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Vol 43 No 5

Published 8th March 2002


Election arithmetic

Robert Mugabe's last stand is a key test of Africa's political resolve

The presidential vote on 10-11 March has become an election about Africa's future. For most Zimbabweans it is a key test of their political freedoms, won first in the Independence war of the 1970s and then in the struggle to build civil society and political pluralism. There is mass disaffection with the shrinking economy and rising joblessness, as much as with the collapse of the health and education services under President Robert Gabriel Mugabe's post-Independence government. For Southern Africans, Zimbabwe's political crisis is casting an unwelcome spotlight on the region's tensions, creating refugees and driving away capital. Unlike Zambia and Madagascar, a messy election in Zimbabwe can destabilise the whole region. After South Africa, Zimbabwe had the best industrial base and infrastructure in the region; it is key to Southern Africa's development.

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