Robert Mugabe is determined to hold onto power until his last breath. The 89-year-old President and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party have been ruling the sub-Saharan nation since its inception as an independent state in 1980.
On July 31, Mugabe will vie for “re-election” once again, yet this time he may face real opposition.
Mugabe’s primary opponent in the upcoming elections is Zimbabwe’s current Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe’s political rival and a staunch advocate for exposing the “true nature” of the “dictator’s” autocratic rule. Human rights groups have called foul on multiple instances concerning the fairness of Zimbabwe’s prior elections.
Mugabe hasn’t been in power for 30+ years by a few strokes of luck. As the head of government, he has used its agencies to ensure that his reelection runs smoothly, even if those measure insist upon using the tried and true tactic of using the military to dissuade and, if needed, eliminate opposition activists.
Mugabe, however, previously insisted that he has been fair and forthcoming in his political activities, saying, “People are free to campaign and they will be free to vote. There won’t be any soldiers, you know, at the queues. Anyone who has the right to vote is free to go and cast his vote anywhere in his own area, in his own constituency.”
An anonymous whistleblower that goes by the pen name “Baba Jukwa” has provided information to the contrary of Mugabe’s claims. Jukwa has leaked information suggesting the possibility that the Mugabe-led government is engaging in plans to fix the upcoming elections through measures of coercion and, if need be, assassination. The President offered a $300,000 reward to anyone who can reveal the true identity of “Baba Jukwa”; this revelation can only further suspicion that Mugabe is engaging in his prior tyrannical behavior, and therefore is likely hell-bent on winning at all costs.
Given Zimbabwe’s history under Mugabe, Tsvangirai has expressed skepticism regarding the likely fairness of the upcoming elections. The most recent Zimbabwean presidential “elections,” held in 2005 are widely believed to have been fraudulently rigged by Mugabe. While at a rally, Tsvangirai told his supporters, “”We participate with a heavy heart… We have tried our best over the last four years, against serious resistance from our counterparts in government, to ensure that this country is prepared for a genuine, free, fair and credible election.
Should Tsvangirai prevail in the upcoming elections, some worry the power shift could open up a “Pandora’s box” of issues for Zimbabwe. Would a Tsvangari presidency usher in a more transparent administration advocating for liberty and prosperity, or would Zimbabwe just fall prey to the same thuggish tactics wielded from the cover of a highly centralized seat of power under a different name?
With the upcoming presidential elections fast approaching, the minds of many a Zimbabwean may be less concerned with the long-reaching implications of Tsvangirai’s election than their more urgent desire: just to see a man other than Robert Mugabe leading their nation, a prospect that is in and of itself, to many of the ountry’s population, worth fighting for.