Elections in Zimbabwe: Fighting Bullets With Ballots

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The cells at Harare central police station are packed from wall to wall with political prisoners. Men and women walk barefoot on floors dirtied with human waste. The smell is unbearable. These are the "lucky ones." Other victims of ZANU-PF political violence and intimidation are beaten, tortured, and killed -- their bodies abandoned in deserted fields. As the Secretary for Information and Publicity of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), I receive phone calls daily informing me of arrests of MDC supporters and missing persons who are members of our Party. These calls are nothing new. For 33 years, Zimbabweans have bore the scars of Robert Mugabe's dictatorial ZANU PF regime. We have been kidnapped, robbed, beaten, tortured, and many of our brothers, sisters, and children have been killed. But we are not broken and our resolve has never been stronger. We know now, more than ever, is our time to enact real change and bring freedom and democracy to this troubled nation.

In 2013, Zimbabweans will again go to the polls. The violence already being carried out by Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party, harkens back to the atrocities that occurred when MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai won the 2008 presidential election. Refusing to accept the outcome, Mugabe's vote rigging efforts successfully forced a run-off election. To stop the subsequent brutal and widespread ZANU PF politically motivated violence, Dr. Tsvangirai withdrew from the run-off election.

Unlike the more discernible strategies of tyrants such as Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Robert Mugabe's reign of terror veils outright dictatorship under the guise of democracy. In spite of a ruling party that has demonstrated time and again its willingness to carry out violence to retain power, Zimbabweans are committed to the power of the vote. My country represents one of the only places in the world where democracy stands a real chance at overcoming authoritarianism without violent disposition of the regime -- yet the world has turned a blind eye to our struggle.

In the past two weeks alone, we have observed clear signs that the ZANU PF regime is intent on suppressing Zimbabwe's democratic transition. In our capital city of Harare, 19 MDC activists were arrested during a door-to-door voter registration campaign. Police also detained two journalists from the Zimbabwe Independent on allegations of publishing falsehoods after reporting on alleged private talks between Prime Minister Tsvangirai and the country's security chiefs. In Matabeleland South, security agents raided my party's offices and impounded 15 motorbikes used for campaign and voter registration activities. In a separate incident, MDC's youth leader Solomon Madzore was jailed for allegedly referring to Robert Mugabe as a "limping donkey." On Tuesday, Ndomupeyi Matshoba, an MDC Youth Assembly member in Harare was attacked and suffered cuts and bruises to her face while out working on election activities. The list goes on and on.

After three decades of corrupt cronies and catastrophic government policies that have turned the breadbasket of Africa into a nation unable to feed its own people, Zimbabweans have had enough. The time for change is now. The stakes couldn't be higher. This may be our last chance to free ourselves from tyranny through democratic means.

The people of Zimbabwe are fighting guns with ballots, and democratic nations around the globe neglect to take notice. Many in Zimbabwe hope that the road to elections and the transition to a new, more democratic country will stand as an example of freedom peacefully overcoming oppression, but we need support from the democratic leaders of the world. On Election Day, we are confident that the people of Zimbabwe will vote for change, but we cannot underestimate the will of Mugabe's regime to commit voter fraud, inflict violence, exercise intimidation tactics, and rig the election outcome. All we hope for is a free and fair election, where the people of Zimbabwe can choose their future without the fear of dying for their vote. We can only enact change if democratic nations pledge to monitor the political environment in Zimbabwe and help us ensure a free and fair poll. Even muffled by state-controlled media and government controlled communications, the voice of the people continues to grow louder. Together -- and with the help of democratic nations across the globe -- we can ensure free and fair elections and a peaceful step forward on Zimbabwe's path toward freedom and democracy.