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Guess who’s coming to power?

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One of my favourite journalists in Zimbabwe is Jan Raath. He’s just written this great piece for The Times (UK) which is worth a look:

We are on the knife edge now. There is little doubt in the minds of a very large slice of the population that Robert Mugabe was dealt a severe blow on Saturday. They laughed in the voting queues about how they were going to skewer the rooster (Mr Mugabe) and roast him. They cast their votes and went home to await the result. The slack Sunday morning was interrupted repeatedly by cars hooting long and loud, with young men whistling and waving wide open palms. One crowd was singing: “Saddam is gone, and now it is Bob’s turn.” Wilson, who used to work for me, called me in the afternoon from Epworth, an old squatter camp where the only light at night is from candles. He said: “People woke up this morning and they were cheering that MDC had won in our area. Then the riot police came. They said, ‘Someone from Zanu PF reported to us that people were making violence here, but you are just having a nice time and being happy’. They said, ‘Carry on being happy’ and they went away.” A text message came from Langton, his brother-in-law. “Hi Mr Raath,” he wrote. “We are celebrating for our new president.”

And yet the day wore on and there was nothing from state radio apart from endless reggae. There are also fears in the minds of many, many people that Mr Mugabe is trying to reverse The Great Unthinkable by sucking large numbers out of his thumb to secure his Historic Victory. Maybe he is being told that you can’t cheat this, you will be caught with your pants about your wrinkly ankles. At your age, your Excellency, go with a little dignity. Or maybe they are preparing edicts to be announced over the radio that, instead of the election results, they are declaring a state of emergency and in the morning we will be woken by the sound of MiG jets overheard and troop carriers in the townships enforcing a curfew. In February 1980 I drove out one afternoon to find paratroopers of the Rhodesian SAS on the street corners in full combat dress and dangerously armed. It took me a while to catch on that the Rhodesian generals intended to obliterate the nascent Zimbabwe and install a doomed new Rhodesia run by deranged white military men. Then someone spoke calmly to the generals, and the soldiers were collected and taken home. Maybe someone is talking to Mugabe. Maybe his wife can do the trick. Anyone.

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