Introduction: The Zimbabwe Crisis
This special issue on the 2008 Zimbabwe elections introduces the issues surrounding the elections and the current political violence leading up to the June 27th Presidential run-off. The first article, by political scientist Norma Kriger, provides a helpful analysis of what took place during the March 29th elections, the subsequent fallout and reworking of the results, and the decision to establish a run-off election for president.
The goal of this special issue is to help inform scholars and students about the events leading up to, during, and after the elections, and help inform concerned scholars of the details and analysis often left out of the mainstream news sources. One such contribution comes from The Rev. Dr. Jimmy Dube, who teaches theology and ministers in the Harare area. His article highlights the difficulties Methodist church leaders and their congregations continue to face, and calls on the Methodist church leadership to take a more prophetic and courageous stance vis a vis the current crisis than it has up to now. Dube’s article was written prior to the election, but it gives readers a clear indication of the crisis in Zimbabwe. Another article written before the election comes from political scientist Augustine Hungwe, who details the tensions in southern Africa over the continued support by key leaders, especially South African president Thabo Mbeki, for Robert Mugabe and the ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front). Hungwe’s perceptive analysis foreshadowed the regional crisis the election results created, and highlights the roadblocks to any meaningful intervention of regional leaders on behalf of the Zimbabwean people.
Historian and political analyst Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni provides an in-depth analysis of Robert Mugabe’s continued efforts to use the rhetoric of anti-imperialism and the liberation war to defend his hold on the leadership. Ndlovu-Gatsheni’s insights into the presidential candidates, including Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangarai, and others provide a window into the national and regional meaning of “Zimbabwe nationalism”, and the difficulties that reliance on a historicized ultra-nationalism presents for any candidate attempting to confront the militarized state under ZANU-PF’s control.
Political scientist, historian, and journalist David Moore provides insights into the often difficult task of reporting on the Zimbabwe elections from Harare and South Africa. Moore’s honest assessment of this difficult task, and the insightful articles he has included from the last month’s coverage, particularly his attempt to inform North American and South African readers of the complexities involved beyond the headlines, shows how an engaged scholarship can enter into the journalistic world.
Amy Ansell, Department of Sociology, Bard College, begins with a succinct review of the relationship between white commercial farmers and the state since 1980. The piece then details how the March 29 elections ushered in an intensified series of attacks and intimidation against white commercial farmers, whom the government views as a particularly threatening source of potential opposition plots. The post-election violence against white farmers was dubbed by Mugabe as a “Final Solution” against those the government has deemed in need of eradication in order that Zimbabwe might “never be a colony again.”
Peta Thornycroft, a well-known and very courageous Zimbabwean journalist, has spent the last few weeks investigating first the disappearance and then the tragic torture and death of MDC-activist Tonderai Ndira in Harare. Thornycroft’s lead story of the discovery of his body, dumped unceremoniously at the morgue in Harare’s central hospital, shows the brutal nature of the violence being carried out by the state and its paramilitary groups before the run-off elections.
The issue concludes with a brief summary of recent political violence in a letter written by an American NGO worker from Harare on May 8th–just as news of increased violence against MDC supporters began to arrive in the capital. This is followed with and OPED on political violence before the presidential run-off election. Finally, thanks to Augustine Hungwe, we offer a listing of on-line resources for further research.
The original idea for this special issue came out of the first meeting of the Zimbabwe Scholars Group. The ZSG was formed at the African Studies Association Meeting in New York City, on October 19, 2007. The ZSG seeks to provide a better understanding and awareness of the challenges the Zimbabwe situation presents to an international community. Anyone interested in joining the ZSG should email the editors below or contact us at our blog: http://zimbabwesg.blogspot.com
We would like to thank Jesse Benjamin, the editor of the ACAS Bulletin, for his assistance and patience in putting together this special issue.
We would also like to thank the contributing authors for what they have shared; much of it had to be written under rushed conditions. We believe they share our concern for the people of Zimbabwe, our desire to see a more fully accurate picture of what is happening there be distributed widely, and we know that this bulletin’s contributors who remain based in Zimbabwe are courageous people.
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