Election season on, Zanu-PF beware!
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!