During the heady days of November 07 Crikey launched our Google election tracker. It marked exciting things like campaign bloopers and included YouTube footage of a woman fainting in a shopping centre and a picture of Kevin Rudd making coffee at a Gloria Jeans outlet.

Zimbabwe’s crucial 29 March elections are this weekend. And, just like us, voters in Zimbabwe have their own Google election map. It boasts special features too, like markers for voter registration, food supply, freedom of information and press freedom.

It also marks abduction, murder, political cleansing, political violence, unlawful detention, vote buying, state propaganda and looting:

 

As President Robert Mugabe attempts to retain the power he’s held for 28 years, Sokwanele, a Zimbabwe group campaigning for freedom and democracy in Zimbabwe, have mapped a sample of electoral breaches logged under their Zimbabwe Election Watch (ZEW) project. Just like our election, inflation is a hot issue here — except that Zimbabwe’s is running at around 100,000 percent.

Simply click on the jail cell for more details, like this:

Karoi
Issue 18: 2008-02-26

Two opposition election candidates were on Monday being held by police after their weekend arrest in Karoi town… for allegedly meeting supporters without permission from the police. …armed police… stormed a house … where the two MDC politicians were meeting supporters to explain their party’s policies ahead of elections next month…

Or the tiny fist, for this:

Muzarabani Constituency
Issue 18: 2008-02-25

“I felt I must protect my family… They were beating them and tearing their clothes. I knew they were going to rape them and make me watch… ‘They said, ‘You must give us your party card and T-shirt (and) I must spit at the picture of Morgan Tsvangirai… Now you must join Zanu (PF) and sing party songs with us,… While I sang, they kept beating me.”

The interactive map aims to “give a visual impression of the scale and many ways in which the Zimbabwean government has breached the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections,” says Sowanke. “… the scene has been set for unfree and unfair elections on March, and the conditions on the ground have been developed through many months of non-compliance with regional electoral standards.”

Non-compliance like this:

Shamva, Mashonaland Central
Issue 18: 2008-02-25

…Robson Tinarwo, an MDC youth leader in nearby Shamva, had been attacked by Zanu (PF) activists and had refused to renounce his party. They had beaten him unconscious with metal rods. Witnesses reported the case to the police, but no action was taken.

and this:

Marondera
Issue 18: 2008-02-26

… instead of the grain being distributed to all needy Zimbabweans, Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF is using grain as a political tool… Senior officials at the GMB depot in Harare confirm that close to 200,000 tonnes of maize is ready to be dispatched for Mugabe’s campaign …depots in Karoi, Murehwa, Bindura, Chegutu and Marondera have been hoarding stocks.

All the information logged under Zimbabwe Election Watch is drawn from media sources, but according to the group, the events and incidents mapped only “represent a small sample of the breaches identified under the project since we started monitoring the government’s non-cooperation with regional standards in July 2007.” 

This is partly because Zimbabwe has a “highly restrictive media environment, and fuel shortages make remote rural areas inaccessible to those brave journalists who do manage to circumvent the repressive media legislation and attempt to report regardless.”

Because of this, urban areas have a greater representation on the map, and it means that empty areas on the map “may not indicate ‘uneventful’ areas; on the contrary, they are more likely to represent stories we are unable to tell and incidents that have not been reported.”

The map “clearly shows that conditions in the country are not conducive for free and fair democratic elections”. 

And there are clearly no Gloria Jeans outlets, either.

Peter Fray

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