Austin Bay

Mugabe's latest trail of obscenities involves election theft, violent intimidation and more murder. Under Mugabe, elections have been little more than window dressing for his cult control of the nation. His use of the police, military and loyal militias like the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association has kept opponents intimidated and citizens terrorized.

However, his obscene economy and brutal arrogance has led to a loss of grassroots support in his own once-plaint political organization, the ZANU-PF.

Zimbabwe's March 29 presidential election confirmed this. Election observers believe that if the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, did not win the March vote outright, he came close. The MDC claimed victory. Under any circumstances, Mugabe's electoral window dressing fell, and with it fell the last media facade masking his tyranny.

Mugabe has manufactured a run-off election, scheduled for June 27, pitting him against Tsvangirai. The "war veterans" are out with their clubs and knives. The MDC claims at least 40 of its supporters have been killed since March 29. Moreover, they allege that Mugabe is plotting to assassinate Tsvangirai. Mugabe's police have repeatedly detained and harassed Tsvangirai.

Nobel Prize winner former Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa has called for international peacekeepers to ensure the elections are fair and safe. It may not matter. This week, Mugabe said he will ignore the election results. Yet the political heat on Mugabe is increasing -- primarily from Europe and the United States. The real disappointment is South Africa President Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki was supposed to help "mediate" Zimbabwe's political crisis, but his mediation has been a biased farce in favor of Mugabe.

Why? "Old radical solidarity" is one possible reason. Mbeki's memories of anti-colonial struggle produce a soft spot for Mugabe. Pray that it's blarney, but this kind of embedded, selfish bitterness from the political past does scar the present and damage the future. True or not, Mugabe continues to kill and steal, with obscene impunity.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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