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Can elections in Zimbabwe cultivate renewed optimism?

   An old proverb comes to mind when thinking of the upcoming elections in Zimbabwe:  “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.  The second best time is now.”

   Now is the time for Zimbabwe to plant new trees – trees that will withstand the challenges of democracy, and full and safe citizen participation in governance. 

   While we know that free and fair elections will prevail eventually in Zimbabwe, one must ask the question – when?

   The road to free and fair elections has been bumpy for the people of Zimbabwe for too long, as they continually struggle to have their voices and votes really count.  We admire greatly the Zim people’s fortitude.

   On July 31, if the date holds, Zimbabweans will return to the polls for a national election that will determine the next generation of leadership in this southern Africa country.   The election is intended to determine what will replace the transitional compromise government formed by President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

    Africa and the world is watching – some holding our breath.  President Mugabe, 89, does not appear to be letting go.   Does this mean that violence and intimidation will also taint this upcoming election?

   Zimbabwe deserves better.  Once a shining example of Africa’s economic, political and educational power – and always a source of pride for anti-colonialists – Zimbabweans cannot let the suffocating weeds of political foul play sprout, stunting their future. It appears that the second best time for Zimbabwe to plant the proverbial tree of fairness is now.  Election monitoring must be embraced and journalistic freedom to expose political misconduct upheld.

   My green thumb tells me that Zimbabwe's tree may need some uprooting and fertilizer.  Can Zimbabwe’s upcoming election start a process of uprooting old hostilities and fertilizing  new optimism and hope?  Will scare tactics and detainment of detractors die when exposed by election monitors who are not only welcome but are embraced, with complete access to oversee the electoral process?

   When it comes to fertilizing the tree of fairness and full citizen participation, the prevalence of open communication forums is paramount; guaranteeing opportunities for citizens to assemble safely and to hold legitimate, unrestrained conversations about the candidates of their choice.   Unrestricted, balanced media coverage and commentaries about the election itself will be signs of good faith --  the essential water this tree needs to survive and bear fruit.    




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