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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs