Tuesday, April 1, 2008

All Calm in Zimbabwe Before The Storm

The calm before the storm is a frighteningly familiar feeling for me. As a Midwest gal born and raised, I know that feeling down to my bones. It is the eerily quiet time period before a tornado touches down, before the chaos hits, before destruction visits. Right before that touchdown, the air is clear and crisp, there is an unnatural stillness. The squirrels have stopped playing hide and seek amongst the branches and the birds have been silenced. For those of us hiding in basements, our eyes glued to the television, we are enveloped in anxiety waiting for information on where the tornado will touch down.

Zimbabwe is in this place right now, thirteen million people holding their collective breathe, waiting for the results of the presidential election. The longer the wait, the more that anxiety spreads like a pre-cursor to blood-shed across the country. The only response to the collective waiting has been silence and more silence. I spoke to a friend in Borrowdale earlier today, she said "Everyone has been off the streets today. All of us are quiet and calm, but we know that must stay indoors and wait for the results."

There are people around the world holding their breath with you, Zimbabweans. You are not alone. There are many people everywhere committed to democracy that are fearful that you will not sit quietly through another rigged election. All of us are fearful of increased violence in a country that has been decimated by poor leadership.

On Sunday, I heard reports that people were celebrating in the streets. In fact, one journalist, Jan Raath wrote this for The Times, (UK) "We are on the knife edge now. There is little doubt in the minds of a very large slice of the population that Robert Mugabe was dealt a severe blow on Saturday. They laughed in the voting queues about how they were going to skewer the rooster (Mr. Mugabe) and roast him. They cast their votes and went home to await the result. The slack Sunday morning was interrupted repeatedly by cars hooting long and loud, with young men whistling and waving wide open palms. One crowd was singing: "Saddam is gone, and now it is Bob's turn."

But is it really Bob's turn? As Drew Barrymore voice rings in my ears from the movie ET I can hear her say, "What's happening?" And I wish I knew. One interesting aspect of this election is that Mugabe had agreed in advance to allow local districts to count and post results on site. To me this seems to make it harder to rig the elections district by district. On www.Zimbabwemetro.com, one third of the vote counted puts Mugabe in second place, far behind Morgan Tsvangirai. So what is taking so long to get to the final results?

It has been over 48 hours since the polling sites have closed. Most people that I spoke with in Zimbabwe could care less which candidate gets in, as long as it is not President Robert Mugabe. One of three things will happen. The first is that Mugabe will state that there is a TIE and an election run off needs to happen. The second scenario is that he will give up his post, just after collects all of "his" money and exits Zimbabwe with his core alliance.

The third scenario, and the one that terrifies me the most, is Mugabe rigging the election and declaring his 6th term in office. No one can afford this scenario. Another sources in Zimbabwe said that tomorrow Mugabe has a planned meeting with the Army General and the head of the Police force. It scares me that this may happen, and would be devastating to Zimbabwe. Then again, I can't even begin to get inside the mind of Robert Mugabe. So I like the rest of the world, must wait.

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