March 15, 2005


Wisps of democracy in Zimbabwe: The Mugabe-run African nation holds parliamentary elections on March 31. (Abraham McLaughlin, 3/16/05, The Christian Science Monitor)

With hands on hips and brow knit tight, Zimbabwean parliamentary hopeful Ian Kay stands on a large granite outcropping, hoping for a miracle - or at least some sunshine.

A cold driving rain has begun drenching Mr. Kay and about 600 supporters, just as the only major rally of his entire campaign is about to kick off. It could ruin weeks of work: Holding organizational meetings in caves to avoid police, cajoling skittish friends into lending him trucks despite probable harassment by ruling-party officials, and trying to outwit partisan thugs who rip down his posters moments after they're put up. [...]

"This is turning out to be a much more interesting election than we expected," says a Western diplomat in the capital. Still, he adds, "there's no question the electoral playing field is heavily tilted toward the ruling party."

Originally, Kay's party, the Movement for Democratic Change, had been hoping just to hold onto the 57 seats it won in 2000 in the 150-member parliament. But with the new openness, they are hoping for more, and winning tougher race's like Kay's.

The race pits Kay - a white man who was chased off his large commercial farm in 2002 during Zimbabwe's controversial land-reform program - against the nation's black defense minister, Sidney Sekeramayi, who is also the former head of Zimbabwe's feared Central Intelligence Organization.

Kay is confident he's got more supporters than Mr. Sekeramayi. But that's hardly the only issue. This district is infamous for election violence. In 2000, the MDC candidate was run out of town and his house torched. His supporters were allegedly tortured at ruling party headquarters. It's no surprise that when the MDC tried to stage a rally here, not a single person showed up. Even still, Sekeramayi won by only 63 votes.

So MDC backers were amazed at the size of the recent rally.

The rubbish heap of history is littered with regimes that thought they could allow a little democracy, not realizing that it would show just unpopular they were.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 15, 2005 8:19 PM

Africa would be much improved by jettisoning Mugabe.

Posted by: jd watson at March 16, 2005 3:08 AM

The prevailing wisdom seems to be to let thugs die of old age.

One of my definitions of courage is those whites who have stayed in Zimbabwe and South Africa. My wife teaches a number of kids of immigrants from both countries (by whom we have been immeasurable blessed here in British Columbia) and the horror stories they tell when they get back from their semi-annual trips back "home" would scare off even the most courageous North Americans.

Posted by: Randall Voth at March 16, 2005 7:34 AM