Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Stealing the Votes of the Starving Billionaires

by libdemfop 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.

with one slight alteration to get a cadence right. I was trying to write more of a blank verse tribute to the people of Zimbabwe than linking every image.

I hope it succeeds and hope you "enjoy".

by libdemfop on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 05:11:13 AM EST
Thank you, great writing.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 01:39:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For background, also read Nomad's Zim Elections: Here There Be Monsters.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 05:43:44 AM EST
They're getting more and more pent up. I've now experienced the calmest man I've ever met, another refugee from Zim, raise his voice, bundling up with frustration.

The ZEC has now declared 141 constituencies for the parliament:

Zanu PF: 69
MDC Tsvangirai: 67

In other words, still going strong with my hypothesis.

The PVT (Parallel Vote Tabulation) website here, shows different results.

This is Zimbabwe

Parallel Vote Tabulation involves observation of the voting and counting of ballots at the polling stations, and independent tabulation of these results, parallel to those results released by the formal election authorities (ZEC). We cannot confirm at this stage whether the PVT results provided here will change.

Because the results were posted in full view outside the polling stations on completion of the counting process, the information contained is legally available to the public domain. Various bodies, including both formations of the MDC, have been able to carry out a PVT exercise of their own and have announced that the opposition has won 155 seats out of the 210 constituencies.

An important news report is currently being aired by the Zim state - I'll can chime in later.

And still exactly ZERO results reported for the presidential votes.

As I wrote yesterday as well, the question is not if rigging is taking place and if Mugabe will be beaten, the question is: what will happen when Mugabe is declared the winner?

by Nomad on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 03:05:43 PM EST
Thank you for this vivid, eloquent diary.
by cambridgemac on Tue Apr 1st, 2008 at 09:53:21 PM EST

portrait of everything that we mean by "a failed state".

also chilling:  how close the so-called Western Democracies seem to be to a comparable level of corruption and nepotism, meaningless "election" rituals with predetermined outcomes, their hopeful/hopeless electorates going through the motions of the ritual, praying for some kind of real change while the denizens of Richistan keep padding their pockets...

the haunting question is, once a state has failed to a certain extent, sunk to a certain point of shameless, open corruption, how is it possible to recover?  as with so many issues facing us, the critical focus of our time seems to be Repair.  we have inherited a lot of deeply broken stuff, how do we begin to fix it -- especially over the determined resistance of those who like things just fine as they are?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Apr 2nd, 2008 at 01:52:40 AM EST
the haunting question is, once a state has failed to a certain extent, sunk to a certain point of shameless, open corruption, how is it possible to recover?
You need to start from scratch, building an entirely new state from the foundation of society.

In the particular case of Zimbabwe, how do you bring inflation from 400,000% annually to something manageable like, say, 40%. You don't do it gradually but radically, if at all.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 01:44:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Calling Augean Country Solutions.....?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 05:19:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 06:04:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]

In Germany, through a world war. In Russia, through (re)nationalising abundant and valuable natural resources. Argentina was never that bad compared to the other examples, was it?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 at 12:15:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's all in flux. The senate results are now in the open, unsurprisingly won by Mugabe's Zanu-PF. It's irrelevant - it's the presidential result that matters.

And those matters have now become unconstitutional as the ZEC still has refrained from releasing the results - now 4 days after the legal deadline (past Saturday).

As everyone knows by now, violence is raking up, mostly instigated by the war veterans. What Mugabe's strategy is, is anyone's guess. It is clear he has eluded to answer the crucial question I phrased upthread: what would happen when Mugabe declares himself the winner? The solution: don't declare yourself or anyone else a winner.

This obviously cannot hold.

The legal case the MDC has started to enforce the release of the presidential results from the ZEC has just adjourned and will continue tonight:

Zimbabwe High Court adjourns hearing

THE High Court of Zimbabwe has adjourned a case which is trying to force the country's Electoral Commission to release the results of the presidential election held 11 days ago amid reports of irregularities by the ruling party in the counting and recording of results.


The Electoral Commission's lawyers have been vigorously opposing the attempt by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to force it to release the results, saying first that the court had no jurisdiction, then that the matter was not urgent, and finally that the demand was impractical.


The court will resume hearing the case tonight.

The suspicion of the MDC, and many people, is that the IOC (Mugabe's elite force) and the war veterans are trying to stir up trouble to instigate violence - after which Mugabe will declare martial law. Zanu-PF has also declared that the ZEC hosts traitors and that it will be "purged".

To me, the silence of neighbouring African countries is a tell-tale how difficult many governments still struggle with accepting that also black governments fail. The excuse Mbeki has been plying, that he can't say anything until the results are there, should no longer fly now the results are being withheld.

In the meantime, Zambia has put his security forces on high alert, and I will bet on it SA has done the same. One guy who was my source for anecdotal evidence is going back in to get his two kids (8 and 10) out - illegally.

The build-up is relentless; a climax must come.

by Nomad on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 05:21:49 AM EST

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]