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Sunday, 2 July, 2000, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
President in search of a purpose
President Mugabe
President Mugabe: Power without vision?
By the BBC's Grant Ferrett in Harare

Now that the armies of visiting journalists have packed up and gone home, Zimbabwe is returning to its own special version of normality.

The lobby of the five-star Meikles Hotel, the scene of much media gossip, is once again almost deserted.

Hundreds of white-owned farms are still illegally occupied by government supporters, who make daily demands on the farmers for food, fuel, vehicles and shelter.

Peace mass in Harare
People have prayed for peace - but attacks continue

The homes of opposition sympathisers continue to be attacked and burnt down, although not in the same numbers as during the election campaign.

Fuel queues and power cuts are commonplace.

Inflation is expected to surge ahead of the current annual rate of about 70%.

An estimated 200 people continue to die every day as a result of HIV and Aids.

Little wonder that many of those who could bear to watch President Mugabe's televised address to the nation on Tuesday, shortly after the election results were announced, gasped with incredulity when he declared: "Well done Zimbabweans! Keep it up!"


The lives of millions are being ruined by a government which has completely run out of any ideas or sense of direction, beyond a desire to stay in power

The war veterans' leader, Chenjerai Hunzvi, made similarly bizarre comments after winning a seat in parliament, urging Zimbabweans to work together for a brighter future.

He seemed to be suggesting that he had been misunderstood during the election campaign when he made remarks such as: "If Zanu-PF loses, we will not accept the results. We fought and died for this country and you cannot expect us to hand the country on a silver plate to some new party backed by the white man."

'Vote for the baboon'

There was no misunderstanding the comments of the Vice-President, Simon Muzenda, though.

At a campaign rally he complained about splits within the ruling party and told the small, hapless gathering: "If Zanu-PF puts up a baboon as a candidate, you vote for the baboon."

People queue for petrol
Buying petrol still costs time as well as money

Thinking that perhaps the vice-president had been wildly misquoted, I asked one of his senior colleagues to comment.

"I think Comrade Muzenda was using the word 'baboon' figuratively," he explained.

"What he'd probably intended to say was: "If Zanu-PF puts up a fool, you should vote for the fool."

Identical

He went on to point out that there were, of course, no fools in the party.

It would be funny were it not for the fact that the lives of millions of Zimbabweans are being ruined by a government which, 20 years after it came to office following independence, has completely run out of any ideas or sense of direction, beyond a desire to stay in power.

Kathy Olds, whose farmer husband Martin was killed
The grieving goes on for bereaved families

Those in office seem certain that the interests of the party are identical to those of the country.

The election results show that Zanu-PF has little or nothing to offer urban voters. It failed to win a single constituency in the capital. Senior ministers lost in other towns and cities.

The ruling party has returned to its peasant origins of the 1960s, when it styled itself on, and gained support from, the Chinese Communist Party.

Energetic

Many of those who retained their seats did so only after a campaign in which everything, including lives, were sacrificed in the scramble to retain power.

The government's most energetic campaigner, the provincial governor for Mashonaland Central, Border Gezi, just held on in Bindura.


He looked around nervously before saying: 'Shall I tell you how I voted?' I paused, and shook my head. He didn't need to say

The brother of the main opposition candidate was among those murdered in the run-up to the election.

The Security Minister, Sydney Sekeramayi, scraped home in Marondera by a winning margin of fewer than 70 votes, even though the opposition candidate and his supporters faced such intimidation that they were reduced to the farcical situation of campaigning in secret.

On polling day the fear among voters in Marondera was palpable. Those who were brave enough to speak to journalists would whisper only that they had voted for change. It was apparently too dangerous to say the letters, MDC.

Van stopped by militant
Reports of intimidation have continued since the election

One man who had just left the main polling station said explicitly that he was too afraid to tell me who he voted for. Then, eager to please, he looked around nervously before saying: "Shall I tell you how I voted?"

I paused, and shook my head. He didn't need to say.

President Mugabe and his party now have to decide what they plan to do with power.

Hostile rhetoric

Foreign governments, international investors and non-governmental organisations have retreated in the face of the barrage of hostile rhetoric from Mr Mugabe and his party, and the selective enforcement of the law.

The fact that land will be seized without compensation has helped to destroy any last vestiges of confidence among the business community.

With no reserves of hard currency, fuel is expected to completely run out again within weeks.

The sizeable opposition presence in the new parliament will, if anything, make efforts to resolve the country's economic problems even more complicated.

Woman in Zanu-PF hat
Zanu-PF won rural support but lost out in the cities

The government's election campaign manager has spent much of the past few months in a deeply unhappy mood with the media in general, and the BBC in particular. He believes it to be part of a white conspiracy to undermine Robert Mugabe.

Shortly after the election results were announced, he made a telling comment to a BBC colleague: "Your morality is not necessarily my morality."

For once, I was happy to agree with him.

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01 Jul 00 | Africa
Farm grabs 'stepped up'
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