Elec­tion sea­son on, Zanu-PF beware!

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Comment & Opinion -

ZIM­BABWE has of­ten been de­scribed, nay, ac­cused, of be­ing in a per­pet­ual elec­tion mode and those who de­spair at the state of af­fairs be­lieve noth­ing can be planned and ex­e­cuted in such a state of uncer­tainty. The de­scrip­tion is largely true. Since 2000, Zim­babwe has had a bipo­lar po­lit­i­cal sce­nario char­ac­terised by a two ma­jor po­lit­i­cal move­ments, the rul­ing party, Zanu-PF and a strong op­po­si­tion in the MDC led by Mor­gan Ts­van­gi­rai.

Al­though the op­po­si­tion has suf­fered con­sec­u­tive and cu­mu­la­tive losses, it has al­ways been too close for the com­fort of the rul­ing party.

In 2008, it nar­rowly won both the Par­lia­men­tary con­test (by 100 to 98 seats) and a first round Pres­i­den­tial poll (Ts­van­gi­rai’s 47.9 per­cent to Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe’s 43.2 per­cent) which led to the for­ma­tion of the power-shar­ing agree­ment in 2009.

In 2013, the op­po­si­tion suf­fered a mas­sive re­ver­sal and has been paci­fied since then.

At least in the realm of elec­toral pol­i­tics.

It is largely ex­pected that the op­po­si­tion will lose if an elec­tion were called to­day.

But that does not mean the per­ma­nent state of elec­tion­eer­ing is over.

2013 must have set­tled the ques­tion. It did not. The op­po­si­tion threat re­mains as con­stant a threat as ever to rul­ing party.

It is also wise to note that the op­po­si­tion is seen and known to pos­sess other less straight­for­ward meth­ods in a bid to oust the rul­ing party.

It can muster, and could have, mus­tered a vi­o­lent takeover whether di­rectly or through a na­tional up­ris­ing.

That’s what the many protests over the years have been about.

The op­po­si­tion has firmly kept that op­tion on the ta­ble. The rul­ing party knows it too. You could say that Zim­babwe en­joys an uneasy peace: that’s also largely true.

You can add to that mix how hawks such as the United States of Amer­ica have al­ways been cir­cling wait­ing for a Libya mo­ment — a mo­ment that the op­po­si­tion can mount a re­bel­lion, prefer­ably an armed one, which the West would be too ready to aid and “take out Mu­gabe”.

It is some­thing be­tween di­vine mir­a­cle and tes­ti­mony of the strength of the rul­ing party and our se­cu­rity sec­tor that such a thing has not hap­pened.

We re­call that the Brits and Amer­i­cans some­time in 2008, wanted to start of such a game, but were quickly warned off.

And we hear that even Botswana wanted to take the role of teaser bull, but Zim­babwe re­port­edly put a stern face at the western bor­der that quickly cooled down the ex­citable neigh­bour.

But it is all enough to tell us that Zim­babwe is, and re­mains on the edge.

It would sur­prise many peo­ple that Zim­babwe has held so many elec­toral events and pro­cesses over the years, which would or­di­nar­ily have been enough fly­ing colours for a re­mark­able democracy.

Only the process has not been able to set­tle a crit­i­cal na­tional ques­tion. It’s called le­git­i­macy. And im­me­di­ately it brings a lot of con­tes­ta­tion as to who con­fers le­git­i­macy on our pro­cesses and out­comes and who set­tles it.

Let’s look at it in two ways: One, all par­ties agree that the man­date to gov­ern should de­rive from the peo­ple and there­fore a process must take place that en­sures that the will of the peo­ple is ex­pressed and cap­tured.

That is how we have come with this rou­tine called elec­tions.

Zim­babwe in fact, is one of a few coun­tries in Africa, if not the only one, to have held elec­tions since 1980.

The elec­tions have re­peat­edly pit­ted Zanu-PF which has won against its ri­vals, the main of which has been Ts­van­gi­rai’s MDC.

These elec­tions have pro­duced con­tested out­comes since 2000 partly due to tech­ni­cal and op­er­a­tional is­sues, but also largely be­cause the op­po­si­tion has re­fused to hon­our the out­comes.

In fact, it has just about told us that it will never ac­cept re­sults of elec­tions it does not win, which is quite a strange phi­los­o­phy or at­ti­tude of a party will­ingly go­ing into a con­test.

This at­ti­tude has been adopted by the sup­port­ers and sym­pa­this­ers of the op­po­si­tion in the West.

That is how they have rou­tinely dis­missed the out­comes even when other stake­hold­ers in diplo­matic cir­cles, from sadc to NAM and UN, have ac­cepted.

Le­git­i­macy in this case has in­creas­ingly shown to be sub­jec­tive, and per­haps a mat­ter of whim at worst.

We all thought that le­git­i­macy de­rived from the con­sent of the gov­erned as mea­sured by such pro­cesses as elec­tions and, more qual­i­ta­tively, how the gen­eral pop­u­lace re­acts and live by the out­comes of their pro­cesses.

2008 may yet pro­vide a sig­nif­i­cant in­di­ca­tion of the na­tional mood and marker of the le­git­i­macy ques­tion.

How we came up with a ne­go­ti­ated “set­tle­ment” and an “in­clu­sive” Gov­ern­ment in­di­cates to us that the only way to se­cure le­git­i­macy and re­flect peo­ple’s wishes was by way of a hy­brid “power-shar­ing” struc­ture.

And, sig­nif­i­cantly, it was an ac­cept­able out­come of a ne­go­ti­a­tion process.

But 2013 brought with it a per­plex­ing, if rather vex­a­tious, per­spec­tive.

The op­po­si­tion of­ten points to the fact of a trou­bled econ­omy as an in­di­ca­tor of a “cri­sis of le­git­i­macy”.

