Day By Day

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Limits of Reform -- Mad Bobby Mugabe Cracks Down

Zimbabwe president Robert [Mad Bobby] Mugabe has begun to crack down on his opposition. In a previous post I noted that he was attemping to starve opposition centers and to inimidate, expel and even incarcerate, hostile journalists. In response to foreign pressures Mugabe had, for the past few weeks, allowed some opposition rallies to take place. The Guardian describes one such rally:

dancers in black jeans and white trainers shimmied to a hip-hop soundtrack in a dusty park. Opposition speakers implored voters to turn out in huge numbers.

"That's the only way we can stop this election being rigged," said one.

As he spoke, a Nissan minivan converted for use as a commuter bus zoomed into the clearing. Youths leaped out raising their hands in the MDC's trademark gesture, an open palm. They taped a campaign poster to the back of their van, then zoomed off, to cheers from the crowd.

Read it here.

Today that came to an end. Michael Hartnack reports:
Police on Sunday arrested nearly 200 opposition supporters after a rally in the capital, Harare, the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change said in a statement.
In response to this intimidation, AP reports:
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - One of Zimbabwe's most outspoken church leaders called Sunday for a peaceful uprising against President Robert Mugabe's autocratic rule, just days before a parliamentary election that rights groups say is already tainted from years of violence and intimidation.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube, of Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, said he was willing to put on his vestments and lead a march to Mugabe's residence himself, but feared: "If I do it, I do it alone."

"The people are so scared," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "You are not going to get that where people are so cowardly."
Read it here.

Some points to note:

1) Several of the stories on these rallies quote participants to the effect that they were inspired by Ukraine and Lebanon.

2) Opposition leaders do not expect to be able to beat Mugabe's ZANU - PF in the elections.

3) As in Egypt, an authoritarian ruler was willing to bend to foreign pressures and to allow opposition protests only so long as those protests were clearly marginal.

4) So far as I can tell, there are no pictures of hot protest babes, but I'm still looking.


Douglas Rogers has a piece in the latest LA Times on the human consequences of Mugabe's madness.

He writes:
The government has become increasingly corrupt, violence is endemic, human rights violations are among the worst in the world. Despite all this, race relations are surprisingly good. Most whites and blacks tend to see the wild rantings of the regime for the cheap opportunism they are.
The opposition has been virtually silent since [2000], its leaders beaten and jailed. Four newspapers have been closed since 2002, a dozen journalists expelled. And there's no reason to expect this week's parliamentary elections to be any less corrupt than those that have gone before.

Read the whole thing here.

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