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Report on the Zimbabwean Elections to the member organisations of the South African Youth Forum

20 March 2002

The people of Zimbabwe have voted and generally expressed their will. In the election results can be read the general thinking of the people of that country.

This, of course, together with what exactly were these elections principally about, has caused much dispute between and within countries, regions and continents.

Two things became clear as the elections were approaching: one, that the issue at the centre of these elections was the land question in partnership with the poverty generally afflicting the majority of the Zimbabwean people, and two, that there was too much interest on the Zimbabwean elections and the stakes were high, to the extent that some foreign countries, especially from Europe, were playing a direct role in influencing the decision on who would the next President be, thus undermining the sovereignty of Zimbabwe.

These elections came at a time when the memory of the role of Europe during the Namibian and Mozambican elections were still fresh in our minds. In those countries too, attempts were made, not to support democracy and the free will of the people, but to impose a leadership on the African people by foreign powers.

There can be no doubt in our minds that the pattern of political events is vivid and must be staved off! If we allowed this to happen in Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, it would mean that Europe continues to rule us. It could very well be that Europe feels uncomfortable with a leadership on this continent, especially in this region, that does not tow its line, but trudges along an independent line.

Forming and supporting their own political party, establishing secret and un-licenced broadcasting stations in Zimbabwe, flooding the country with a completely hostile, partisan and arrogant media, the imposing of smart sanctions on selected government leaders, the failure to honour land reform commitments would surely have a negative outcome on the political and socio-economic situation and result in social and political instability.

Quite obviously, these, and the decline in economic growth, characterised by high inflation, landlessness, high unemployment levels and shortages of basic food such as maize would, of necessity, result in the polarisation of and the worsening of the political socio-economic situations respectively.

Both these matters, of course, played a decisive role in determining the political and socio-economic climate before the elections. Surely, they shall continue to do so even now that the elections are over.

In retrospect, both we in Africa and those in Europe should concede that before the Zimbabwean elections, we lost a golden opportunity to facilitate non-partisan political dialogue in that country, between political parties, peoples and between government and NGOs in a manner that would result in the common search for and finding of solutions to the common problems of the people of that country.

Such non-partisan facilitation and mediation of dialogue would give birth to trust from all parties and would also help that country cope with a strong opposition, a phenomenon that had not existed before.

Instead, there was clamour for interference in a manner that resolved none, but rather complicated all, of the challenges that peoples confronted.

Perforce, the pre-elections period was characterised by violence which the Western media purported to be one-sided, that is, always meted out by ZANU-PF and received by MDC. Strongly partisan itself, the foreign media objected to the partisanship of the official Zimbabwean media, both electronic and print, without looking at its own destructive and disruptive role.

This we should state boldly that the role of the Northern countries in Zimbabwe is a matter that requires much scrutiny, objectively to decide the type of partnership we shall receive and relations we shall enter into as the New Partnership for Africa┬╣s Development unfolds.

At this moment, what is principal to those of us in Southern Africa, as especially to the Zimbabwean people, is the ending of the decades-long poverty and landlessness.

Ranking as second to that, is the ending of the political conflict and the instituting of national reconciliation and healing.

We, as the ANC Youth League, accept the legitimacy of the Zimbabwean government!
We can attest to that on the days of elections themselves, the atmosphere existed for free and fair elections, and the elections machinery was up to scratch.

Post-elections, we must strive with the Zimbabwean people to cultivate and consolidate the culture of democracy and respect for human rights. This will mean that violence, from both the sides of the ZANU-PF and MDC, must be discouraged.

The ANCYL reiterates its call for the re-dress of the land question, noting that Zimbabwe is essentially an agriculture-based economy and the fact that much of the arable land belongs to the white minority. Britain must be made to honour the Lancaster House Agreement with regard to land reform.

In this regard, all of us as Africans and Europeans have a major role to play, not as antagonists of the elected government, but as friends of the Zimbabwean people. This will mean that we also find ways to co-operate and work with the new government, regardless of our feelings about and attitudes towards it, to address all these challenges that the Zimbabwean people face.

This is more so in the context that Zimbabwe, as a result of its economic hardships, faces an economic melt-down the implications of which may mean nothing to Europeans, must shall for us in Southern Africa be unbearable, not merely because of the pressure that will be increased in our respective countries, but most importantly because the Zimbabwean people are as African as we are! Their plight is ours!

Ultimately, the resolution of the Zimbabwean problems rests with the Zimbabwean people themselves. It is them that must provide leadership in finding solutions to their own problems, irrespective of political affiliation.

The suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth thus provides us with an opportunity to re-focus on that country and review the path traversed to this moment. It is a package of reconciliation that can and should make us go forward. All of us, and especially the Zimbabwean people, must from now henceforth not look back, but seize the moment to forge ahead along a new road towards a better life for all!