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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor 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.
Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisisi
X
March 06, 2015 12:28 AM
There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Winter Weather Strikes Eastern US...Again!

A new wintry blast has hit more than 20 states in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, adding more snow to the piles from previous storms. Tired of shoveling snow, breaking the ice and dealing with accidents, flight delays and property damage, most Americans hope this is the last bout of cold for the season. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Myanmar's Traditional Fashion Choices Endure

The sartorial choices of Myanmar’s men and women quickly catch the eye of any visitor to the tropical Southeast Asian country. But at a time when Myanmar’s political and economic opening is bringing affordable western fashions to the masses, will the country’s unique fashion trends endure? VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Yangon explores that question.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More