Opposition parties in Zimbabwe have reportedly welcomed U.S. President George Bush’s demand that next month’s general elections should be free and fair. President Bush, who is on his second African tour, called Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe a dictator who is presiding over staggering inflation and harsh repression of his people. Bush pledged America’s support for freedom in the country, urging neighboring countries to help solve the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe. Sydney Masamvu is a Zimbabwean with the International Crisis Group in South Africa. From the capital, Pretoria, he tells reporter Peter Clottey that President Bush’s rhetoric would put pressure on President Mugabe.
“First of all, I want to make a qualification that what President Bush is saying is quite in sync with the behavior of President Robert Mugabe. And his (President Bush’s) description of him (President Mugabe) fits the bill and his comments are plausible in so far as they only help to up the pressure. But I must stay in the over all sense that the American line on Zimbabwe, especially some of their rhetoric statements have actually been counter-productive to some extent in trying to have leverage and influence of the resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis,” Masamvu pointed out.
He doubts whether President Bush’s statement would have any significant impact on how this month’s elections would be conducted.
“I think mere talking is not going to change anything. Actually what is needed are practical actions involving all actors, internationally and in the regions to really exert practical pressure. Mere talking or issuing of statements, especially from the west, Mugabe will just dismiss them with the content they deserve,” he said.
Masamvu called on the international community to help resolve the ongoing economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe.
“I think it’s about time for all well-meaning countries within the region and internationally to lay the rule on Mugabe and make sure that they outline practical steps or measures, which they will take to bear pressure on him (Mugabe) as an individual, and as a leader of a country to follow certain principled lines to guarantee free and fair elections in Zimbabwe and the resolution of the crisis, failure of which there should be measures to enforce those resolutions. In other words, there should be defined carrot and sticks,” Masamvu noted.
He said Zimbabweans are weary the March elections are not going to be credible.
“As the opposition leadership has said and as any Zimbabwe watcher who is conversant with the situation on the ground, the Zimbabwe elections have got predetermined elections results. There is a flawed process. Nothing has been done to open up the political space to guarantee and uncontested election contest, which will yield an undisputed result. So in a sense, nothing has changed practically on the ground to warrant a free and fair election, and as such we are going to experience the same motion and rituals, which we’ve had in the last elections and, which had got a predetermined outcome,” he said.