how much longer can Zimbabweans tolerate Mugabe?

A day after Zimbabwe’s March election there were already rumors that Robert Mugabe had lost and was trying to negotiate a graceful exit from power. But Rob was to have none of this. He ordered the electoral commission not to announce the results of the presidential election even though the opposition’s tallies confirmed their claim to victory. Meanwhile parliamentary results confirmed that Rob’s party, the ZANU-PF had lost its majority in Parliament to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). In desperation, Rob ordered for a recount in several constituencies but even this did not overturn the original results.

With Mugabe having lost the election and his apparent resolve to stay in power come what may (evidenced by his failed attempt to purchase weapons from China) it remains to be seen just how much longer the people of Zimbabwe can put up with this crazy old man before all hell breaks loose and people pour into the streets. It has to happen at some point. Political Science theory says that revolutions happen just when things begin to get better and Rob may have initiated this process by allowing the MDC to win the elections. He could have simply rigged the vote to give himself a clear win – both for the presidency and parliament. But by allowing the MDC to win parliament and the presidency (although a run-off is in the offing) he has shown his people that he is indeed beatable and demystified himself.

The writing is on the wall for Rob and his cronies. But he still has support from a significant segment of the Zimbabwean population and thus any kind of uprising against him will almost inevitably be met with stiff opposition from his supporters. He may be a thug to most non-Zimbabweans but to his country people he is an independence hero who sacrificed a lot for his country. Because of this there is an increasing risk of conflict within the country.

As the international community continues to watch from a distance, (with South African president Mbeki makeing silly statements like this) Zimbabwe keeps moving even closer to the tipping point. I believe total collapse can be avoided by having Rob step down (forcefully if necessary) before it is too late. The alternative is to wait and send in peace keepers after the fact.

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