Robert Mugabe will soon begin his seventh term in office as Zimbabwe's president. Nighboring countries say the elections were free. The opposition has protested but it, too, is to blame for the debacle.
It would be easy to criticize the ineffectual African Union as well as the regional bloc SADC, which both gave their seal of approval to what was probably a rigged election. Both are known for letting Mugabe's have his way. This was amply demostrated in June when Mugabe rejected SADC's appeal to push back the date of the contested election.
SADC is dominated by regional powerhouse South Africa, whose President Jacob Zuma conveyed Robert Mugabe his "profund" congratulations. Mugabe is still considered by many in the ruling African National Congress party (ANC) as a hero who is fighting evil western powers. And because a South African woman is calling the tune in the African Union, it too signalled its approval of the vote in Zimbabwe, much to the dismay of the Europeans and the United States. Here, there were few surprises.
Betraying millions of Zimbabweans
The real disappointment about this election is the opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change" (MDC). In an opinion piece, the Austrian paper Der Standard said that "it may be strongly doubted that Morgan Tsvangirai would have won the election, even under better conditions." The paper is quite right. The "fraud" about which Prime Minister Tsvangirai has been complaining is also the "fraud" he himself has practised on others, namely the betrayal of the hopes of millions of Zimbabweans who had wanted change.
The former martyr, who once was beaten up by Mugabe's thugs, attracted public attention in the run-up to the election campaign through a series of sex scandals, but not by presenting sound political or economic policies.
How cynical does a politician have to be to go on a cruise to Singapore or to spend 2.6 million euros ($3.4 million) on the renovation of his headquarters while his country struggles with hunger of epidemic proportions?
Such disclosures and the corruption scandals enveloping his party colleagues in the MDC have fuelled suspicions that the former trade union leader had reached a far cosier understanding with Mugabe in the government of national unity than he himself was publicly prepared to admit.
Disenchantment with Tsvangirai
It was not so long ago that the diplomats in Harare were referring to Tsvangirai in flattering, gushing tones, even though there was always a certain skepticism about his credientials, political as well as economic. Today those very same diplomats are nodding sagely over headlines in the pro-government newspaper 'The Herald', which assert that Tsvangirai is more concerned with women than politics.
Mugabe is threatening to reintroduce the worthless Zimbabwe dollar, which drove the country into hyperinflation and economic ruin. But that threat evidently hasn't sent any voters into the arms of the opposition. That is surely a disastrous reflection on those who wanted to make a better job of running the country than Mugabe.
Africa's youth are fed up with the politics of the elderly
Of course, it is possible to compare Mugabe with Mandela in neighboring Sout Africa. Both are elderly veterans of the liberation struggle. But there the comparison ends. Mandela is freedom fighter, a global icon of peace. Mugabe is a despot and demagogue.
But Africa is a young continent. It belongs to the 20-year-olds, not to those in their 90s. Young Afrticans are disappointed with their elders. Even worse, they are also writing off the opposition, which could be a catalyst for change.