Costs of Zimbabwe's Election Standoff Mount

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Host Steve Inskeep speaks with Dumisani Muleya, a news editor at Zimbabwe's Independent newspaper, about the impact of the unresolved presidential election on the economy, and some of the intimidation tactics being used against opposition supporters.


This is the day that Zimbabwe's electoral commission begins to verify a presidential vote. Yes, this is the day they begin verifying the vote from an election more than a month ago. There still are no official results, although unofficially, we're told that an opposition candidate received more votes than President Robert Mugabe.

To talk about a country that's in suspension, in effect, we turn to Dumisani Muleya. He's news editor at the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper.

What do people do as this goes on day after day, sir?

Mr. DUMISANI MULEYA (Editor, Zimbabwe Independent Newspaper): Yeah, basically people are still waiting for the results. (unintelligible) they will have a meeting with these candidates and they will ask the candidates to bring their own results for discussion with them. They're saying that they want to compare what the candidates have and what they have at the electoral commission.

INSKEEP: Let me make sure I understand this. In Zimbabwe, at each polling place, the results for that polling place were posted in public, weren't they? So people went around and did their own counts?

Mr. MULEYA: Yes. Everyone who had the capacity to collect the results on a nationwide scale could have added them up and would know exactly who won the election. They should have more or less similar results, because they would be using the same figures. However, (unintelligible) different because some of the parties, obviously, they will try to manipulate the figures to come up with the results which favor them.

INSKEEP: And, of course, a few votes - or a few percentage points, anyway - can make a difference here, since the opposition claims it won the election outright and Robert Mugabe, the president, is claiming that it wasn't quite an outright win, they'd need a runoff, and he would have another chance to keep his job.

I'd like to ask how much more violent the country seems to have become as this standoff goes on.

Mr. MULEYA: The country has declined into violence as this standoff drags on, because the state has unleashed a wave of violence across the countryside. State agents, usually the war veterans and the militias of (unintelligible) the state security forces, they are on an intimidation campaign trying to influence the outcome of the runoff. They are already campaigning for Mugabe. And the violence is widespread. The government tries to create a climate of fear here to influence the outcome of the runoff.

INSKEEP: Mr. Muleya, is there any possibility of some kind of negotiated settlement - a unity government of the sort that they finally agreed to in Kenya, say, after an election problem there?

Mr. MULEYA: Yes, there is. That's one of the initiatives which is currently underway. I'm aware that the leaders of the Southern African Development Community Party, they are trying at the moment to find a negotiated political (unintelligible) which basically would lead to the creation of a transitional government that might last probably between 18 and 36 months. And its mandate basically will be to create conditions for free and fair elections to be held after a particular (unintelligible).

INSKEEP: Although, let me ask, does anybody think that Robert Mugabe - who's held so much power for so long - could easily share power?

Mr. MULEYA: People understand that he doesn't want to share power because he has had, like you say, power for a long time. But he doesn't really have a choice at the moment, because the situation is now different. His main worry at the moment is about what happens to him. So he has to negotiate in order to deal with that problem.

INSKEEP: Dumisani Muleya is news editor of the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper. He spoke with us from the capital city, Harare. Thank you very much.

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