ONE big question that pro-government opinion makers and supporters have always been using in the debate about President Robert Mugabe’s popularity in the face of growing discontent is how his party still managed to cling to nearly half of its seats in parliament, and how the presidential poll was lost with a slight margin.
This, they argue, shows that the government is still popular as it still managed significant support in a country said to be wholeheartedly in favour of change.
But the biggest weakness in this argument is its ignorance of one yawning factor on Zimbabwe’s extremly uneven political playing field, that a good third of its good working population of 12 million is out of the country.
I assume about a third of Zimbabwe’s active population is politically disenfranchised. The diaspora population is a missing vote in the political struggle that would no doubt tip the scales much more sharply in favour of the opposition party.
This missing vote is made up of mostly skilled, educated professionals who have been forced to migrate to other countries including the United Kingdom, United States, South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, and Namibia.
They are teachers, technicians, business professionals and other members of Zimbabwe’s disappearing middle class that has virtually fled the country.
This voice has been missing in the country’s development over the past few years, politically and economically displaced by destructive economic policies that have turned them into refugees. By repatriating foreign currency to their familes back home, many of them have been economically shielding their familes from hyper-inflation and food shortages.
But they have done that at the cost of sacrificing the right to vote in Zimbabwe’s elections, and apparently giving the reactionary government breathing space in what is really a losing situation.
However, this time, even in the absence of the missing vote, worsening economic conditions and rising reports of physical intimidation might just tip the home vote for the MDC.
For so long the government has managed to take advantage of the missing diaspora vote, but come June 27 all that may soon come to nought as hardship reaches its peak, bringing more people to unite against a common problem.
By Givemore NyanhiÂ
Nyanhi is a freelance journalist based in Maputo.