19 March 2002

Methodist Africa Secretary voices concerns after Zimbabwe election

Methodist Africa Secretary voices concerns after Zimbabwe election

The Methodist Church Secretary for Africa, Mr Roy Crowder, has warned that Zimbabwe faces serious economic and political challenges following the re-election of Robert Mugabe as its President. Speaking in the week after the election, Mr Crowder made the following statement:

"We have seen two years of systematic action by the government to win this election since the Constitutional Referendum and Parliamentary elections in 2000 which were a disaster for the ruling party Zanu PF.

"The Government increased opportunities for Zanu PF supporters to vote and decreased opportunities for opposition supporters to vote. It seems to have been quite a sophisticated election theft in which most people who actually managed to vote did so in a reasonably standard way. So it is difficult for observers to report gross malpractice and for most people in most places the actual conduct of the voting procedure was slow but reasonable. There does not seem to have been box stuffing with fraudulent voting forms.

"But all that happened to frustrate, invalidate and intimidate opposition voters in the run up is what makes it not free and fair. Mr Mugabe is an extremely skilled politician but seems not be noticing that he is ruining the country.

"It is unfortunate that a divide is appearing between Western and Southern nations' reaction to the 'result'. But already that is changing as the Commonwealth delegation has declared it was not free and fair. Members of the South African delegation have also challenged the conclusion of their chairman. Members of church and civil society observation teams who were overwhelmingly African have also described the election as not free and fair.

"The real divide seems to be between the government leaders of Southern African nations and their peoples. Leaders may fear they would not win free and fair elections themselves. They certainly understandably fear the effect on their own countries of instability on top of economic collapse in Zimbabwe.

"It would have been helpful if the international community had gathered all the observations of all the observer groups and worked out a common viewpoint. That could have provided a political space for some events to move within Zimbabwe. At the moment the sense of an 'election victory' seems to be coming unstuck as more and more observers point out the problems in the poll.

"So I don't see this as a conflict between black and white Zimbabweans as Mr Mugabe wants to portray it. The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe has lived through worse conflict and will not be seriously damaged by this. It is important for the church to continue presenting the case for proper values to be observed in governance and political life as it did in the ZCC Statement 'The truth shall make you free'."

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