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June 26th, 2008
11:58 AM ET

Afraid to vote...

Zimbabweans and South Africans demonstrate against election related violence in Zimbabwe on Nelson Mandela Bridge in downtown Johannesburg, South Africa

Zimbabweans and South Africans demonstrate against election related violence in Zimbabwe on Nelson Mandela Bridge in downtown Johannesburg, South Africa

Program Note: Zimbabwe's opposition party warned Thursday of growing political genocide at the hands of government supporters, urging the world to intervene immediately before the situation gets worse. Watch full report tonight on 360°

David McKenzie | BIO
CNN Correspondent

It is the eve of a vote here in Southern Africa.

It’s the eve of a vote with one candidate. A ‘sham’ of democracy.

Despite the calls from regional leaders, international heads of state and even Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, Robert Mugabe is determined to go to the polls.

I had to get out of our studio where I am on live duty and see what ordinary Zimbabweans are thinking.

The Refugees I talked to in downtown Johannesburg are fed up. After years of economic meltdown and weeks of political violence, they have had enough.

In March, at the first vote, these refugees headed home to vote, many of them for the opposition. Now they see no point.

“There is no reason to go and vote since they are beating us like this,” said one man at the Park station, “It doesn¹t make sense.” Another agreed, I can't use any of their names, they are afraid that Mugabe’s government might monitor CNN’s broadcasts and website, “Even if we go back and vote, Mugabe would not accept it. It is better for us to stay here, we are free here.”

Free yes, but safe? Not always.

Foreigners in South Africa, many of them from Zimbabwe, were ruthlessly targeted in xenophobic attacks here. This is a country with rampant inflation and the foreigners are often seen as taking jobs and space from locals. Scores were killed.

But still they are forced to live outside of their homeland. At the station they pack big sacks of goods for their families. They take rice and sugar and warm blackest for their families suffering through the brutal winter months. Commodities are impossible to find in Zimbabwe. They take their simple gifts to their families and then come back to South Africa to toil at jobs often way below their station.

As the politicians bicker and the leaders join in to try and condemn Mugabe the loudest, it is these ordinary Zimbabweans who will suffer in silence


Filed under: 360° Radar • David McKenzie • T1 • Zimbabwe
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. William Hawke

    This refers to what James Dylan (above) wrote: The last sentence in his piece says, "Just look at what I've written, another answer to a question no one has asked." I re-read his piece after I read that sentence. Besides some logic in the first paragraph, the remainder is a bunch of hogwash. I'm still looking for the question he mentions.

    There is the possibility that situation in Zimbabwe would not change if Mugabe was bumped off (oops, I mean de-throned). I believe that he's simply the ugly public face (and voice) of a strong force within the ZANU PF that is actually calling the shots.

    June 27, 2008 at 6:28 am |
  2. janice boone

    Thank you CNN/Anderson Cooper for viewing this important battle for democracy. This story has been in the Wall Street Journal, NYtimes, local papers, but seldom seen on TV. We went into Iraq to bring democracy/allow voting and to oust a brutal dictator. The people of Zimbabwe are being tortured/killed in order to vote and we as a country seem mute. Why have we been so slow to even comment/express moral ourtrage here? Why the double standard?

    June 27, 2008 at 12:19 am |
  3. Barbara

    I hope you keep reporting on Zimbabwe. In fact, if all news agencies
    would take the time to report this story it would generate enough
    international outrage that we could see some positive results take
    place. Why is the UN not on top of this? I thought this kind of injustice
    is one of the things that they are suppose to help control.

    June 27, 2008 at 12:08 am |
  4. seah

    Yes this is already starting to move into some places in America.
    Where people are afraid to vote. I know two people who would not vote in the primaries because they were afraid. It was a cacus voting and said they were denied their privacy, and could not vote in a public forum. They were afraid of retaliation if they voted for whom they wanted to.

    I think cacus voting will do that more and more..

