Zimbabwe's Crisis: The Quest for Democracy
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In spite of the terrible state that the country is in, Zimbabwe has not collapsed completely. While most Zimbabweans have become disheartened by the current state of affairs, they are not resigning themselves to a future of repression and economic malaise under a dictatorship.
According to the latest published Afrobarometer study, "Zimbabweans exhibit solid support for democracy but never seem to get enough of it." 66% of respondents said they preferred democracy above any other form of government, which marks an increase from last year's 48% but a decrease from 71% in 1999. This indicates that there is a renewed commitment to and a belief in democracy, even though the country has been under authoritarian rule for years. More importantly, the findings show that the government has not won the minds and hearts of Zimbabweans. Given the choice, most Zimbabweans would embrace a transition to democracy if one were to take place. How far Zimbabweans would go to ensure the transition is, however, less clear. It is certainly possible that, if shown the way and if the alternative to Mugabe is credible enough, most Zimbabweans would be willing to work together
in order to overthrow the current regime and to support the consolidation of democracy under a new government. This is why it is especially critical that the opposition gets its house in order. With the next presidential election coming up in March 2008, the opposition has a golden opportunity to live up to its name and create a true movement for democratic change. If any change is going to happen in Zimbabwe, the next year and a half until the presidential election is critical.
Getting the house in order
Up to this point, the opposition has adopted a two-pronged strategy: waging a constitutional and electoral battle; and taking to the streets. Both have been ineffective at best and retrogressive at worst. The government has constantly shown a lack of regard for constitutional provisions and limitations on its power. Mugabe has amended the constitution as he has seen fit and the judiciary, which
served as a safeguard against constitutional infringements, has been purged of independents and packed with party hacks.