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Zimbabwe: Current Issues - page 12 / 19





12 / 19



by ZANU-PF backers, including war veterans. MDC supporters were detained by police, and as noted above, several MDC members were killed by unknown assailants. Just before the vote, the Mugabe government banned NDI, the International Republican Institute, and a team of African observers sponsored by the European Union from monitoring the vote.

Nonetheless, the MDC chose to remain in the race, evidently calculating that it would gain a substantial number of seats despite the violence and intimidation. This calculation proved to be accurate, as the party won overwhelmingly in Harare and other urban areas, while taking some rural seats as well. Party leader Morgan Tsvangirai maintains that the MDC would have won control of parliament had it not been for the violence but said that the result gave the party a base for contesting the presidency in two years and the parliament once again in five. The ability to block constitutional amendments is significant, since President Mugabe has used such amendments in the past to consolidate his power.

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)

The MDC, founded in September 1999, poses a more serious challenge than any that ZANU-PF has faced. The party’s Secretary General, Morgan Tsvangirai, is a Zimbabwe labor leader, and the party has a strong base in the country’s organized labor movement. The party also seems to have backing among students and urban middle classes, who are drawn to its promises to rekindle the economy, fight corruption, and improve health care and education. In addition, the MDC supports “people driven land reform,” by which it appears to mean corruption-free redistribution to genuine small farmers, with international support and compensation for farms purchased. The Mugabe government portrays the MDC as an agent of white farmers and foreign supporters, particularly in Britain.

MDC leader Tsvangirai has been formally charged with terrorism and sabotage because of remarks made in September 2000 warning that President Mugabe would be overthrown if he did not quit. Tsvangirai, who later withdrew his remarks, maintains that his indictment, which could potentially lead to a life sentence, is part of a government campaign of harassment. The case has been referred to the Zimbabwe Supreme Court for a determination on whether the colonial law under which Tsvangirai was charged violates free speech guarantees in the constitution. Observers speculate that the government may plan to entangle Tsvangirai and other MDC leaders in legal proceedings during the run-up to the presidential elections, expected in March or April 2002.

Post-Election Developments

Some analysts had expected that ZANU-PF losses in the June 2000 election would cause President Mugabe to step back from the land-takeover confrontation and seek a compromise solution. Instead, the election outcome, which Mugabe blamed on donor hostility, the western media, white farmers, churches, and others (BBC, July 22, 2000; The Guardian, July 27, 2000), seemed only to goad Mugabe into expanding the land takeovers. By early August, government officials were stating that more than 3,000 farms would be seized and that the army would be mobilized to rapidly resettle hundreds of thousands of poor families. They portrayed the expansion as an urgent response to a pressing need for land; but critics speculated that President Mugabe was again escalating the land confrontation in order to


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