“The Emperor Palpatine Of African Politics”


Robert Mugabe continues to cling to power:

Describing the Zimbabwean general election last week, Olusegun Obasanjo, the head of the African Union observer mission, used the word “free” readily, but the term “fair‘‘ caught in his throat. Was the voting — based on a roll that included 1.7 million voters who are missing or dead, and featuring 35 percent more ballots than people casting them – – fair? Obasanjo shrugged, turned his hands palm up, cocked his head and uttered, ‘‘fairly.’’

The AU and the Southern African Development Community nevertheless endorsed the election, allowing Robert Mugabe, 89, the world’s longest-serving ruler, to declare victory in the presidential race, with 61 percent of the vote. His party, which had held a minority of parliamentary seats, claims to have won a two-thirds majority, enough to change the constitution on its own.

Jon Lee Anderson says Mugabe “seems determined to die in office”:

Indeed, few politicians in modern times have been as willfully enduring or as spitefully determined to hang around, wraithlike, as Mugabe.

(A notable exception is Fidel Castro, though he did step down, in 2008, after forty-nine years in power.) Earlier this week, Mugabe, the Emperor Palpatine of African politics, gave a press conference in Harare, flanked by stuffed lions and cheetahs, in which he promised to “surrender” if he lost the election. But, when speaking to Lydia Polgreen, of the Times, he scoffed about his age being a political liability: “The 89 years don’t mean anything. They haven’t changed me, have they? They haven’t withered me, they haven’t made me senile yet, no. I still have idea, ideas that need to be accepted by my people.”

Fisher reviews the dire situation inside the country:

[Since 2002] Zimbabwe’s economy actually got much worse, suffering from hyperinflation so bad that the finance ministry one day announced that it would redenominate the currency by removing ten zeros from each unit, so that a $10 billion note would become worth one Zimbabwean dollar. In February 2009, the currency ballooned in value again and the finance ministry cut 12 zeros from the denominations. That April, it suspended the currency altogether. Since then, the free-fall has slowed and the economy is not in such dire shape.

Mugabe won the 2002 election against Tsvangirai but was widely accused by election monitors of vote fraud. In 2008, Tsvangirai ran against Mugabe again. Although Tsvangirai initially won more votes, the count was close enough to require a second round of voting. Between the two rounds, violence against Tsvangirai supporters and activists was widespread, with some human rights groups accusing Mugabe’s party of setting up “torture camps.” Tsvangirai withdrew but international outrage was such that Mugabe was forced to accept a power-sharing arrangement with Tsvangirai, although it’s not clear how much power the opposition leader actually holds.

Simukai Tinhu runs through five options the opposition has to fight back against Mugabe’s latest power grab.

(Photo: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe casts his vote at a polling booth in a school in Harare on July 31, 2013. Crisis-weary Zimbabweans were voting today in a fiercely contested election dominated b Mugabe’s bid to extend his 33-year rule and suspicions of vote rigging. By Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images)