A week ago today, the citizens of Zimbabwe went to the polls. They emerged proudly displaying their pinkie fingers, stained pink from the ink used to mark their votes. Excited whispers of change wafted on the air like errant plastic bags, shreds of new information were panned like gold, and I saw – for the first time in my three years here – a flicker of hope on the faces of people in the street.
Now, a week has past. The ink has disappeared. And so has the flicker of hope. As the delay in the release of Presidential results continues and the political posturing takes a hard-line turn, a veil of resignation has again descended and I can almost tangibly feel people looking inside themselves, trying to determine how they are possibly going to dig a deeper well of patience.
What is going to happen?
The election has been on the front few pages of international newspapers this past week. At first, articles could follow a simple narrative – the possibility of a dramatic opposition party victory despite reports of vote-rigging, followed by mounting concern over delays in announcing the results, rising tensions, and the specter of Kenya-style violence. But, I fear, the story is no longer fitting the sound-bite style of the American press. It is dragging on too long, becoming too convoluted. How do you explain the point we are at today? STILL no Presidential results announced, when it is clear they must be known? The new possibility of a run-off in 90 days instead of the three weeks stated in electoral law? The ruling party accusing the opposition of bribing electoral officials; the opposition party going to court to demand that Presidential election results be released? We are used to craziness here (case in point: the Reserve Bank introduced a 50 million dollar note yesterday). But how do you continue to explain all this to someone outside the country?
Is there a strategy at play? Delaying, stalling, confounding until the short attention span of the West loses interest? And what will happen then, when fewer eyes are watching?
I’ve got three new posts half-written – one about a relative of the peanut native to Africa called the Bambara groundnut; another on a recipe for homemade graham crackers, culled from a circa-1980s African missionary cookbook; a third on Ethiopian-style cabbage and lentil salad. This all seems so silly. The posts will wait. For now, my mind is elsewhere, trapped in the maze of this saga’s twists and turns, and dreaming for that flicker of hope to reignite.
In addition to the coverage on BBC and Sky News, you can keep up-to-date on election news by checking these sites:
Sokwanele, and its related blog – This is Zimbabwe
Saturday, April 05, 2008