Despite the international community widely condemning Zimbabwe’s election results as fixed, President Robert Mugabe has told the opposition to “go hang” and has vowed that there will be no election re-run, sparking fears he may be preparing to amp up violence in the country in order to consolidate his power.
Speaking during a staged event to commemorate the veterans of Zimbabwe’s war for independence on Monday, 89-year-old President Mugabe said in typical bullish fashion that critiques in the West and his political opponents should commit suicide if they are not willing to accept his hotly contested re-election.
“Those who were hurt by defeat can go hang if they so wish,” Mugabe told the thousands attending the the rally. “If they die, even dogs will not sniff at their corpses. [...] Never will we go back on our victory.”
Regarding criticism from the West, Mugabe repeated this sentiment, saying, “We are delivering democracy on a platter. Will you take? We say take it or leave it. We will never go back on our victory.”
Mugabe was declared the winner of the Zimbabwe election in late July, apparently winning 61% of the vote against current Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s 34%. PM Morgan Tsvangirai has claimed that the election was rigged and, for his part, has launched a legal bid to expose what he claims was glaring abuses of the election process.
Tsvangirai’s party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), lodged a legal challenge on Friday, July 9, with the Constitutional Court in an attempt to have the election rerun and break Mugabe’s 33-year rule.
Tsvangirai has previously called the election a “huge farce,” telling the press, “The credibility of this election has been marred by administrative and legal violations which affected the legitimacy of its outcome. It’s a sham election that does not reflect the will of the people.”
Indeed, Western observers noted reports of intimidation from Mugabe’s political party Zanu PF, flat out threats of violence and compromised election procedures. William Hague, Britain’s foreign secretary, said in a statement that the irregularities meant there were “serious question the credibility of the election.” Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry went so far as to to say, “The United States does not believe that the results announced today represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people.”
The MDC alleges in its court case that it has concrete evidence of bribery, so-called “assisted voting” and manipulation of the electoral roll to favor the sitting president.
While those claims will have to be verified by the courts, they mirror concerns that were raised in 2008 when Mugabe and Tsvangirai found themselves in a similar position with Mugabe refusing to yield power despite concerns surrounding the election. It also follows plentiful evidence of President Mugabe and his Zanu PF party’s use of violence, intimidation and manipulation of the black liberation cause to further their aims and retain power since that time.
Mugabe’s appearance at the veterans commemoration gathering on Monday used much the same themes, promising that under his leadership Zimbabwe would move into the final phase of so-called ”Indigenisation.”
His previous efforts took the form of more often than not forcibly reclaiming white-owned farms, something that is a complex issue but is widely remarked on has having at least contributed in large part to Zimbabwe’s devastating economic collapse between 2000-2009 that saw starvation and extreme poverty take hold in the country.
Mugabe vowed that his administration “will do everything” to “ensure our objective of total indigenisation, empowerment, development and employment is realized.” Part of this drive will be demanding that foreign-owned companies operating in Zimbabwe be at least 51% locally owned, something that would appear counterproductive and drive away investors rather than welcome them in.
Mugabe, while currently operating as President, cannot officially be recognized as such until the MDC court case is resolved. How long that could take, and what effect this drawn out battle might have on Zimbabwe’s already fraught political situation, is not clear, but that Zimbabwe’s troubles are not yet over seems sadly all too obvious.