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Vol 41 No 4

Published 18th February 2000


Zimbabwe

Saying no to the yes-men

ZANU's referendum defeat is a political watershed but it doesn't guarantee the opposition a victory in the April polls

'We've won this war, so we're all guerrillas now,' a young man shouted out at a crowded civic meeting in Harare, just hours after the Zimbabwean people had learned of the first electoral defeat since Independence for the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front. Though it won 578,210 'Yes' votes in the 12-13 February referendum, the 'No' votes were a convincing 697,754. Like so many speakers at the meeting, the young man triumphantly saw the government's defeat as automatically translating into an opposition victory in the elections due in April. That's too easy. With about 1.3 million people voting in the referendum from an electorate of 5 mn., the turnout was even lower than the 36 per cent who voted in the 1996 presidential election. It was clearly a massive protest vote against President Robert Mugabe's government but the loyalist forces were hardly mobilised, as shown by the huge stayaways in ZANU-PF's core constituencies in the rural areas which make up 70 per cent of Zimbabwe. While the towns vociferously and actively oppose Mugabe and his party, the countryside stays on the sidelines.

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