I had mentioned in a previous post that the election in Zimbabwe seemed to be on its way towards more dictatorship. They had had both presidential and parliamentary elections a month ago, and while the results from the presidential election had not (and still has not) been released, the parliamentary ones HAD been - and the results were in favor of the opposition party - the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) - for the first time since independence in 1980. This seemed like great news, and possibly the beginning of the end for Mugabe's Zanu-PF ruling party. However, lo-and-behold, the government controlled Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) decided that 23 ridings needed a recount, most of those being seats lost to the MDC. As Zanu needed only 9 turnovers to retake parliament, and as the (corrupt) government had had the ballots in their custody for some time, the natural assuption (at least for both me and the MDC) was that Mugabe would have the ballot boxes stuffed, and rig the election.
However, the ZEC has been slowly releasing the recounts over the course of this past week, and it now seems that enough have been recounted to confirm the MDC parliamentary victory! Somehow, democracy has won the day, despite the repressive and corrupt government that's been in power for 30 years. Perhaps my faith in humanity can be restored...
Relatedly, there has recently been quite a bruhaha about a shipment of arms from China to Zimbabwe (where it has been claimed that the weapons would be used in suppressing Zim's own people during potential run-off elections), but through the protests of upstanding African citizens, its delivery to the oppressive Mugabean regime has at least been delayed, if not stopped altogether. Since Zim is a landlocked country, the Chinese ship, the An Yue Jiang, has to dock in another close-by African country and transport the arms overland. It was due to dock in South Africa, in Durban, but thanks to the conscientious organization of unionized dock workers who refused to unload them, and protests by human rights organizations and ordinary people, they were unsuccessful in transporting through South Africa. This specifically after the South African government had no response to the shipment - "government spokesman Themba Maseko said they could do nothing to stop a perfectly legal and properly documented transaction between two sovereign states." Not an unreasonable statement until you remember that the shipment had to be transported through your country. I'm no legal expert, but it seems pretty obvious to me that that puts you right in the middle of the transaction, with obvious ability to do something about it. A comment I found particularly interesting was made by the Secretary General of the Council of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Zwelinzima Vavi
Mr Vavi said much of the problem was rooted in the challenge that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) presented to the older political leaders who view themselves as standard-bearers of the liberation movements.
"It’s because of the fear that the MDC is led and supported by trade unions and civil society. They worry that initiative may just go on from one country to the next," he said.
"There’s paranoia and fear that suddenly the liberation movements are going to be coming under lots of pressure from these formations. That’s why there is this unwillingness to openly condemn what is wrong in Zimbabwe."
This doesn't seem like a crazy statement here - particularly, Thabo Mbeki, the president of SA, has been, and continues to be, seemingly unreasonably supporting Mugabe's regime, and the only reason I can suss out for this is because of revolutionary loyalty, since Zimbabwe under Mugabe played a very important role for the revolutionary ANC during apartheid in the 80s. He (and much of the ANC) doesn't seem to want to condemn an obviously horrific regime because they see them as old-school heroes, and don't want to give up the mantle of revolution.
In any case, country after country here has refused the Chinese ship access to their waters, and so it has been unable to dock and send in the weapons. It was seeming like a great success of popular righteousness, until the ship was finally allowed to dock in Angola. The Angolan government has said that they will not allow the unloading of weapons, only allowing transport of goods intended for Angola. However, Angola is a close ally of Mugabe, and it is not clear that they'll stick to their word.