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Update from Zimbabwe

  • Derek Carlsen,
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Brief Update after the Zimbabwean Presidential Elections held on 9-11 March, 2002.

What everyone dreaded, though didn’t believe was possible, has happened—Mugabe has managed to steal the election. How he did it is by an unbelievable and blatant demonstration of utter contempt for anything that is just or fair. The nation as a whole is still in a state of shock and utter disbelief.

Church umbrella bodies in Zimbabwe have rejected the results. The EU, Britain and the Commonwealth have rejected the result, as has the USA. South Africa has kind of accepted them at the time of writing which is a massive disappointment as it is really only South Africa that can put the necessary pressure on Mugabe to make him comply with even the most rudimentary aspects of justice. The South African President has yet to announce his own personal views on the issue. Should he continue with the immoral support for Mugabe that is leaking out of his government at this time, then it will be clear that his great ambition is actually not an "African Renaissance" but a "Renaissance of Oppression"—ironic, but true.

A total of over 1400 opposition election monitors and support group
members had been arrested by the time the results of the election were announced and this began the eve of the election. The only explanation for this is that the ruling party didn’t want any eyes seeing what they were doing. Violence and the threat of violence was terrible and succeeded in chasing monitors and voters away from many rural polling stations. In the capital, Harare, the amount of polling stations were reduced by 40%, in the not so subtle plan to prevent thousands of people from casting their vote. In the end some people queued for days without even voting, because the strategy was also to process as little 30 voters an hour when there were thousands and thousands waiting in each que. This is not even going into the debacle and manipulation of the voter’s roll and the electoral act and the untold thousands that were disenfranchised in that way. There were a number of cases too where polling stations never appeared in the places it had been published they would appear and many others appeared in places that were unpublished. One polling station in the Manicaland area was closed at 12 noon on the first day of polling by "war veterans".

In areas where Mugabe has had hardly any support for 22 years, he suddenly recorded massive support. In areas where opposition observes weren’t present (due to being arrested or intimidated) there were near perfect turn outs—with huge numbers "voting" for Mugabe. With so few independent observers allowed to monitor what was going on and since there were so many places where the opposition polling agents couldn't get to, Mugabe's forces did what they wanted. The Secret police (CIO) made up most if not all of the "Independent" Electoral Commission. The ex head of Military intelligence was head of the Electoral Supervisory Commission and the Chief Elections Officer was an army Brigadier. The army and police transported the ballot boxes from polling booths to counting centres and at times arrested those who wanted to follow these ballot boxes to the counting centres. Some counting centres were only monitored government agents.

The police sent out a signal (which a number of reputable people saw), to all police stations around the country on the second day of voting ordering the police to arrest all opposition polling agents and support group members and a flurry of arrests, beatings, kidnappings and harassments followed. There are reports that there have been 70 000 documented cases of human rights abuses in the run-up to and during these elections.

Mugabe said, even before the results were announced, that he would, when re-elected, deal with the church leaders who opposed him. He is yet to make his "victory" speech so we don't know what his strategy is going to be—he has a history of playing the gently dove for a season after an election, but he might go straight on with his campaign of terror without a break. The opposition are very angry and have said that the courts (which are now stacked with Mugabe's men) will not help so they are going to go for a political answer, though we don't know what they mean by that. The situation is very tense.

We continue to trust our sovereign Lord. He knows what is best and knows that to make us more like Christ, this is the best route at this time. We continue to pray that we might be found faithful and serve Christ by serving the many desperate needs around us, for His glory and Kingdom. We continue in faith mixed together with works. To God be all the glory.

  • Derek Carlsen

Derek Carlsen is a native Zimbabwean and received his theological training through George Whitefield College, Cape Town, South Africa (L.Th. 1992) and Whitefield Theological Seminary, Lakeland, Florida, USA (M.Miss. 1999 and D.Miss. 2001). He’s served as a pastor in Zimbabwe and helped pioneer a Christian school with his wife Elise. His Reason of Hope Ministries in Zimbabwe prints and distributes Christian literature in southern Africa. Derek is the author of three commentaries: Faith and Courage: A Commentary on Acts; That You May Believe: A Commentary on John’s Gospel; and soon to be released, Grace and Law: A Commentary on Galatians. Derek and Elise have been blessed with three children.

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