As Zimbabwe heads for possible polls later this year, netizens have taken to the Internet to express their views on politics, violence and the economy that would not see the light of day in the country's traditional media space.
The elections are being pushed by President Mugabe despite opposition from such diverse quarters as the regional talk shop grouping the South African Development Community (SADC), civic groups, and other political parties in Zimbabwe, who are generating the social media buzz amid fears that this could be yet another African poll that will be marred by an orgy of violence and bloodbath.
The archaic voters’ roll that lists people registered to vote has become one the major talking points among local political parties and indeed bloggers.
Gilbert Muponda argues that the Zimbabwean dollar cannot wait for elections:
A currency board prevents governments and central banks from currency manipulation. They function best when independent, separate from central banks, and have the sole purpose of providing the country’s citizens with a stable currency.
Some are not keen on a local currency though. “Let’s wait for the next election,” they say, obviously sucked into the political paralysis that the country is fast approaching. The historical trend in Africa is that elections are hotly-contested even after the election. This creates very long periods of instability which the general citizenry should seek to look and plan beyond that, leaving the usual political scheming to politicians.
Kubatana picks up commentary from Clifford Chitupa who wrote about Zimbabwe's recent ratification of a close to USD100 million grant from the China towards a state-of the art “spy centre”:
Zimbabwe’s Members of Parliament blundered by ratifying the US$98m for a spy centre on Wednesday 1st June 2011. They should have known better that the country cannot afford the multi million dollar Chinese loan nor does Zimbabwe need a defence college before rubber-stamping Zanu-pf’s suspicious project. Although, the ratification was preceded by a ‘heated debate’, it is ironic that the MPs lost sight of an appeal on the same day by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for US$6 million to continue treating Zimbabwe’s water.
It seems the MPs are not keeping their eyes on the ball because UNICEF has already given $40 million of support to water and sanitation programmes in Zimbabwe a vital necessity for everyone regardless of political affiliation, unlike the spy centre. One would have thought that Bill Gates’ advice to African countries to work harder to get life-saving vaccines to children in order to save millions of lives was heeded (AFP, 17/05/11). The founder of Microsoft and philanthropist Mr Gates puts his money where his mouth is.
Zimbabwe is least advised to take any loan at the moment because the country’s total domestic and foreign debt was US$7.1 billion as at March 31, 2011. At
105% of the Gross Domestic Product, it means every Zimbabwean owes US$500 million! It appears the country’s leaders momentarily forgot the advice given by the African Development Bank vice-president for operations, Aloysius Uche Ordu when he said:
“Arrears clearance is so important because it’s the only way to re-engage the multilateral finance institutions” (AFP, Jan 18, 2010).
MPs should be reminded that voters will be more likely to be influenced by day to day problems like ZESA blackouts and its excessive tariffs, unemployment, hunger, erratic water supplies, a potholed road network, sub-standard health and other essential services than the number of spies produced by the Chinese college. The MPs should have declined to ratify the loan agreement for the simple reason that the country cannot afford it.
Elizabeth Nyamuda links to a blog post that which makes fun of revelation that 16,800 Zimbabwean voters are 110 years old and all of them were born on New Year’s Day in 1901.
Elsewhere, Andrew Field touches on the role of army generals in Zimbabwe politics. And as elections approach, the spotlight is being beamed on the army generals who have vowed their allegiance to long time ruler Robert Mugabe. Army generals can also be found as staffers in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that oversees elections, and this raises Field's concerns:
Concerns have been rising in Zimbabwe about the predominance of the military in running the affairs of the country. Naturally, there is nothing wrong with former military officers taking the stage in politics or commerce, if they have the substance to do so, but there is clearly a move to saturate both the civil service and strategic, government-owned corporations with these strongmen. One would be forgiven for asking, ‘for what purpose?’ They would seem rather naive if they did. What we are seeing in Zimbabwe is the smart coup d’état, a gradual non-violent, but extremely intimidating infiltration of the military into power.
Coup d’état are not uniquely African, nor are they new. The earliest know coup d’état was in 509 BC when members of the Tarquin dynasty led by Lucius Brutus overthrew the King of Rome to establish the Roman Republic. It has been going on ever since. Africa has a recorded 114 coup d’état, the first being in Ethiopia in 1910 when Empress Taytu, regent of the incapacitated Emperor Menelik II was overthrown. Egypt will be remembered for one of the earlier coup d’état in Africa where, in 1952, Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Nasser overthrew King Farouk, later resulting in the Suez Crisis.
And Sokwanele blog publishes The Anatomy of Terror report, which has been compiled by Zimbabwean civic activists and researchers:
Over the past decade since 2000, there have been an enormous number of reports detailing the violence and the gross human rights violations that have accompanied Zimbabwe’s crisis. In all the reports – apart from the face-saving propaganda of the former ZANU PF government – it has been clear that the major victims have been members of the MDC [now MDC-T], as well as members of activist civic organizations such as the NCA, the ZCTU, WOZA, and others. It has also been clear that the overwhelming perpetrators have been supporters of ZANU PF, the youth militia, the so-called “war veterans”, and, most serious of all, state agents such as the police, the army, and the CIO.
As Zimbabwean netizens discuss the forthcoming elections, political violence and the role of the military in politics, the question is: “Are politicians listening?”