Trudy Stevenson MP, Secretary for Policy and Research, MDC  31 January 2008      Why bother going for another election?  You'll lose again, so what's the point?  This apathy seems common in the middle and high income groups, and is now being reinforced by well-funded civil society leaders, who seem to be organizing a national publicity campaign to boycott the forthcoming elections. 

           Where in the world has a boycott of elections ever worked?  Do you know of any country where an election boycott has led to free and fair elections in the next round?  All that ever happens is that the dictator just carries on dictating!   I disagree that participating in an election legitimizes the outcome.  We declared that the 2002 election was rigged, and that the outcome was illegitimate.  It is widely recognized internationally that indeed that election was rigged – but did it change anything?  Comrade Robert continued to rule, and the ZanuPF regime was accepted as a de facto government, if not de jure.           If citizens boycott the election, what will they do the next day, when Comrade Robert and co are back in power with even more seats?  Will they stop sending their children to government schools because they don’t recognize the government?  Will they refuse to get their passport and ID, etc, because they don’t recognize the government?  How will they travel in and out of Zimbabwe, if they don’t recognize ZIMRA and the immigration officials and allow them to stamp their passport, etc?  Will they refuse to use Zimbabwe currency, because they don’t recognize the government which issues it?                            What are the alternatives to elections?  Demonstrations? Strikes? Go-Slows? Marches? The Final Push? Appeals to the outside world? None of those has yet removed Mugabe, in the 10+ years people have genuinely wanted to remove him from office.  In fact, fewer and fewer people are prepared to march or demonstrate or strike or go slow, because of the likelihood of torture or arrest at the very least.   The only other alternative is the gun.  Surely the apathetic or aggressive boycott voice does not seriously propose to substitute the bullet for the ballot?  Or does it?  If so, that voice is mad.              We in the Movement for Democratic Change are committed to peaceful change through the ballot box.  We totally reject the idea of a new armed struggle, and we totally reject any form of violence as means to an end.  The Chimurenga armed struggle brought independence to Zimbabwe, but its bitter harvest failed to bring real freedom or empowerment to the majority of its people.  The MDC believes that the how is as important as the what – and yes, that also applies to making a new national constitution.              The logic of boycott because you can’t win is seriously faulty.  To follow this logic through, no person should be born, because s/he is going to die anyway – so what’s the point?  So no one should have children, and no one should themselves have been born and brought up to participate in society, because they are going to die one day, anyway – so why bother?  Why participate in any sport, if you are not sure you will win?  Why do all those people run in the Comrades, or the London Marathon, when they know they won’t win?  Why write an exam, when you don’t know if the examiner will be fair or not?  Is life fair?  Surely to try and fail, even over and over again, is better than not to try at all?  Surely every person’s life has meaning, even if that person is destined to die in the end?  Surely there is value and meaning in participating in any activity for its own sake?  Even in a faulty election, because by participating you are making a statement about what you believe in and what kind of society you want to build and protect. And surely the more you try, the more likely you are to win, as you become more experienced?  The opponent will eventually be worn down – even Robert Mugabe!                       Notably, it is the poor and suffering – the majority of Zimbabweans – who are most vehement about wanting to vote, in Zimbabwe.  They know Mugabe is not going to make things easy for his opponents, and that he will do all in his power to retain power – whatever it takes.  No government in power has ever made things easy for its opposition to take over.  There will be no red carpet leading to the gates of State House!  But the poor and suffering are ready to go and vote him out, because they know there is no alternative.        I believe we have already entered the transition phase, in this country.  Even 6 months ago, I would not have believed you if you had told me ZanuPF would agree to all the consessions they made during the SADC-led talks, when even Mugabe recognized the MDC.  I believe that now a small breach has opened up, it cannot be plugged, and will open wider and wider until real change sweeps the incumbents away in a torrent.  To refuse to participate in an election at this stage is mad, because it will be elections which bring further transition and real change to Zimbabwe.  Participants in elections will remain relevant, while those who do not participate will become irrelevant.         Let us bother to participate, for the sake of our country and our future.  Let us not abandon the poor and the suffering, but join together and vote to change Zimbabwe for all our sakes.

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