    June 26, 2008 at 11:18 pm |
  5. James Dylan

    I can't recall a time in my 32 years when large parts of the continent of Africa has not been in a state of chaos. The latest news of Zimbabwe maybe late but not new. There is nothing the US can do to help them. We feed them, they still starve. We educate them, they still can't educate there fellow countrymen. We send soldiers to help, we find nobody to help us help them. They don't want us there or want to dictate how we help. Out of their infinite wisdom in governing and creating a better society no doubt. Wait! There is something. Two things actually.
    The Us can conquer Zimbabwe; in a Roman sense, totally and completely by force. Institute our laws and regulations. Write their Constitution, create their institutions, similar to Japan, and force them to enforce them. But, who among us, in today's time and historical sense, has the energy for that?
    Or, we can view them from afar with farsightedness ( the future), and yet all the more closely. See, perhaps, possibly they are in their process of existence, birth. And all births are painful and differ in lengths. Offer only words, as a mid-wife, to sooth and give advice; not to damn when that advice is not taken , but to wait for the next opportunity. But, who among us has the patience to remain quite and wait for a question before speaking? To not answer when it's the wrong question?
    Anything done in between the two is to not choose. To not know what is best to do. To give in to that strong feeling of helping with to much confusion still in oneself. We have all been guilty of this. LOL. Just look at what I've written, another answer to a question no one has asked.

    June 26, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  6. Amina TN

    its a complete tragedy and all we are doing is sitting and watching the evening news and going on with our lives, when many are suffering.
    i am so so very disappointment at our leaders who are not willing to help. i am pretty sure if they had something we wanted our leaders will probably be all over zimbabwe.

    i lost hope in the UN long time ago. i think the super powers should personally get involved

    June 26, 2008 at 10:35 pm |
  7. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    Yeah, there is no way I'd go vote. Something has to be done. This Mugabe guy is ridiculous. Why have a vote. He may as well just have his henchmen vote and declare himself the winner. Britain needs to step in.............they used to take care of things down there didn't they?

    June 26, 2008 at 10:28 pm |
  8. Annie Kate

    It seems like a lot of Africa is in turmoil and the people that suffer the most are the ones least able to help themselves. I hope the UN will step in on this situation and do something effective although I have no idea what that might be.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    June 26, 2008 at 9:39 pm |
  9. Abu Bakarr Bangura (SPA) Maryland, USA

    This guy Robert Mugabe, I just wish the International community will just send a strong millitary offensive batallion to Zimbabwe to root him out of power.........................That is all I can say for now. Thanh you

    June 26, 2008 at 9:39 pm |
  10. Abu Bakarr Bangura (SPA) Maryland, USA

    When I say root him out of power, I mean him and his family.
    I thank you very much..................................

    June 26, 2008 at 9:35 pm |
  11. Abu Bakarr Bangura (SPA)

    You know What Enough is Enough. This guy called Robert Mugabe
    must be taken out of power forcefully, by sending a strong and powerful Millitary to Zimbabwe and root him out of power.
    I have never seen such a ruthless Dictator like him in my life.
    Thank you...............

    June 26, 2008 at 9:31 pm |
  12. Abu Bakarr Bangura (Sparrow)

    I wanna thank you for allowing me space in your commentary section. You know, I have never seen a ruthless dictator like Mr. Robert Mugabe who plans to rule Zimbabwe until he drops dead, or have someone execute him before he can pass the thrown to other people to govern Zimbabwe. It also true that there have always been a track record of certain African heads of States especially those who have been in power for more than 15 years who tend to cling on power. But this guy Robert Mugabe, needs to be taught a serious lesson by just having the International community sending in Troops to root him out of power.I see no reason why a man like Mugabe is still in power. The question now is "What has he not done, that he wants to do for the Zims after 28 years in power?"

    June 26, 2008 at 9:23 pm |
  13. sueluoise1

    When I read and watch CNN's accounts of the violence in Zimbabwe surrounding the election of their president, I can really feel the immense greatness of demoncratic rule in the United States and other countries. We Americans turnover federal, state and local governments routinely, hardly batting an eyelash. The mess in Zimbubwe brings home the delicate and ugly side of elections gone wrong. It is at times like this, that I say a prayer for all Zimbubwes trying to vote. May they get a government that is worthy of their determination and hope. Sue

    June 26, 2008 at 9:21 pm |
  14. Casey Jones - Palm Springs, CA

    This is incidental to the story and pardon me for my lack of education, but can somebody tell me what "warm blackest" is, as referred to in the article (a food of some sort)? I can't find a definition for this anywhere.