It of­ten brags that Zanu-PF “can rig the elec­tions, but can’t rig the econ­omy”.

The sug­ges­tion is that a “le­git­i­mate” rul­ing party should be able to suc­ceed eco­nom­i­cally.

That sounds fal­la­cious from the start, doesn’t it?

And in the case of Zim­babwe where there are span­ners that are presently and con­tin­u­ously be­ing thrown onto the econ­omy by way of sanc­tions by the West, does the eco­nomic im­per­a­tive count as a marker of le­git­i­macy? It gets re­ally mud­dled. Es­sen­tially, this has led to a con­tin­u­ing state of pol­i­tick­ing and elec­tion­eer­ing.

The op­po­si­tion has been hop­ing that where it has failed to take over power through the bal­lot, it can still gather the twigs of a fall­ing econ­omy.

Hence, our good op­po­si­tion tells the rul­ing party, Ton­gai tione!

The sea­son cometh

And we are of­fi­cially in the elec­tion sea­son again.

Last week, Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe an­nounced the com­mence­ment of the voter reg­is­tra­tion ex­er­cise which is to be car­ried out by the Zim­babwe Elec­toral Com­mis­sion in terms of the law.

And two days ago, the Head of State sym­bol­i­cally led the process by be­ing the first per­son to be reg­is­tered un­der the bio­met­ric voter reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem.

The process of voter reg­is­tra­tion will end in Jan­uary and from as early as three months thence, we may get to know the date for our next vot­ing rit­u­als.

By all in­di­ca­tions, par­ties and in­di­vid­u­als in the coun­try are aware that the sea­son is upon us.

What is dif­fer­ent is the state of pre­pared­ness among the play­ers.

Zanu-PF is on a roll — and favoured by pun­dits.

The main op­po­si­tion is at sixes and sev­ens.

It had banked on the idea of a grand coali­tion but it ap­pears cer­tain by the day that this is a mirage.

The once forcible Mor­gan Ts­van­gi­rai, ail­ing ter­mi­nally as he is, doesn’t seem ready or fired up for the con­test.

He has been quiet.

His quiet­ness tells us a lot about his evanes­cence as a po­lit­i­cal force.

His party knows these grim prospects.

The best they can do is play games and sideshows.

They have taken Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe and ZEC to court seek­ing to nul­lify the procla­ma­tion of voter reg­is­tra­tion dates and, ac­cord­ing to a lo­cal news­pa­per, “to also push the com­mis­sion to clear the air on the cen­tral server sys­tem, which con­tin­ues to draw con­tro­versy”.

Obert Gutu told the news agency, AFP, that:

“There is no need to jump the gun and or­der a chaotic, pre­ma­ture com­mence­ment of the reg­is­tra­tion process.

“It is ev­i­dent that, by and large, there are no kits to com­mence reg­is­tra­tion.”

It does not take as much as rocket science to know that the op­po­si­tion is try­ing to play foot­ball with the courts in an ef­fort to buy time. It needs it badly. Hence, warns Gutu: “We will use all con­sti­tu­tional, po­lit­i­cal and le­gal pres­sure to make sure we have (an elec­tion) that is free and fair next year.”

That is an­other coded lan­guage to tell us that the op­po­si­tion, star­ing de­feat, is look­ing at cor­ners to hide.

And since al­leg­ing rig­ging is one of the more fash­ion­able ex­cuses, we ex­pected the other op­po­si­tion leader — Joice Mu­juru — to tell us how it is done.

The NewsDay yes­ter­day car­ried a story head­lined “Mu­juru re­veals Zanu-PF rig­ging tricks” that re­ally whet our ap­petite.

Mu­juru, we are help­fully re­minded, spent over 34 years as a Cab­i­net min­is­ter in Mu­gabe’s gov­ern­ment, 10 of them as Vice-Pres­i­dent. And this was her ex­pose: “It is im­por­tant to get death cer­tifi­cates for your de­ceased loved (ones) as fail­ure to have them gives Zanu-PF the chance to use your loved ones’ na­tional iden­tity cards to rig the 2018 elec­tions.”

We are told she is­sued a whole state­ment on that and that was the choic­est bit that the dec­o­rated op­po­si­tion leader and pres­i­den­tial as­pi­rant could say. God help Zim­babwe! Zanu-PF beware! It is clear from the above that Zanu-PF will not have any prob­lems dis­patch­ing the op­po­si­tion, whether singly or sev­er­ally un­der the ban­ner of the coali­tion.

It has been so clear that the per­mu­ta­tions that are be­ing run le­git­i­mately out there con­cern how Zanu-PF is go­ing to be con­fig­ured post-elec­tions and what kind of poli­cies it will pur­sue.

The op­po­si­tion is dead, even in the eyes of its most ar­dent of sup­port­ers.

Zanu-PF stands on the thresh­old of vic­tory.

Yet it also faces its realest dan­ger that might as well give the op­po­si­tion a life­line.

We have all been fol­low­ing the un­rav­el­ling fac­tion­al­ism in the party and the fes­ti­vals of hate that many party plat­forms have become.

It is not some­thing that can­not be hid­den any more.

Zanu-PF is in dan­ger of shoot­ing it­self in the foot if it does not han­dle its fac­tion­al­ism is­sues prop­erly, and ur­gently too.

Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe has con­firmed the bit­ter fight be­tween the G40 (for­merly Obama Gen­er­a­tion) and La­coste.

There are such heated and deep pas­sions char­ac­ter­is­ing these camps and these dif­fer­ences may as well trans­late to an­other 2008 bhora mu­sango sce­nario. The dan­ger is so real. Zanu-PF had bet­ter beware!

Obert Gutu

Mor­gan Ts­van­gi­rai

Joice Mu­juru

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