Monday, 9 November 2009

Andrew from Zimbabwe

We were back at Macardi camp for two days when I got chatting to Andrew – a driver with one of the other overland companies. Andrew is from Zimbabwe. I asked what the situation was like in Zimbabwe and he started to tell me about Zimbabwean politics and what happened during the elections last year.

He explained that at election time, most of Mugabe’s supporters could be found in the countryside whilst supporters of the opposition were mostly urbanites. In order to try and rig the elections, Mugabe’s lot had some rather underhand tactics.

First, he plied those living in the countryside with food and supplies to ensure that they would vote for him. Those who were suspected of supporting the opposition were either deprived of food or worse, had their houses burnt to the ground (if they were lucky they weren’t inside at the time). Those living in the cities who supported their families in the countryside were banned from heading home. Instead, they would have to let a Mugabe officer know they wanted to see their family and the officer would arrange for the family to meet in a public space such as a supermarket car park where their entire conversation was monitored.

During the elections, people disappeared. A favourite trick was for someone to strike up conversation with you in a bar and casually bring the topic of discussion round to politics. If there was even a hint that you supported the opposition, the Mugabe spy posing as your friend would arrange drinks with you the following day whereby you would be picked up and taken away, never to be seen again.

Finally, Mugabe officers would also confiscate ID off those supporting the opposition to prevent them from voting at all.

After the elections, Mugabe’s officers and spies were disbanded as he was unable to pay them. Unfortunately, they weren’t welcome back to their local communities because people knew they’d worked for Mugabe and committed atrocities. When everything subsided, most of them fled the country in favour of South Africa leaving behind a legacy of people suffering various mental ailments after witnessing horrific scenes of violence towards family members and friends.

Andrew explained that since the election everything has settled down in Zimbabwe. He knows that the election was rigged and that Mugabe should not be in power after losing the election but seems resigned to the fact that it would be better for him to be in power than for the destabilization that occurred in the country last year.

Out in the countryside, the opposition members are now rebuilding those homes that were burnt down and are replacing traditional mud huts with palm leaf roofs with homes built out of asbestos sheeting that are less flammable. My question to Andrew was: ‘In the next election won’t this prove dangerous as the Mugabe lot will merely target those homes built by the opposition?’. Andrew looked solemn and didn’t answer.

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