Tsvangirai must form a coalition to have any chance in upcoming elections – By Simukai Tinhu
On Friday the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe ruled that the upcoming elections must be held by the 31st of July. This development confirms the suspicions of many that ZANU-PF intends to hold elections immediately after the expiry of the coalition government (29th June). This then leaves just a few weeks to carry out political and security sector reforms necessary for a free and fair election.
Triggered by an application challenging President Mugabe to announce an election date, the Constitutional Court’s ruling has been interpreted by opposition groups as yet another trick from the ZANU–PF political playbook. The allegation is that through this ruling (by a partisan court) ZANU–PF has effectively declared an election date.
According to the Global Political Agreement (GPA), the election date should be set by the executive in consultation with coalition partners. In other words, this development effectively circumvents the consultative process and gives Mugabe the authority to go ahead and set a date under the pretext that his choices are constricted by the court’s ruling.
This development should have come as no surprise to the opposition. The writing has been on the wall for a while – ZANU–PF has always insisted that it wants elections sooner rather that later, and those who follow Zimbabwean politics must have predicted that it was only a matter of time before President Mugabe’s party found a clandestine way to achieve that objective. Caught off guard, this ruling should act as a warning to the opposition that it is wise to plan for elections as if political reforms are not going to happen, and this means changing the campaign strategy.
Why Political Reforms are unlikely
Misplaced optimism that political reforms will be instituted before the elections has been fuelled by the peaceful referendum on the new constitution held in March this year, and also by a fundamental misunderstanding of ZANU–PF’s behaviour. By insisting on political reforms, the opposition and local democracy promotion groups are seriously misreading what has been President Mugabe’s political plan since 1980; an unequal level playing field having formed the steel frame of ZANU–PF’s political strategy since independence.
In its current coalition ZANU–PF, which occupies the executive, has stalled political reforms over the last four years by successfully limiting discourse and diverting discussion towards sanctions removal. It is now inconceivable that reforms will be instituted in the next few weeks, and for the MDC–T and MDC–N to devise campaign strategies based on the premise that President Mugabe’s party will acquiesce to their demands is bad planning.
Moreover, those that have been tasked with ensuring that reforms are carried out; the regional body of Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the South African government, do not have the motivation or a strategy to coerce ZANU–PF into implementing reforms. For example, SADC is almost always preoccupied with trade and economic issues, and appears to have little time and inclination for reform nor does it have a standing army or a sanctions regime that can act as a coercive threat.
The South African government itself does not have the courage to confront ZANU–PF. For example, recently, the South African delegation sent by President Jacob Zuma to monitor the progress of the reforms was chased out of the country by President Mugabe. It appears that without pressure from the EU and US, Zimbabwean elections are of little interest to South Africa, and President Zuma sees no incentive in pulling opposition and democracy groups out of the fire.
Another cause for concern is that whilst the West was a vocal critic of President Mugabe’s regime in the last decade, the EU and US in particular appear to have retreated. It seems the international community is attempting to avoid playing a heavy–handed role as in the previous elections where it was seen as overtly promoting opposition forces and demonising the ZANU-PF.
It is apparent that this time the international community has taken a hands–off approach on Zimbabwe’s internal politics, allowing the political process to drift. This policy of rapprochement from the international community (for example, the lifting of sanctions against ZANU–PF officials with virtually no political reforms having been made) has negatively impacted the pressure they can place on ZANU-PF to make reforms.
How to Defeat ZANU–PF
Political party strategists should demonstrate an interest in underlying transitions at a wider level and perhaps more crucially, how those fundamental undercurrents are affecting political attitudes in their country. One of them is the increasing nationalistic attitudes of the young and educated urban populations in Africa. Buoyed by the “˜Africa rising’ narrative, nationalism is on the rise, and Zimbabwe is no exception. In the continent’s most recent elections in Zambia and Kenya, the victors – Michael Sata and Uhuru Kenyatta – ran sustained anti–western campaigns that drew the support of the young and educated.
If the opposition wants to succeed, they might as well embrace nationalism and adopt a position where they argue that they are the best guarantor of the independence legacy that has been betrayed by ZANU–PF. In other words, this time around Tsvangirai might need to wage a more populist, more aggressive campaign that might even be reminiscent of Mugabe’s tone (though moderated).
