It’s time to end Robert Mugabe’s tyranny in Zimbabwe

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 2, 2008

Zimbabwean economist and coffee companion Eddie Cross was elected as a Member of Parliament for Bulawayo South on March 29. He is one of the founders of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the opposition party led by Morgan Tsvangirai. On June 27 a bogus runoff election for president of Zimbabwe was held. Discredited Zanu PF party incumbent Robert Mugabe claimed victory.

We have visited Eddie previously in this column (Aug. 15, 2007). In view of the increasingly bizarre events that have drawn world attention to this politically and economically devastated country, I thought you’d be interested in excerpts from a letter I just received from Eddie, dated June 29:

On the 29th March Tsvangirai won with 54 per cent of the total poll – still not confirmed by validating the actual returns, which are held under lock and key by the State. They struggled for a month to try and wriggle out of that one, eventually just brushing aside the need for any validation process and simply announced that a runoff was required.

This was followed by two months of intense, nation-wide, State-managed and executed violence against the MDC and its supporters. Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, tens of thousands have been injured – many with serious injuries, hands and feet amputated, broken limbs, smashed hands.

Food aid to millions was cancelled and what food was left was brought under strict political control. Indoctrination centers were established in every district in the country and tens of thousands subjected to arbitrary orders to attend activities in these centers at which they were threatened with further violence and injury if they “voted the wrong way”. . . .

The MDC campaign for the run off was not allowed to even get started – rallies were banned and when a High Court judge ordered the police to allow a rally in Harare, the police stood by as armed thugs from Zanu PF militias attacked those attempting to go to the venue. Live ammunition was used and there was no attempt to even hide the role of the militias. The police affected not a single arrest.

The offices of the MDC were raided on several occasions, thousands of MDC officials were arrested and at the end of the campaign it was estimated that 2000 were still in custody, most without charge. Tsvangirai himself was not allowed to move freely, was given no space – even for adverts – in the dominant State-controlled media and his personal safety was threatened.

Had Morgan not pulled out of the elections the violence would have intensified. The 27,000 polling agents that had been trained for the poll would have put their lives on the line and many would have not even got to their polling stations. The 2,000 or more volunteers who were standing by to supervise the poll would not have been allowed to do their job and without polling agents and independent observers the poll would have been massively rigged. . . . Add to that the issue of multiple voting, secret polling stations, supervised balloting in rural areas and the whole background of violence and intimidation and you get a clear picture of just what a farce this has been. . . .

Fortunately, because of the courage of a number of journalists who risked their freedom to come into the country illegally and report on events, as well as the courage and determination of local activists and diplomats, all of this was well documented and reported on in the international media. The regime here simply could not hide the facts behind the charade. . . .

At home no salaries had been paid – what should you pay when a 10-kilogram bag of maize meal costs Z$70 billion! Stores are empty, people angry and hungry and virtually everybody is talking about the very real possibility of flight to another country. . . .

I do not think South Africa can absorb another two million or more Zimbabwean refugees. I also think that the African Union must be close to deciding that they have had enough of Mugabe’s antics. The political price of ignoring his misdemeanors is now so great that I think we can expect some sort of action to resolve the crisis here next week. . . .

—Eddie Cross, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

As this week’s column goes to press, the African Union meetings are under way in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. Will delegates have the moral courage to join with Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and other reflective leaders in their condemnation of this shameful episode and do what is necessary and right to bring it to a close? Thank you, Eddie, for your part in keeping us informed.

© 2008 Warren Harbeck

Return to Coffee With Warren home page