Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 01:38:56 AM EST
Everybody in Zimbabwe is a billionaire.
There are no such things as bank bills in that country. There are pieces of paper, "bearer bonds" marked 10 million Zimbabwean dollars, almost brand new, issued in January. The notes used to have another three zeros at the end. A 10 million bearer bond is really 10 billion. It is worth a few US cents.
The billionaires in Zimbabwe are paupers.
Annual inflation is 400,000%. The shops are bare. Every day people go from bank to baker to try to buy bread. Every day people risk crocodiles to escape the country to feed their family. Babies are passed through the border razor wire and the junta gorges on the wealth of the country.
The billionaires of Zimbabwe are starving.
The people of Zimbabwe voted on Saturday. The dead of Zimbabwe voted on Saturday. Millions in exile could not vote. The rulers have still lost but are trying to deny it.
The votes of the starving billionaires are being stolen.
Diary rescue by Migeru
In the lead-up to the election the Mugabe regime used it usual tactics of intimidation and disruption of the opposition. This year there was a new departure. One of his own party had broken away and was running for President against him, a sort of African Joe Lieberman. The voter lists were purged of the living who might vote against the regime and stuffed with the names of the dead. The army and security forces voted early by post and that army of voters voted again on Saturday.
"I went to four different polling stations in the area and my name was not on any of the voters' rolls, even though I checked two weeks ago to make sure, and my name was on the voters' register then.
My grandmother's name was on the roll but she was told she could not vote this time, even though she has voted in all previous elections - she is 78. However, seven members of my family who have all passed away were on the list, including my uncle, who died a week ago and was an MDC member of parliament.
Mugabe had banned international observers except a hand picked few from his friendly neighbors. The old man still plays on his reputation as a liberation leader. Yet he breaks his promises with his closest leaders. The election reforms he promised Mbeke went for nothing. A liberation leader of a people in bondage. His happy few observers declared the election fair as we knew they would. Two from South Africa dissented, honorable men.
But where they could and when they could, the starving billionaires waited in line and voted. Voted in hope and voted for hope. They waited in patience and have waited in patience for years to try to wrestle their country away from their liberator. Time in Africa is long. The people will wait but in Zimbabwe AIDS and starvation means 39 is living on borrowed time. If you were 10 when Mugabe came to power, you are most likely dead but the army will vote for you.
People are used to waiting, used to poverty.
Earlier today, for example, we stood with Zimbabweans at a bread line. Some had been there for an hour. They were unfathomably patient. In their bags were bricks of $10-million Zimbabwean bills, the stacks barely enough to buy four small rolls.
A very few outside news organizations were allowed in the country to report the election. Others slipped in like spies. The BBC web site was cut off. Still reports came out of the courage of those pauper billionaires. They had waited, they had hoped and a rhythm of expectation seemed to be going through the country like the heartbeat of an elephantine matriarch. This time. This time. This time.
This time the opposition was more organized. The results posted at the polling place, on the flaps of tents or the noticeboards of schools were recorded, reported and collated. The corrupt election commission could not blatently falsify the results, they had to be subtle. They could only make up so many postal votes, so many stuffed ballot boxes. But subtlety took time and it was more than a day later than before when the first results trickled out.
Over the country people gathered round the few radios waiting for the results. They scurried off when the police came. Gatherings of more than 4 are banned. They know the rules, those paupler millionaires and defy them when they can. But they believed they have changed the rules, this time, this time.
And the blatent falsehoods of the electoral commission became apparent. Results for parliament dripped out and the results told the story of defeat and complicity. First six ZANU - six MDC. Then 12 ZANU - 12 MDC. The plan was obvious but they could not hide the reality of defeat. The public affairs minister is defeated. The Orwellian named Justice minister is defeated. Defeats in the heartlands of ZANU. The independent monitors believe Joyce Mujuru, the Vice President is defeated but the election commission says she won. Her husband heads the army and it is he who may finally decide the outcome.
By the end of Monday, 66 of the 210 parliamentary seats had been declared. 30 have gone to the MDC. 31 to ZANU and five to a splinter group from the MDC. The slow pace is stifling and no presidential results are out. Rumors are rife. The MDC believes that the election commission have been told to declare Mugabe the winner with 52%, they claim 60%. Independent observers believe that Morgan Tsvangirai has beaten Mugage but neither has the 50% + 1 for an outright victory. A run-off may be held. Some say Mugabe has fled for his holiday home in Malaysia. Some say the ZANU-PF leadership are fighting over who will be forced to tell Mugabe he has lost. Some say he is discussing how to get out with his life and ill gotten gains intact. Some say, some say.
The country is sleeping and waiting. The votes of the pauper billionaires have been stolen but still they have the audacity to hope for change. Perhaps, just perhaps, the thieves will be punished. Perhaps this time.