|18 May 2001
ZIMBABWE: Opposition wins first mayoral seat
Despite a campaign of violence
that saw Zimbabwes ruling Zanu-PF party bring in its big guns, the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claimed a mayoral election
victory last week in the southern city of Masvingo. The win gives the MDC
control of its first municipality.
The new mayor, retired engineer Alois
Chaimiti, won 4.532 votes more than double Zanu-PFs 2.188
in the poll, which saw just 27% of the electorate cast its vote. Chaimiti
blamed the low voter turnout on Zanu-PFs terror campaign.
win comes against severe odds. Forced to go into hiding for fear of violent
reprisals, opposition leaders conducted a quiet campaign in stark contrast to
the violence and intimidation meted out by Zanu-PF thugs.
war veterans ran amok through the city, forcing businesses and workers to
attend Zanu-PF rallies. The campaign of terror was orchestrated by
Zimbabwes infamous duo, Chenjerai Hitler Hunzvi and self-appointed
invasions leader Joseph Chinotimba. More than a dozen people were
injured in pre-poll violence, with half of the victims coming from the
opposition. The state-controlled media predictably blamed the violence on the
MDC, reporting that police had arrested 26 opposition youths.
Zimbabwes riot police stepped in to disperse revellers outside
Masvingos civic hall on Monday, fearing the celebrations would
become violent, the significance of the victory wasnt lost on
opposition leaders. Its been an unhappy few weeks for
Zanu-PF, said David Coltart, MDC shadow minister for legal affairs. Last
week the government saw its case against MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai referred
to the Supreme Court.
Ruling party heavyweights were visibly shocked by
the election result, believing that their violent campaign tactics, largely
successful until now, had worked again. The announcement that declared Chaimiti
Zimbabwes first opposition mayor saw Zanu-PFs old guard skulk out
of the counting room. Eye-witnesses said they appeared stunned.
Immediately after the results, a piqued ruling party reacted by saying that its
legal committee would investigate whether MDC propelled the
violence, and whether the massive stayaway of registered
voters had influenced the outcome.
The news did not disrupt MDC
celebrations. Its a wonderful result, proving that violence
doesnt work, said Roy Bennett, MDC MP for the rural constituency of
Zimbabwes next municipal elections will be held on
June 24 and 25 in Bulawayo, an MDC stronghold.