Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Friday, August 27, 2004

MDC makes a fateful decision
The MDC's decision to boycott the upcoming elections in Zimbabwe if 'democratic changes' are not made is one of substantial consequence. I can't help feeling that this decision could spell the death of the MDC. Zanu-PF will never accede to the demands and the MDC will thus be forced to make good on its threat. With Mugabe's vice grip control of the Zimbabwean media, the MDC will struggle to convey any influence by shouting on the fringe of the election process. They are giving away their only voice, both locally and internationally, and the Zanu-PF should be able to make short work of reducing them to an invisible party.

A poll released yesterday and overseen by our own Institute for Democracy, found "that 46 percent of Zimbabweans now say they trust President Robert Mugabe, up from 19 percent in 1999. Seven out of 10 said they distrusted the opposition." In addition, the poll found that "fewer than one-fifth of those polled said they trusted the MDC's leader, Morgan Tsvangirai." Such is the power of state-controlled media, and the parallels are not lost on South Africans living through Apartheid SA's media control.

An MDC involved in the election would be able to point out the irregularities in the election process, highlight areas of human rights abuses during the 'democratic' process, and, probably through their own supporters' suffering, illustrate the lack of true democratic freedom in the country. Now, whilst sitting on the sidelines, it is an all but impossible mission. All but their most ardent supporters will probably take it as a signal that the MDC has lost it's direction, and will most likely bend in the political wind and settle for a 'safety first' Zanu-PF vote.

It just seems like an inexplicable decision, one taken without strategic imperative. Surely a decision to boycott should have been taken on the eve of the elections to maximise world attention of the plight of democracy in Zimbabwe. The current decision just fades them out of the political landscape with little more than a whimper. The question has to be asked, have they simply lost the will to fight? Have they given up on the opportunity for the reintroduction of true democratic principles in Zimbabwe? Perhaps they have another plan of action up their sleeves, and I sincerely hope they do, or they may not have the luxury of choice in the next election...