    June 26, 2008 at 9:16 pm |
  15. Michele, Douglaston NY

    People are afraid and intimidated surrounding by the bullies when unable to get a vote. Imagine, living all over in Zimbabwe, you can't just escape from it. That's utterly sad...

    June 26, 2008 at 7:53 pm |
  16. ANGIE

    thats really teriible

    June 26, 2008 at 4:09 pm |
  17. Jennifer Mariani

    Thank you for bringing Zimbabwe to the forefront of the news. Unfortunately it is too many years too late. My fellow countrymen have been suffering under Mugabe's regime for 28 years now and help was needed a long time ago. Zimbabwe is in the unlucky position of having nothing that the Western world wants (namely oil) and so we will see this suffering continue because the plight of Africa barely pricks most people's consciences any more.
    There is hope that someday Mugabe must surely die but until then us Zimbabweans are simply watching our home degenerate into hell.

    June 26, 2008 at 3:24 pm |
  18. David Matulewicz

    God help them.

    June 26, 2008 at 3:24 pm |
  19. Victor in Saanich, B.C. Canada

    The Southern African Nations are the ones responsible for allowing the denigration in Zimbabwe!!

    June 26, 2008 at 2:55 pm |
  20. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    The people of Zimbabwe are willing to fight for the right to vote and die for it if necessary. They get how precious and sacred democracy really is and how important choosing the right leader is. I don't think we do here anymore. When we're willing to stay home in a pout fit because our candidate wasn't nominated by our party or won't go outside the party line box and vote for who is best for the country regardless of party affiliation (because God forbid we for once look at the whole picture of America's welfare and not just our narrow incompletely informed view of it), we've lost the sense of responsibility that we each hold to shape our nation by who we put in office. We also forget how good we have here in America when it comes to elections. We can't do anything about what is happening in Zimbabwe except pray and hope for the best (unless we're on the UN or are a diplomat with mega influence). We can take care of our own rights here, though, and act upon them. If we don't , history tells us eventually someone else will (and we may not like who that someone else is).

    June 26, 2008 at 2:27 pm |
  21. Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA

    As already mentioned, short of sending in U.S. troops to insure safe, fee elections, there is nothing we can do other than protest through diplomatic means.

    After the election debacles in the 2000 and 2004 U.S. elections, we have elections problems of our own which need to be handled before we can go around the world telling other people how to elect their leaders.

    June 26, 2008 at 2:12 pm |
  22. Marcia

    First off thanks for bringing this story to the forefront, my local newspapers do not seem to find this kind of story important. Event hough we can't be over there fighting for the freedoms of these nations it should make us realize how good we have it. Yes, we may vote the wrong people into office, but at least we can vote them out when the time comes. Fearing for your life just because you want to vote and make your life better is something I hope we never see in this country. Our government isn't perfect, but it is not a Democracy in name only.

    June 26, 2008 at 1:55 pm |
  23. isaac

    Can someone close to President George Bush, tell him that a mere threat-kind-a-like the Charles Taylor Threat will solve Zimbabwe's problem without the death of one person, without firing even a shot in the air. Please. Where is NATO and the Yugoslavia replay? Please President Bush, please. Nothing will happen, the so-called world will condemn, but it will be hot air and nothing further than that. Meanwhile another dictator will have been removed and lives saved. Please.

    June 26, 2008 at 1:47 pm |
  24. Patrick Henry, Ft. Myers

    It is so sad that western foreign policy experts have been ignoring this brutal lunatic for so long.

    I don't think the U.S. should unilaterally do anything–but the U.N. should. Remember however, that a good percentage of U.N. members come from nations who are ruled by Royal decree or a dictatrorial chain of command. Don't look for a lot to come from there unless the burden of the costs will be born by–guess who????

    June 26, 2008 at 1:46 pm |
  25. Cindy

    It is extremely sad that the people of Zimbabwe are being bullied into not voting! I am amazed that they actually did it the first time even though they risked being killed! Now with this run off it seems that Mugabe is bound and determined to keep his place at any cost! How is that a Democracy!?

    But really there is nothing that we as Americans can do short of sending in our military. But we can't police everything that goes on all over the world. We can barely deal with what is happening in our own country! We have placed sanctions on them and really that is all that we can do.

    Cindy...Ga.

    June 26, 2008 at 12:13 pm |