APRIL FOOL’S DAY–Wheeling and dealing in Zimbabwe and Chad Deal 1––Zimbabwe: Today, Tuesday 1 April, the results are not yet in from Sunday’s elections in Zimbabwe. The eternal ruling party of Robert Mugabe is being pushed aside by the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change, of Z. Tsanvagiri which, according to its own figures, has already won, 60% to 40%, while the official results have them “running neck to neck.”
In the course of the day we may be told who the winner is, but while waiting, we can chalk up another technique of possible election fraud to an already long list.
An old popular song was called “Thirty (or ten or fifty?) ways to leave a lover (“Take a bus, Gus)” and there are certainly at least fifty ways to rig an election.
To mention just a few:
1) stuffing the ballot box. That phrase has even entered the language. For example, the dead vote. This has been tried in Zimbabwe, but was exposed on Aljazeera TV where, voting lists in hand, the reporter accompanied by Terese Makone, running on the opposition ticket, tried to find the addresses. They ended up in a deserted countryside where 8000 people were supposed to be living and voting. Two tool sheds were supposedly housing 20 people each.
2) unstuffing the voter lists. This technique was used in the US 2000 elections, particularly in the State of Florida, where, well before election day, a Republican Bushite eliminated as many Democrats, or estimated Democrats, as possible from the voter registration lists. It is illegal for anyone to have access to these lists not empowered by the election board of the State.
3) Pre-emptive: assassinate the opposition candidate; many examples but the 1964 presidentials in the States will do. Here even a potential candidate was assassinated, first the President, then his brother. Zimbabwe may have found a new technique: the waiting game.
The elections took place on Sunday and on Tuesday morning have still not been communicated to the world. Rectification: some results have been communicated in bits and pieces. The Board of Elections is still in session in Harare.
Aljazeera’s anchorman, Kemal Santamaria, tells his viewers that every few hours a voting circumscription will be mentioned as having elected so and so many people from the government party, and so many from the opposition (there are two oppositions, but only the Tsanvagiri people are a threat to Mugabe). Not even the entire district is given as having voted for one party or the other, but only bits of it as these results dribble into Harare.
It is as if the votes for New York State, for example, were presented as so many Republican votes in Westchester county, so many Democratic votes in Nassau county; get out your pencil and start toting it up for yourself. Frustrating, says the reporter, especially since the Zimbabwe people had to stand in lines for hours and hours to vote, and now they must wait again for the results.
Why? First assumption is that Mugabe is consulting with everyone, including his friends abroad, to see how, if the polls fail him, he can stay in power for the next five years. No one expects a minor civil war like in Kenya; after all, Mugabe has controlled the army for over twenty-five years. Still, he needs time to regroup. But the longer he waits, the more people will assume he has lost, so April Fool’s Day may be the day of revelation.
Deal no. 2–– Chad. Update.
Preface: this is not intended as a report condemning African leaders for dubious practices. In the case of the 103 Children of Chad (see GR Feb 4), Nicholas Sarkozy, President of France, was so eager to complete a deal to sell Mirage fighting planes to Chad that he joined with its President, Idriss Déby, in condemning six social workers from the Zoe’s Arc organization to eight years of prison for allegedly attempting to kidnap 103 Chad children.
Yesterday the six social workers, serving out their sentence in France, were amnestied by the Chad President. I guess he had taken delivery of his French Mirages and was feeling happy and forgiving. Two months ago he was still complaining that in France the social workers would not be doing hard labor, as their original sentence had ordered.
Where are the 103 children? Somewhere in Chad. Shortly after the Zoe’s Arc people tried to rescue them, Sudan invaded Chad, and the streets of N’Djamena were “littered with bodies.” Thousands of Chadians were on the road, fleeing from the invaders. We hope that all the children in Chad are now safe somewhere, but the fate of these 103 children is particularly poignant because they did have a chance to escape.
Now they are certainly not going to school, or learning French and Arabic in safety in France. The deal between France and Chad for the Mirages has gone through, and happily the Zoe’s Arc people are free, but no one mentions the children. Their part of the deal was to be reintegrated into the suffering people of Chad. No government reports have been issued on their whereabouts. They have joined the world-wide category of the forgotten.