Most countries in Africa received their independence at least three decades ago and since then, they have gone through great suffering. These countries have experienced dire poverty, tribal and ethnic violence, catastrophic diseases, reliance on cash crops, and lack of democracy. The southern African nation of Zimbabwe is no exception. However, that might all change after the results of the recent Zimbabwean presidential election are announced.
The current Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, has ruled the country ever since it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1980. After the recent elections on March 29, independent observers are stating that Mugabe’s days in power are now numbered.
Even though the results of the elections are not out yet, the Zimbabwe Electoral Committee, which is a group of civil society organizations, has said that its random sampling of different polls show Mugabe’s opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change party, ahead with a little over 49 percent of the vote.The same sampling showed that Mugabe came second with 42 percent and Simba Makoni, an independent candidate, came with eight percent of the vote. If these numbers reflect the actual outcome, then that would mean Tsvangirai has to run against Mugabe in a run-off. In order to avoid a run-off, Tsvangirai has to win over 50 percent of the vote.
Mugabe also seems to be losing control of parliament as well. The latest results show that his party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, has won 85 out of 210 seats while Tsvangirai’s MDC has won 90, which includes the seats won by its breakaway faction. There are still 35 seats left to be accounted for.
What has brought about this sudden threat to Mugabe’s complete consolidation of power for the past 28 years? Like many African freedom fighters that were hailed as heroes in their fight for their country’s independence from colonial rule, Mugabe has succumbed to the overwhelming temptation of power. It has definitely been due to his disastrous and corrupt policies that have crippled both the economy and the nation. The International Monetary Fund estimated in January 2008 that the inflation in Zimbabwe increased to 150,000 percent from 115,000 percent in December of last year.This, no doubt, has made Zimbabwe one of the worst economic performers in the continent. According to CNN.com, part of the reason why the Zimbabwean economy took a plunge is due to “Mugabe’s land redistribution policies, including his controversial seizure of commercially white-owned farms in 2000. Mugabe gave the land to black Zimbabweans he said were cheated under colonial rule, and white farmers who resisted were jailed.”
Another reason why the Zimbabweans are frustrated with Mugabe is the lack of human rights. The political opposition is crushed due to different tactics used by governmental cronies allied with Mugabe. These tactics include unlawful arrests and torture. In fact, Tsvangirai was beaten severely by the police in a rally held by the MDC last year.
Due to Mugabe’s mistreatment of power, life expectancy in the country has drastically declined. The average life expectancy in the country is 35 years old, giving the country one of the lowest life expectancies in the world.
As the international community waits impatiently for the results to be announced, one thing is certain: the Zimbabweans have loosened the tight grip Mugabe has over the fate of their country. The recent developments in the country are surprising. One can only hope that if Mugabe loses, Zimbabwe will haunt the dreams of the remaining strongmen that have ruined their countries due to corruption and also foster the desire for democracy within the hearts of the African people who are suffering under repression.