As attacks on Zimbabweans in South Africa have escalated in the past weeks, news about what has been going on within Zimbabwe's borders has been mixed.
I should start out by saying that I am certainly no authority on this, so I am just going to share what I have heard people say.
First of all, Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader running against Mugabe, has been in South Africa for the last six weeks. During this time, there have been several reported death threats and against him, as well as threats that he will be charged with treason upon his return to Zimbabwe, which supposedly prolonged his stay in the South Africa . While he was here we saw him on the news often, especially when the attacks started happening against Zimbabweans around Johannesburg. On the news, I saw him give a speech to Zimbabwean immigrantss who had fled their homes because of the violence, and his message was to go home to Zimbabwe - that together, they would build the nation again.
However, he returned to Zim this weekend. Here is an article about the current events going on there: http://www.mg.co.za/articlePage.aspx?articleid=340082&area=/breaking_news/breaking_news__africa/.
After a LOOONG delay in the releasing of any results about the Zim election that happened at the begnning of this year, it was finally announced that neither Mugabe or Twvangirai had won a clear majority of votes (though most people here doubt the truth of that and think Twvangirai actually did receive a majority), so there will have to be a run-off election. Supposedly this will take place in July. Most people I have talked to about this think that Mugabe will 'win' this run-off election. There have been wide reports of voter intimidation/violence which is suspected to influence the results of the election, as well as suspected corruption with the counting of the ballots. For the record, African Union election observers deemed the initial election as fair.
Meanwhile, South Africa's response has been very mixed. President Mbeki, who is now more or less a 'lame duck' because Jacob Zuma has been elected the president of the ruling party (the ANC), has been widely criticized within South Africa for his lack of a response to the Zimbabwean situation, and for his denial that there is a crisis going on there. (Zimbabwe has something like a 600 thousand percent inflation rate. To put that in perspective, Iraq, which has the next highest inflation rate in the world, is at 60 percent.)
Meanwhile, Jacob Zuma, who (unless if something drastic happens) will be the next president of South Africa, has been speaking out about the Zimbabwean situation internationally. Some of my South African friends think he is doing this as a strategic political move. He is currently under investigation for corruption charges, and if he is convicted, could lose his place as president of the ANC. Some of my friends think that he is trying to appeal to the international community over the Zimbabwean situation so that he can garner international support for his ascent to the presidency. I don't know how accurate those perceptions are.
Needless to say, most people's perceptions here about what is going on in Zimbabwe are very grim and cynical.
HOWEVER, I, who inherited my mother's eternally optimistic genes, still have hope for Zimbabwe. My hope is that the voters will speak out, despite intimidation and whatnot. My hope is that more intense election monitoring will be allowed in for this next go-around of voting. Several of my Zimbabwean friends who are studying here have shared these hopes with me. It is amazing in the first place that such an opposition was allowed to form against Mugabe in the first place, and perhaps that signals that changes are in store. Mugabe is, after all, 84 years old.