The 2008 Election: Zanu-PF Soundly Defeated
In March 2008 Zimbabweans again went to the polls. It was pretty much assumed that, as in previous elections, Mugabe and his Zanu-PF would win the election by rigging the results. And certainly they tried to do so! But the world was in for a surprise.
Astoundingly, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Morgan Tsvangirai, won the elections – overwhelmingly. Even more astoundingly, Tsvangirai had clearly won the presidential election as well.
The results caught Mugabe and Zanu-PF by surprise. Although they certainly rigged the elections to some extent, they were so confident of winning anyway, thanks to massive intimidation over many months, that they did not bother to rig the results sufficiently – and the people voted overwhelmingly against him. So overwhelmingly, in fact, that even with the rigging that went on, it was just not enough to ensure Mugabe’s victory. His defeat was total. It was crushing. The MDC had snatched an amazing victory from the jaws of what looked like certain defeat, being up against an incredibly brutal, vicious police state with vast resources, whose president had boasted that he had degrees in violence. After all, there was nothing whatsoever free or fair about this election from the Zanu-PF side. There was massive intimidation countrywide. MDC supporters were beaten, tortured, kidnapped, murdered. Tsvangirai himself was savagely beaten. The voters’ roll had something in the region of two million dead or departed people still on it, allowing massive organised “ghost” voting. Zanu-PF had also filled the voters’ rolls with hundreds of thousands of false names and addresses. There were “ghost” polling stations, known only to Zanu-PF agents. And the government had printed millions more ballot papers than there were voters in the country, so that they could be filled in as needed in favour of Zanu-PF. Police, mostly very pro-Mugabe, were allowed into polling stations to “help” voters vote for the “right” party.
The ordinary people of Zimbabwe had stood firm against such a monstrous regime. They had said, “Enough is enough!” and voted the tyrant and his cronies out of power.
Was the nightmare finally going to be over?
Mugabe’s Revenge: White Farmers Targeted Again – and Mugabe Retains Power
Those of us who live in Africa, study Africa, and know Africa, were cautious. And sure enough, it eventually dawned on everyone that Mugabe was not going to concede defeat. He was going to do everything he could to cling to power, using every brutal tactic of suppression and terror of which he was a past master. And very soon the world started to see him taking revenge, and consolidating his grip in defiance of the election results. Tsvangirai and the MDC won the election, they were the true new leaders of Zimbabwe, but in Africa it’s not the man with the most votes who takes over, it’s the man with the guns. And Mugabe still held all the guns in his blood-stained hands.
The day after the elections the MDC offices were raided by the police. Then so-called “war veterans”, supposedly from the terrorist war of the 1970s – but mostly unemployed youths who played no part in that revolution as they were either not born or too young to have done so, but were useful thugs Mugabe had no qualms about using to achieve his goals – marched through the streets of Harare, threatening to again start seizing white-owned farms as they had done in previous years. Clearly, Mugabe was targeting Zimbabwe’s whites once again. But his storm troopers started beating up black MDC supporters, threatening them, etc.
Tsvangirai called on Mugabe to accept defeat and step down. Reports started pouring in of “war veterans” again starting to take over the few remaining white-owned farms. Very soon some 30 farms had been invaded. For the few remaining commercial white farmers, this was a time of great fear: crowds of angry “war vets” outside farm gates, beating drums, chanting, smoking joints and drinking alcohol, working themselves up into a frenzy. Inside the farmhouses, frightened families clustered together, uncertain, wondering what to do, their exit roads off their farms blocked by “war vets” baying for their blood. The president of the Commercial Farmers’ Union said, “We were told that they [the orders to invade] come from the very highest levels of government. They said they wanted to see white farmers’ bodies on the streets.” He also correctly said, “People are being paid to basically carry out the wishes of the highest office. This is purely racial.”
This was Mugabe’s revenge against those who had supported the opposition MDC in the election: farmers, their labourers, everyone. It was payback time – and as always in the Zimbabwe of Robert Mugabe, it was brutal. Not only were the white farmers forcefully kicked off their own land, but their black labourers were beaten up and their huts were burnt down.
Mugabe was quoted as saying, “Land must remain in our hands. The land is ours, it must not be allowed to slip back into the hands of whites.” His words showed yet again that despite the fact those whites were Zimbabwean citizens, Mugabe viewed them as foreigners who did not belong. And this despite the fact that Zimbabwe’s remaining whites were a very tiny minority in the country, and that his crushing defeat at the polls was brought about by the millions of black voters.
Those white farmers who could do so took their families to the cities, abandoning their farms to the drunken mobs of thugs. But others were blocked from leaving and were holed up in their homes on their farms, cowering behind security fences and bullet-proof doors.
One farmer, driven off his land, said: “I have wondered what this day would be like, whether it would come after all these years, and now I am wondering if this is it, or if I will be able to get back.” He was forced to leave his farm, abandoning his hundreds of black farm labourers, as well as the fields full of mature crops at a time when Zimbabwe faced its worst food crisis ever.
Mugabe came under international criticism, with calls from the United Nations, the United States, and the European Union for the electoral commission to release the results of the presidential election.
Such criticism from the West was lame-duck criticism of course, and Mugabe knew it. Britain and the United States interfered constantly in Rhodesia’s affairs in the 1960s and 1970s, pressurising Ian Smith to capitulate to the terrorist Mugabe. The disaster in the former Rhodesia was very much their doing. But after Mugabe had destroyed his country, murdered tens of thousands, etc., they lamely bleated, but that was all. They were more than willing to stick their noses into Rhodesia’s business back then, but very reluctant to do the same with Zimbabwe!
Some three weeks after the election, Mugabe vowed that Britain and the MDC would never “steal” his country. His reference to Britain had become a constant theme in his speeches, as he endlessly made the claim that Britain, which once ruled Rhodesia as a colony, was trying to “re-colonise” the country through the MDC. In his speech he said: “You want the British to come back again? You saw what they did when they heard that the MDC was winning. The whites in the UK, Australia and South Africa started coming in and some are still here in the hotels” – an apparent reference to Zimbabwe’s white farmers evicted from their land. “That [land being returned to white farmers] will never ever happen. Down with the British. Down with thieves who want to steal our country.” This from the man who had not only stolen it time and again, but raped it as well.
The previous day Mugabe said: “We should not let our children down by dropping our guard against imperialism, British imperialism, which is surreptitiously and clandestinely weaving its way through our society, trying to divide us.” Like any true Marxist, he sought always to divert the attention of the people from the real problems and the real enemies – namely, from himself and his party – to some imaginary danger, one which he had warned about so often that in the minds of many of his foolish followers it was very real. As the old saying goes: tell a lie, tell it often enough, and the people will believe it as truth.