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C o n c l u s i o n Chaos Averted or Merely Postponed? Whether 2008 was a pivotal moment of change for Zimbabwe, signaling the end of the crisis opened by the February 2000 referendum, remains undecided more than one year after the coalition government between ZANU-PF and the two MDCs was sworn in. Despite a deeply flawed process and the unending repression—in addition to the depressing rift between the two MDC factions—there was an atmosphere of desperate expectation in the country on the eve of the 29 March harmonized elections (for the first time presidential, parliamentary, and urban council elections being held the same day). The nearly complete collapse of the economy had reduced ZANU-PF’s patronage money and further eroded its support—including in the rural areas, where the MDC could penetrate for the first time since 2000, and where Tsvangirai received an enthusiastic welcome from the people. However the electoral process turned sour when it became clear in the early hours of 30 March 2008 that Mugabe had lost dismally. In the following weeks ZANU-PF resumed its violent tactics to once again steal the presidential election. But this desperate attempt to retain power at all cost created an uproar abroad not only in the West this time but also in Africa, and especially among some of Zimbabwe’s SADC neighbors. Peer pressure within the AU and the SADC forced Mugabe into the reluctant acceptance of a power-sharing formula formalized in the 15 September 2008 agreement creating a tripartite government. Still, it took another six months to have the Cabinet sworn in and in the meantime the country’s situation worsened dramatically. Chaos Averted or Merely Postponed? 255 The Electoral Holdup Although the SADC mediation in 2007 failed to produce the overhaul of the constitutional and legal framework demanded by the two MDC factions, Mugabe needed an electoral victory seen as legitimate enough to restore his relations with the donor community (including the lifting of personal sanctions) and obtain a financial rescue package for the Zimbabwean economy. There were limited changes to the Electoral Act, a slightly improved access to state media (opposition parties’ paid advertisements were aired after some legal wrangles), and the two MDC factions were allowed to campaign in the rural areas closed to them de facto since 2000, attracting huge crowds in the process.1 Nevertheless, the state-orchestrated violent repression against the Tsvangirai-led MDC-T and civil society went on until the end of February and slowly abated closer to the election date, especially when SADC and AU observers arrived. Moreover, the playing field was still skewed in favor of the ruling party with a chaotic voters’ roll, no voting rights for the diaspora, a systematic gerrymandering of constituencies, and the use of government apparatus and money to support Mugabe’s campaign. ZANU-PF used its routine campaign kit: increasing the pay for traditional chiefs and headmen (yet in worthless Zimbabwean dollars), denying food aid to suspected MDC supporters (but free seeds and fertilizer for loyal supporters ), in addition to intimidating the rural folk through the deployment of War Vets and ‘‘green bombers.’’ Three weeks before the elections, Mugabe signed the controversial Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Bill requiring foreign- and white-owned firms, including banks and mining corporations, to hand over majority stakes to black businessmen in an attempt to revive the indigenization policy of the mid-1990s and placate criticism from black entrepreneurs on the government’s economic mismanagement. As in 2002 and 2005, the MDC factions fought the 2008 elections without real hope of winning the contest—‘‘under protest’’ for the MDC-T, whose leaders have contemplated boycotting but yielded to calls from grass-root supporters. The division between MDC-T and MDC-M (the faction led by Mutambara and Ncube) was more entrenched than ever after renewed attempts to sign a reunification agreement formally collapsed on 3 February, when the two factions failed to agree on the mere issue of the distribution of parliamentary seats.2 While the MDC-T was unwilling to support outgoing MDC-M MPs, not only in Harare but also in Bulawayo and Matabeleland provinces, the MDC-M leadership was reluctant to support Tsvangirai’s candidacy in the presidential elections, stating in private that he was no better than Mugabe. Clashes occurred in Tsvangirai’s party in November 2007 after the head of the party’s 256 Conclusion women’s league, trade unionist Lucia Matibenga, was...


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MARC Record
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