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The Death of Zimbabwe II

April 3rd, 2008 - 4:47 pm

Well, it looked promising there for a day or two, but reality (like most African leaders, Mugabe thinks he’s President For Life) is setting in. He has no intention of leaving power. Last news I say online said that the hotel with most foreign correspondents had been surrounded by “security forces.” Here’s an update from Ground Zero, as usual anonymous for obvious reasons:

Last night, optimism boiled over, at least for a moment. When my friend D
walked into a home where a group of us had gathered to say farewell to an
84-year-old woman about to decamp to South Africa, he high-fived everyone in
the room.

“The New Zimbabwe!” he proclaimed, unable to stop smiling.

Over dinner, his 15-year-old son offered him a bribe if he’d only give up
his last roast potato. “Not in the New Zimbabwe!” he declared. “We are now
living in a free and fair democracy without corruption.”

The table buzzed with excitement, with anticipation, with sheer relief.

I wanted to join in, to share that moment of joy with friends who have lived
through the murders of old classmates, the destruction of their businesses,
the death of their communities, the shattering of the only world they¹d ever
known.

But I couldn’t; I’ve gained too much respect for the stamina and will of Robert Mugabe & Co.

Driving home, I worried that I’d become infected with the peculiarly
Zimbabwean malady, the belief in the invincibility of Robert Mugabe. After
all, his ZANU-PF party had lost control over the House of Assembly for the
first time in 27 years. Every Western newspaper on the planet seemed poised
to write the story of the passing of the Old Man from power. They were so
confident that foreign reporters were crowding into Harare with little
regard for the fact that they were breaking the law.

I tried to buck up my spirits, but I couldn¹t quell the gnawing feeling in
my stomach that the opposition’s victory in the House elections would serve
to legitimize the entire process, providing the government with cover for
theft of the senatorial and presidential elections.

This morning, the gnawing turned to dread when the electoral commission,
which had promised to begin announcing the results of the senatorial
election, failed to appear on television, even to explain the delay.
Throughout the day, it became increasingly clear that Mugabe wasn¹t looking
for an honorable way to leave office or negotiating with the opposition. He
was preparing to win a run-off election for the presidency although the
results have yet to be announced.

Just after dinner, the head of the election observation team from the
African Union appeared on television as he departed for Ethiopia. Without
even waiting for the results, he congratulated Zimbabweans on the high
quality and professionalism of their election. Zimbabwe leads the world, he
said. Not even the United States dares hold a complex election for so many
offices at once.

Shortly thereafter, police raided the campaign headquarters of the MDC, the
leading opposition party, at the fanciest hotel in Harare. Simultaneously,
security forces stormed into a hotel filled with foreign journalists, whose
presence here violates the law because they are operating without licenses,
and took several of them away.

I am not gloating at my prescience. I’m weeping with the rest of Zimbabwe.

UPDATE: NY Times star reporter arrested.

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