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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs