election since independence in 1980.
There is palpable fear and spirited  attempts to ensure the country is not thrown back to that kind of violence in the impending elections.

Following a March 2008 harmonised poll that handed President Robert Mugabe and his party a devastating electoral defeat, Zimbabwe was swept by a wave of State-sanctioned violence that human rights groups say claimed over 200 lives and uprooted another 200 000.

Zanu PF shock-troopers — war veterans and youth militia — with the tacit approval of State security apparatus —waged a brutal war that was internationally condemned, forcing Morgan Tsvangirai to pull out of a presidential run-off poll.

On June 27, 2008 Mugabe staged a one-man election that returned him to office.

Tsvangirai’s withdrawal was, however, a non-event as Mugabe proceeded to be sworn in.

Scared and scarred, Zimbabweans are yet again limping towards make-or-break elections where Tsvangirai and Mugabe will yet again renew their fight for dominance.

In the interim, successive reports from organisations such as the Human Rights Watch (HRW) have warned of a repeat of the sham 2008 presidential election runoff if Zimbabwe goes to elections without the implementation of crucial reforms.

Citing an unreformed security sector and the lack of political will to implement such reforms, the reports paint a gloomy picture if the country goes to polls in the current state.

After failing its own test during the primary elections, analysts are curious how Zanu PF intends to retain power amid indications that like in 2008, the party whose structures are in disarray will fall-back on the organised and disciplined structures of the army and the Central Intelligence Organisation.

Police officers sat along Zanu PF presiding officers when the party held its shambolic elections on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Civil Society Organisations (CSO) which are currently under siege from the hybrid government have already warned that the country’s looming polls would be bloody unless culprits responsible for the 2008 violence are brought to book.

An organ of National Healing and Reconciliation formed at the inception of the “unity” government has been a paper tiger lacking legal teeth.

Wounded and limping towards a crucial poll whose dates are still hazy, supporters from both Zanu PF and MDC are upbeat that their respective parties will win the watershed elections.

Three opinion polls have put Mugabe and Tsvangirai neck to neck, with the Zanu PF leader edging his younger opponent by a mere percentage at 33 percent, setting the stage for a potentially explosive battle.

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