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Since it has become clear that Mugabe and Zanu PF cannot be removed through the ballot, there is need for the UN, EU, UK and the US to change their policy on Zimbabwe. It appears that sanctions and the policy of international isolation of Mugabe and his cronies have not been successful. Infact, what has happened is that the majority of Zimbabweans are the ones directly affected by the targeted sanctions. If the West can afford to engage Gaddafi of Libya and Kim Jong ll of North Korea, honestly what can stop them engaging ‘little’ Mugabe for the sake of the suffering Zimbabweans. It appears, there are double standards when it comes to dealing with the Zimbabwean issue. The West is gradually drifting away and Zimbabwe now runs the risk of being a forgotten state for as long as Mugabe and his Zanu PF party are still in charge. Some argue that Mugabe could have survived the onslaught of the West if he had perhaps behaved like some of the benevolent dictators such as Mahatir Mohammed of Malaysia, who used his power to make his country prosperous not misdirecting the power of the state towards defenceless innocent civilians whose mere crimes are to ask for their freedom.

What Impact does the March Elections have on Zimbabwe?

There has been a lot of enthusiasm recently following Dr Makoni’s entry into the gladiatorial presidential contest, which for many years now has always been a duel affair between lethargic and calamitous Mugabe and the hugely popular but not very inspirational Morgan Tsvangirai. The two choices have not been very appealing though one would have preferred the later for obvious reasons. It appears this year’s presidential contest may change the course of politics though not in a significant way. Dr Makoni’s entry into the contest is a significant factor as his impact is likely to be felt in largely urban areas particularly, amongst the working class and Zanu PF moderates. These people are increasingly becoming disillusioned by Mugabe’s longevity in power and suspicious of his ambitions for a life presidency. Dr Makoni is a very intelligent, able and a tested leader but the big question remains, why did it take him so long to throw his hate into the race? Dr Makoni may be by far the most qualified person to lead Zimbabwe and repair several years’ damage inflicted on the country but politics being a game of numbers, he may not be able to garner enough votes to unseat his former boss and veteran octogenarian Zanu PF leader, Mugabe. It is reality that Dr Makoni has no solid grassroots base which Mugabe and Tsvangirai enjoy, and this may work against him. However, it is true that Dr Makoni’s task is difficult but certainly not impossible if he and his public supporters work hard. Hopefully, the MDC Mutambara factor will play a significant role in his bid for presidency. The most likely thing to happen is that Dr Makoni and Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC candidate may share the urban vote and leave Mugabe with a narrow lead courtesy of the rural vote which is easy to manipulate.

Tsvangirai, MDC will certainly gain a significant proportion of the rural vote but it may not be enough to grant him tenancy at State House. On the whole, it appears Mugabe will sail through albeit with a very slender margin and become president for term due to the division of votes between Dr Makoni and Tsvangirai. The one thing for certain is that under free and fair elections Mugabe and Zanu PF will be lucky to win 30% of the vote in today’s political climate. No party will emerge with a clear majority in parliament and this may also lead to a kind of hung parliament, first of its kind in Zimbabwe.

Again, the above situation brings us back to the Kenyan elections of the 1990s in which the combined efforts of Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki failed to unseat Daniel Arap Moi. However, if the opposition is serious about changing the status quo, it is still not too late for either Dr Makoni or Tsvangirai to withdraw from the elections if either of them entertains any chance of unseating determined Mugabe. Some analysts are saying that the reason why Mugabe was not publicly angry with Dr Makoni’s candidature is because he knew for sure that his entry into the race would almost certainly be to his advantage.

My message to the people of Zimbabwe is that they should brace themselves for a situation similar to that of recent Kenya in which the elections results were seriously disputed and still being contested. Mugabe’s legitimacy after elections will be heavily contested if he wins elections as expected. Time has come for Zimbabweans to choose change than drift further into political wilderness. Change will not come if they vote for life presidency ahead of democracy and a new dispensation in Zimbabwe. Only Dr Makoni and Tsvangirai carry the hope for a future prosperous Zimbabwe and they need the support of every sensible and progressive minded Zimbabwean. It’s a pity that those of us in the Diaspora are only perceived by the establishment as mere footnotes of our own history in Zimbabwe, denied our democratic right to vote and consigned to political irrelevance.

In conclusion, once again, I wish to emphasise that time has now come for African leaders particularly those in SADC to call a spade a spade and stop dictatorships and the economic demise of Zimbabwe. The era of empty rhetoric and misguided solidarity at the expense of people’s lives should be condemned accordingly. It goes without saying that a stable, viable and democratic Zimbabwe has the potential to be the engine of economic growth and social development in the region. Zimbabwe enjoys the highest adult literacy rate in Africa at about 90% (OCED) and a very educated work force unparalleled in Africa. The above attributes coupled with the vast resources in the country provide a strong basis for significant economic development in the region, if democratic efforts are supported in Zimbabwe.

Crisford is a political commentator based in London, England.

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