News / Africa

Zimbabwe Opposition Figure Calls for 'Passive Resistance'

Roy Bennett addresses the media outside the High Court in Harare in this May 10, 2010 file photo.
Roy Bennett addresses the media outside the High Court in Harare in this May 10, 2010 file photo.
Anita Powell
Zimbabwe’s main opposition party has said Wednesday’s national vote was illegitimate because of alleged irregularities, intimidation and election tampering. 

The party’s top leader is calling for an audit, and another outspoken party leader who lives in South Africa is calling for the population to resist: not by rising up, but by doing nothing.  Exiled politician Roy Bennett is calling on fellow citizens to stop paying their bills as a way of expressing their disapproval of the vote.  

The last time large numbers of Zimbabweans stood up to President Robert Mugabe, there was a bloodbath.

That was in 2008, when the longtime president narrowly lost in the first round of a presidential election. Neither man won more than 50 percent, so a runoff was scheduled.

Rights groups said the next three months were soaked with the blood of opposition supporters who were beaten up, tortured and killed because of their votes.

The tide of violence prompted challenger Morgan Tsvangirai to pull out just a week before a runoff.  Mugabe handily won that poll, though most countries rejected the result.

So far, there has been no large-scale violence during this week’s voting, which again pitted the two rivals against each other.

But the opposition has repeatedly said that Wednesday’s election was marred by irregularities, a charge supported by rights groups and by the nation’s largest domestic observer group.

However, officials of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change are not calling for the people to rise up.  That, they warn, may bring more violence.  Instead, they want people to do nothing. Bennett explained the strategy during an interview with VOA in Johannesburg.

“The people of Zimbabwe need to show that they did speak, that they are in the majority and that they are totally dissatisfied with ZANU-PF and therefore to enter into passive resistance," said Bennett. "People should, from today onwards, stop paying any bills towards taxes, towards electricity, towards water, towards council taxes, towards council rates, and stand by with an ultimatum to the Mugabe regime, that the people of Zimbabwe need to express their voices freely and fairly.  And that until such time that genuine reforms have been made in the military, in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that allow people to have a transparent, accountable, auditable voters’ roll, and to go to the polls without fear and intimidation and totally without any military involvement, can Zimbabwe move forward, or can we set up a legitimate government and allow the people to claim the government of their choice," he said.

But Harare-based economist Godfrey Kanyenze said the proposed boycott will only hurt the boycotters.  Kanyenze is the Founding Director of the Labour and Economic Development Institute of Zimbabwe.

“It basically has a boomerang effect, it comes back to the ordinary people.  Because already we are suffering from an erratic supply of most of these utilities.  There’s hardly any water to talk about.  So basically, if you say, ‘don’t pay,’ it is going to make worse an already difficult situation," said  Kanyenze.

Kanyenze added that a boycott is unlikely to affect top officials.  He noted that 70 percent of the government budget goes towards paying civil servants.

“So it is the workers in the public sector that will actually suffer, not these senior officials.  Because the senior officials, as we already know, they’ve got alternative sources of livelihood.  They’ve cornered the diamond money.  They’ve got other sources that they can actually look at," he said.

Bennett said he expects voters to heed his call because the opposition has few options.

“I have been overwhelmed, overwhelmed, by support from the people in Zimbabwe endorsing this position," he said. "So, you know, we are never going to get the people out in the streets.  We know we are dealing with a murderous regime that’s going to kill anybody that’s down there.  We also know that my fellow colleagues in Zimbabwe, if they made a statement like I’ve made, would be arrested, put into prison, killed, or worse.  So therefore I happen to be in a position, understanding exactly how we think and what our policies and principles are, to make that call," said Bennett.

Mugabe has effectively ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, though he spent the past four years in a power-sharing government with Tsvangirai.  That coalition, which was reluctant to begin with, has now clearly come to a bitter end.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ren2000 from: London
August 02, 2013 9:17 PM
Zimbabweans have spoken and world should respect their will and move on. Surely democracy is not only valid when the Western preferred candidate wins. Why is the US still aiding a military government that has effectively staged a coupe in Egypt, and now the rhetoric on Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe rural and urban are very different, MDC were at best naive in their campaign. The stats are shocking, there are some rural constituencies where they registered less than 10% of the vote. The MDC campaign was based on the Western view of Mugabe's unpopularity, and it looks like they thought all the needed to do was to be the alternative to Mugabe. Sadly there is more to ZANU PF than just a gang of stooges following a pantomime villain.

Roy Bennett probably is overplaying his influence - it's highly unlikely there will be a mass movement following a charge from an ex-Rhodesian soldier, who smuggled diamonds to SA in the 1990s and is how calling for defiance in the safety of his hideout.

Zimbabwean should be commended for the peaceful nature of the elections.


by: Columbus Mavhunga from: Harare
August 02, 2013 1:24 PM
It is factually incorrect to refer to MDC as "opposition" for now since it is in govt.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid