3 March, 2024


Our Zimbabwean Future?

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“It is the President who has unleashed this wave of terror, of course he knows its going on, even if he leaves the details to underlings and never gets his own hands soiled”. – Denias Dombo (An anti-Mugabe activist)[i]

Robert Mugabe’s landslide victory barely caused a stir, internationally. When the predictable happens, it is not quite Breaking-News. The world seems to have realised that Mugabe will never relinquish power, voluntarily. The usual Western condemnations did emanate, but they were almost token protests, lacking in vigour, purpose or direction.

As journalist Wilf Mbanga pointed out, “What happened…was a demonstration of what can be done by a small group of people who have everything to lose and who have spent more than 30 years cementing their grip on power and wealth”[ii].

In an editorial-comment on Zimbabwean elections, The Washington Post mentioned four methods used by Mr. Mugabe and others of his ilk to turn multiparty polls into electoral tragicomedies with predestined ends: “First take control of the state media and exclude your opponents well before the voting. Then seize control of the election machinery itself and make sure that your rigged triumph is plausible (in other words not 99 percent). Third avoid any signs of voter intimidation that can be recorded by a camera. Last declare that the people have spoken and never look back”[iii].

So elections become electoral coups. Smart autocrats no longer need to cancel elections or ban opposition parties. On the contrary, they can have veritable electoral-sprees, round after round of electoral-farces with pre-ordained outcomes, which, in turn, can be used to justify new anti-democratic policies and fresh repressive measures. Elections transformed, from a measure of democracy to a tool of despotism.

As in Sri Lanka.

The Rajapaksas are becoming experts at using elections to strengthen familial rule and ensure dynastic succession. Incessant and unseasonal regional/local elections (held on a staggered basis) are used to legitimise familial rule, debilitate the Opposition and accelerate the SLFP’s transformation from a Bandaranaike-party to a Rajapaksa-party.

The 18th Amendment, arguably the most anti-democratic constitutional measure of Rajapaksa provenance, so far, clipped the wings of the Elections Commissioner. The Commissioner no longer has the constitutional right to impede/stop unfair electoral practices of the regime. The Impeachment installed a Rajapaksa-crony at the helm of the judiciary; the Peiris Court will never uphold an election petition by the Opposition.

Whenever necessary, targeted violence is used to break the will of opposition activists and plunge opposition voters into despair.

Weliweriya massacre is a snug-fit into this picture. Had the people of Weliweriya succeeded in their water-battle, other wronged communities would have been emboldened into launching their own peaceful protests. This would have been a morale-booster for the opposition. The Rajapaksas applied maximum force in Weliweriya to demonstrate to the entire country that dissent, however democratic, peaceful or non-political, will not be tolerated.

Once the indignation evaporates and media-focus/public-attention shifts elsewhere, the people of Weliweriya will be left alone and bereft. The ‘independent investigations’ will exonerate the army; any report which is even marginally critical will be consigned to oblivion[iv]. The glove-factory, owned by the premier economic stooge of the Rajapaksas, will be pronounced not-guilty. (The Hayleys has already commenced its own brainwashing campaign with half-page newspaper ads hailing the controversial company for its ‘ethical practices’ and ‘national service’[v]). Hopefully, the people of Weliweriya will get the free pipe-borne water they asked for. Realistically, they are likely to end up with nothing other than a few water tanks and an abiding fear psychosis.

The Weliweriya syndrome is already being used elsewhere to discourage democratic dissent. In Batticaloa, the army reportedly invoked the Weliweriya massacre to prevent people from participating in a demonstration, successfully[vi]. Weliweriya can also be used to discourage oppositional activists and sap voter-determination in election times. For example, the army can be deployed near polling stations, to ‘ensure security’, instilling fear, especially in the North. In Zimbabwe, the deployment of soldiers around polling-booths acted as a deterrent on many voters[vii]: “The presence of soldiers in our area brought back memories of the 2008 era…”[viii]

The purpose of the Fourth Eelam War was not just to defeat the Tigers but also to teach the Tamils a lasting lesson in obedience. So civilians were attacked systematically. Similarly Weliweriya was not an accident, nor a benevolent law-and-order operation gone wrong; it was a deliberate act aimed at teaching the Sinhala-South the futility and lethality of disobedience. Its goal is the same as ‘Leadership Training’: the psychological regimentation of society, with the military as Tutor; follow orders or suffer consequences.

Party and Army

Robert Mugabe’s political longevity, despite Zimbabwe’s appalling socio-economic and political conditions, is due, in the main, to his control over the ruling party, his dominance of the military and the support he enjoys from regional leaders[ix].

The Rajapaksas use carrot-and-stick methods to subjugate the SLFP/UPFA and control the military. Loyalists are rewarded; invertebrates tolerated; those who try to maintain even a vestige of autonomy are punished.

L’affaire Nawalapitiya was a superb exposition of this Rajapaksa method. During the 2010 parliamentary election, Nawalapitiya became awash with violence and malpractices, allegedly committed by Rajapaksa-pet Mahindananda Aluthgamage against the not-so-servile Sarath Amunugama. The Elections Commissioner annulled polling in 37 centres (this was before the Commissioner was turned into a Presidential-cipher, constitutionally). Once denial of the internecine electoral war became impossible, the Rajapaksas started their countermoves. Through a series of media ‘leaks’ the SLFP and the public were convinced that President Rajapaksa was appalled by the crimes of his henchman and will ensure that justice is done. An investigative panel was appointed. Once public-interest/media-attention waned, the Panel delivered its report. It decreed that no misdeed has happened and thus none was guilty[x]. The triumphantly exonerated Mr. Aluthgamage was made a Deputy Minister; Mr. Amunugama was punished with a humiliating demotion for crossing a Rajapaksa-pet.

And a potent lesson in mindless-servility was taught to the entire SLFP (a lesson Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra ignored, at the cost of his life).

Similar tactics were used to break the military to the Rajapaksa-bridle, the incarceration of General Fonseka and the elevation of Shavendra Silva being excellent cases in point. The military was turned into a Rajapaksa-tool. This subjugated military is now being used to overrun civil spaces. Lankan militarization is not a military-project; it is a Rajapaksa project.

A non-Rajapaksaised military would protect its own and might baulk at shooting unarmed Sinhala-Buddhists. A Rajapaksaised military will tolerate any injustice (including towards its own) and rampage against anyone (including unarmed Sinhala-Buddhists).

This was demonstrated when Gen. Fonseka was persecuted and when unarmed protestors in Weliweriya were mowed down.

The Rajapaksas do not have the same solid regional support enjoyed by Robert Mugabe. Whether the backing of Pakistan and China can balance Delhi’s confused hot-and-cold Lankan policy, in the medium/long term, remains to be seen.

Presidents, like lesser citizens, are mortal. Zimbabweans can look forward to a post-Mugabe future, because the Mugabe-project is non-dynastic. Unfortunately the Rajapaksa Project is both familial and dynastic. Barring an implosive battle between Presidential Sibling/s and Son/s over succession, our Rajapaksa-winter might not end with the demise of its progenitor.

[i] Quoted in ‘The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe’ – Peter Godwin

[ii] http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/05/opinion/zimbabwe-election-mbanga-analysis/index.html

[iii] http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/zimbabwe-shows-how-to-steal-an-election/2013/08/06/d6008f54-fdf9-11e2-bd97-676ec24f1f3f_story.html

[iv] In the company of the report on the murder of Roshain Chanaka, the FTZ worker killed while protesting against the fraudulent private sector pension scheme.

[v] http://www.srilankamirror.lk/news/9531-dhammika-s-hayleys-bribes-media

[vi] http://www.bbc.co.uk/sinhala/sri_lanka/2013/08/130804_batticaloa_kovil_theft.shtml

[vii] In the 2008 election, Robert Mugabe won less votes than the Opposition, led by Morgan Tsvangirai. But the army, which, in reality, is more a Mugabe force than a national/Zimbabwean force, continued to back Mr. Mugabe while his regional allies led by South Africa hastened to broker a deal. The opposition became a part of the faux national government and Robert Mugabe was able to regain the political initiative and strengthen his power.

[viii] http://www.thezimbabwean.co/news/zimbabwe/67529/soldiers-deployed-as-presiding-officers.html

[ix] When Mr. Mugabe called early presidential and parliamentary elections this year, the Opposition decided to boycott the polls knowing very well they will be neither free nor fair. The South African Development Community (SADC) leaders ‘persuaded’ Mr. Mugabe to requestZimbabwe’sConstitutional Court (stacked with Mugabe-appointees) to extend the election deadline by two weeks. In a show of compromise, Mr. Mugabe agreed. The SADC leaders then persuaded the Opposition to take part in the election. Once the opposition caved in, the Mugabe-appointees choking theConstitutional Court refused to extend the deadline. Neither the Opposition nor the SADC had any countermoves. Mr. Mugabe was able to have his election and win it.


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Latest comments

  • 0

    In 2008 Zimbabwe had the world’s highest inflation rate at 100,000 percent. In 1980 1 Z$=1.47 US$ . By 2008 it was 600 000 ZD = IUS$, and went to be millions and then billions

    A loaf of bread in 2008 costs 10 million Zimbabwe dollars.

    There were a number of Lankans who can tell a story . It is not what the West Wrote . Actual felt the S****t

    S L expatriates working in Zambia would go to Livingstone not to see the Victoria Falls but to buy some goodies . Bread around 1990 was like 2 Z$.
    Imagine it went to 10 million Zimbabwe Dollars. By 2009 there was an issue of a 50 billion Zim $ note enough to buy two loaves of bread .

    The denomination of 2009 was 1,000,000,000,000 Zimbabwe dollars being exchanged for 1 new dollar which was 4th denomination in less than ten years.
    The currency was suspended in 2009 and today they use US$. That is what Zimbabwe is and those who say that it was white dominated that is what Mugabe says who took the land from the whites like we say who defeated the striped ones.

  • 0

    Exchange rate history

    This table shows a condensed history of the foreign exchange rate of the Zimbabwean Dollars to one US Dollar:
    First dollar Second dollar Third dollar
    Month/Year Exchange rate
    1983 1
    1997 10
    2000 100
    Jun 2002 1 000
    Mar 2005 10 000
    Jan 2006 100 000
    Jul 2006 500 000+

    Month Exchange rate
    Aug 2006 650
    Sep 2006 1 000
    Dec 2006 3 000
    Jan 2007 4 800
    Feb 2007 7 500
    Mar 2007 26 000
    Apr 2007 35 000
    May 2007 50 000
    Jun 2007 400 000
    Jul 2007 300 000
    Aug 2007 200 000

    Month Exchange rate
    Sep 2007 600 000
    Oct 2007 1 000 000
    Nov 2007 1 500 000
    Dec 2007 † 4 000 000
    Jan 2008 6 000 000
    Feb 2008 ‡ 16 000 000
    Mar 2008 70 000 000
    Apr 2008 100 000 000
    May 2008 777 500 000
    Jun 2008 40 928 000 000
    Jul 2008 758 530 000 000

    Month Exchange rate
    15 August 2008 244.83
    15 September 2008 29283
    7 October 2008 29277
    14 October 2008 29317.7
    21 October 2008 29298
    28 October 2008 29306
    8 November 2008 29325

    • 0

      Will Sri Lanka be the next…….to follow Zimbabwe currency, and their Desha premi Mugabe.

      Current business partners……Uganda, Cey shells, Christmas Island,cuba, Swaziland…..what is next.

  • 0

    Tisaranee G for President !!

  • 0

    One question that comes to mind is why despite the enormous and incalculable damage done to Zimbabwe and its once relatively prosperous people Mugabe, who first came to power in 1980, is still there. Whereas then Zimbabwe provided for all its citizens today in South Africa alone Zimbabweans are an unwelcome immigrant community filling the streets and ghettoes of S. Arica. At the time Mugabe took over Zimbabwe was a large exporter of Sugar, Leather, Tobacco, Meat, Gold, Minerals and so forth.

    The answer, bearing curious relevance to our own country,
    may be is that the majority (70%) in the country come from the Shona tribe with the the 2nd largest (20%) coming from the Ndebele tribes. The question, therefore, is was the democratic process of governance the victim of one in which the will of the majority swayed over everything else consigning a once prosperous land to one of abject poverty?


  • 0

    Interesting Stats fron “Aney”on Zimbabwean Inflation, which is a must for Ms T to grasp.

    Or Ms T perhaps should have looked at before making these learned predictions.

    Here is some stats on our LKR from the Money changer in Wellawatta.

    2011 One USD = 116 LKR.

    2013 One USD = 123 LKR.

    Mind you Indian Overseas Bank gives yo lot less.

    Does this look like infaltion let alone Zimbabwean?

    • 0

      The exchange rate in Sri Lanka is managed through government intervention and helped by migrant workers remittances and or borrowing. This is not an real indicator .

      The bubble is there but not in statistics . In Zimbabwe they lost all as the land was grabbed and as well as agricultural exports dropping because of huge drop in production.
      The land is now being given back and some Sri Lankans have gone to regroup their roses and anthuriam exports which was devastated.

      I USD is 131.70 not 123 . Compare against the yen over years to see teh drop not USD which itself is dropping
      Comparison is not for T to learn but to understand the mess that Mugabe lead to Z

    • 0

      If you paid LKR 116 late 2011 to buy a US$ and you have to fork out
      LKR 133 today, you are talking of a drop in the value of LKR in the region of a 15% in less than 2 years. Mind you and that too an LKR artificially held down by a CBSL that cannot carry out this charade for too long. Once the payments of the big sovereign loans are met
      in the next few months, the situation is likely to get muddier. Remember many economists predicted early last year by end 2013 the actual parity of LKR/US$ could well be in the neighbourhood of Rs.150. If that were to happen, there can be chaos in an economy that gets its oxygen from borrowings whereas ideally it should be via increased exports and productive economic performance.


  • 0

    Dayasirij is so confident of winning elections ,as he too believes in the jilmart and Mugabe systems? Like how Basil and moda wanna won?

  • 0

    Gota’s army is all over suppressing dissent. For how long?
    People in Sri Lanka are not so ignorant and illiterate as those in Zimbabwe

  • 0

    2009 One USD fetched LKR 120.

    2013 One USD fetching LKR 133.

    Is this a big deal?.

    USD 500 Million Deep Sea Harbor now competing with Dubai and the Indian exporters queing up to to avoid Singapore to save Time and Money,

    Shangriila, Hyatt Regency, USD 850 Mil Keels Pad,and even our Indian friend’s Kriss Towers filling up with visitors from even the Diaspora IC. travelling on Airbus A 350 Carbon Fibre Jets powered by Cameron’s RR engines.Srilankan Treasury shouldn’t have any problems paying the Bond Holders.

    • 0


      I am aware of more investments coming in than those listed by you. These add up to sizeable amounts – and in the interest of the country’s
      future – we wish more will come in. They are all a Vote of Confidence in our efficient and results-yielding private sector and banks that so far remain unmolested. But these and the consequences of these investments are not enough to gain us
      growth over 7.5% or a Per Capita in the region of US$5,000. They are
      not sufficient to meet our enormous borrowings in recent times.
      What needs to be subject to criticism is wastage of valuable resources in those failing Hambantota Mega Projects, Mihinair, Sri Lankan Airlines and other white elephants which COPE and the Auditor-General repeatedly point out. But good governance conforming to the Constitution, a reliable Police system, independence of the judiciary and the recovery of public confidence in it, peace throughout the island, inter-racial and religious harmony – which all lie crumbled in recent years – ideally should be restored.


      • 0

        Another pissa?

      • 0

        You are 100% correct. I agree with you. Keep publishing your comments and open the Blind eyes.

        Rajapakse China Development Investments are 80% utter failures.

        Nelum Pokuna theatre, Hambanthota Harbour, Mattala Airport, Lotus Towers, Hambanthota cinema villege,Cricket stadium, Norochcholai Powere station only 50% satisfied. Only colombob Galle road is some sort of satisfactory. Building 13th Airport in Kandy destroying 400 Acres of land. Who needs ariports when we have so many Helicopters.

        All Sri Lankan patriots should unite to rescue our country from a bunch of Alibaba, thug thieves.

    • 0

      Pissuda yako? Keells has nothing to do with govt. investments .in case you did not know that is a private company. Krish with an individual of gambling fame is with you know who. Competing with who, did you say? My foot!

    • 0

      K A S SUMANA LeelaWathie;

      Sri Lankan Peoples are not Idiots like you.

      You also a Moron like your handlers,your bosses Jarapassa, and Central bank Cabba.

      They will open Many brothels as in Dubai for theirs and yours pleasures.
      They will export more SEX SLAVES to middle east and earn some more commissions money.

      10%, 20% PIGS will get fatty and we will suffer another few generations, JARAPASSA’S WILL get their loot [our blood]at SWISS banks.

      But there is no gain for ordinary people.

      How The Uneducated YOU VULTURES,Morons and looters know about ECONOMY and governance.

    • 0

      And in 1980 one dollar was Rs15/-…does THAT mean anything you moron ?!!

  • 0


    Your first and the last bits sound reasonable.

    Tell me which Airline in the whole wide world has made a profit in recent times?.

    The last bit in fact will an ideal Election Manifesto for your Vellala mate from Kurunduwatta.

    If you can persuade him ,it will build a lot of confidence in the new CM among our great majority of the inhabitant population,

    For a start , he should detach himself from the Diaspora, which seems to be swallowing both Sambandan and even Sumanthiran now (recent attempts to divert the new LTTE funds in Totornto to TNA coffers) and work for the good of the inhabitant population.

    • 0

      K A S SUMANA [Leela Wathie];

      Sri Lankans knows Who is betting on Whom.

      If your Handlers did not tell you,
      these are some of the most profit making lines in SRi Lanka;

      THe Jarapassa Line,
      Shit eating PIGS line,
      M O D Vass Gune Line,
      Yalpaanam Haturusingho line, [ SCRAP STEEL CONTAINER via MOD].
      Dumiya Kuduline,
      Vermin kuduline,
      Massaging SPA [UDA] Line,
      10% and 20% line,
      Alcohol Sprit line,
      Offshore Gunrunning Line,
      People smuggling line [ via hambathota].
      White van line.

      Sambandan and Sumanthiran are more educated and decent men,
      not like Looted L L B Lawyers of Moolana thugs.

    • 0

      Branson’s Virgin Atlantic and Fernandez’s Air Asia come to mind as
      successful and profit-making among the major airlines. There can be
      a dozen more worldwide. The funds wasted on MihinAir should have been
      pumped into Sri Lankan Airlines, which has much potential and brand-recognition for growth and improvement. For instance, the Rajapakses should use whatever influence they have to open the Toronto market for us to fly to London from there (We already have London-Colombo rights)
      The nearly 350,000 market of those of Lankan origin in the GTA plus the
      substantial Indian population – now cut off from Toronto to Chennai by the popular Jet Airways – will be a lucrative market for us.


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