/ 26 February 2008

Zim ambassador decries ‘outside’ interference

There is no dictator in Zimbabwe, just a lot of outside, unwelcome interference in the country’s affairs, the country’s ambassador to South Africa, Simon Khaya Moyo, said in Pretoria on Tuesday.

”Only the people of Zimbabwe can, through the ballot, tell the world who they think has their interests at heart,” he said in at an Institute of Security Studies briefing on the country’s March 29 presidential elections.

In past elections, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party have been accused of voter intimidation and violence, and of stealing elections, amid claims that the seizure of white-owned farms violated property rights.

”From the West’s point of view, ably supported by a massive media empire and economic might by way of the comprehensive economic sanctions on the country, the electoral process in Zimbabwe can only be free and fair if and as when President Mugabe and his Zanu-PF have been removed from office for his ‘sins’ on land reform,” Moyo said.

The accusation Mugabe faces in this election is that he is presiding over an ailing economy and trampling on the human rights of his people.

”From the outside, the picture being portrayed is one of a bad situation which should not be allowed to continue.

”The idea is to wage a massive media campaign against Zimbabwe and, with the economic hardships, the people would be expected to vote out the president and Zanu-PF.”

Moyo said Zimbabwe had a voter population of 5 612 464 at December 4 last year. The voter’s roll is still open and is being inspected by the Zimbabwe Election Commission.

Four candidates, including Mugabe, are contesting the elections.

Ahead of the elections, security in the country has been tightened and the carrying of dangerous weapons, including machetes, knives and guns, has been banned, Moyo said.

He described the atmosphere as ”peaceful”, except for a few minor skirmishes ”usually involving youth from either side of the political divide who engage in acts of provocation”.

Sometimes this is to attract publicity.

The perpetrators have been arrested.

Moyo praised President Thabo Mbeki’s role in mediating between the Zanu-PF and its opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, to bring about free and fair elections.

He dismissed as ”some mischief intended to derail the elections” an MDC charge that Mbeki has not been an honest broker.

”… We go along with the words of advice of the South African government that the Zimbabwean sides need to talk more now than before”.

”The question remaining on many people’s minds would be the extent to which an external hand is influencing some unexplained wayward behaviour by the opposition.

”That is primarily the reason why the Zimbabwean people have for long been decrying the death of patriotic opposition with the capacity to come up with a national agenda and home-grown solutions to our problems,” Moyo said.

Blaming the country’s economic difficulties in the past seven years on drought, a severe shortage of foreign currency and a hyper-inflationary environment, he said this has created a hostile environment to business operations with a resultant reduced export capacity.

Sanctions have cost the country access to ”much-needed lines of credit”.

”It is given that the powers that be with the muscle to do so would have wanted economics to be a factor in the elections, influencing people to vote against the ruling party [and Mugabe],” he said.

However, he was confident that ”the people will not be hoodwinked to turn against each other in a lethal manner”.

Outside interference has to be ”reduced and resisted” at all costs.

Moyo gave the assurance that the ruling party would accept the outcome of the elections, even if it loses. — Sapa