Tsvangirai should also attempt to convince some of Mugabe’s softer supporters that he can secure the gains of the current regime, such as land reform. This will put ZANU–PF in a defensive mode, and deprive them of ammunition to attack Tsvangirai as a neo–imperialist agent. However, the trouble with adopting such a strategy is that it needs time, and there is precious little of that if elections are indeed to be held by the 31st July.
- Undermining Elite Cohesion
The other pillar that should undergird any opposition movement is undermining ZANU-PF party unity. Currently, the ageing President skilfully manages a brittle internal balance of power between various factions. But maintaining such a balance is extremely difficult and a great deal of it is done via patronage politics. Undermining elite cohesion is likely to achieve two objectives. Targeting key individuals is an effective tactic that not only brings patronage networks, but the stalwart’s votes, and experience. Second, and at a psychological level, drawing party stalwarts counters the narrative that ZANU–PF’s unity is invincible.
- Coalition of the Opposition
One realistic campaign strategy remains: a coalition of opposition forces. The main opposition party (MDC–T) continues to be adamant that it will win on its own. Tsvangirai’s party seems oblivious to a mountain of complex of problems it faces; a dwindling support base, unequal level playing field, circumscribed regional and international support, a surge in ZANU–PF popularity and also a crowded opposition space with reportedly 28 eight candidates vying for the Presidency. MDC–T needs to rein in, be realistic and understand that joining a coalition should not be considered discretionary.
There are three reasons why the MDC–T should not go it alone:
- Historical precedent: the opposition has failed in the previous elections to get into power despite odds being slightly better than today. Also, those in favour of a one party strategy are blind to the fact that no single political party has successfully challenged ZANU–PF’s stranglehold on Zimbabwean politics since independence.
- The coalition will not only change the fundamentals of Zimbabwean opposition, but also the very terms in which the Zimbabweans think about and define national politics.
- Considering that there is unlikely to be political reform, this strategy is logical. The greater chance to topple Mugabe is when the opposition combines its efforts, resources and votes.
Who should join MDC–T?
MDC–T, despite its faults in coalition, remains the anchor of the opposition and should therefore take a lead in any negotiations. Building a strong coalition should be limited to MDC–N led by Welshman Ncube to back Tsvangirai as the presidential candidate. Ncube is a polarising figure and is perceived as being vocal on behalf of the voters from Matabeleland and the Midlands regions. But it is precisely because of this quality that he is in a unique position to mobilise votes from these two regions.
Drawing Simba Makoni (Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn) and Dumiso Dabengwa (ZAPU – PF) into an alliance might be problematic. Politically both men were creations of ZANU–PF and still benefit materially from ancient ZANU–PF patronage networks. It is not unreasonable that some see Dabengwa and Makoni’s political parties as proxies created by ZANU–PF to disrupt the strength of the opposition.
The differences between the MDC–T and MDC–N leaders are fundamental. Ncube accuses Tsvangirai of being weak on democratic and leadership credentials, while the MDC–T leader accuses Ncube of being provincial. In addition, each man sees himself as best suited to stand as the Presidential candidate.
How could it be done?
In order to create an environment for constructive dialogue, relations between Tsvangirai and Ncube need to be reset. Tsvangirai must desist from making statements that risk pushing Ncube’s party further away. It is important to remind ourselves that Ncube is one of the architects and ideologues of the original MDC. Instead of ridiculing him, Tsvangirai must acknowledge his contribution and treat him as a friend who must be embraced. He also needs to acknowledge Ncube’s growing influence and support in the Matabeleland and Midland regions.
In extending an olive branch, MDC–T must attempt to address some of Ncube’s legitimate grievances. Ncube remains convinced that Tsvangirai and his inner circle worked to block his ascent to the top of the party. Ncube also alleges that MDC–T has deliberately undermined his party by labelling it as “˜tribal’ or provincial.
Whilst the above are manageable problems, more difficult is the discussion of who is going to be offered what as part of the strategic partnership. The onus of the main MDC is to be seen to be generous in what it offers. Ncube’s party will seek assurances on key positions in return for backing the coalition as they cannot be expected to relinquish their independence without getting tangible offers in return. Equally, the MDC–N leader will need to display humility and self discipline.
Despite their differences, a coalition of the opposition is a possible and viable strategy. The two parties have a convergent interest of getting rid of President Mugabe. We also have to remind ourselves that in the 2008 Presidential elections the MDC–N leader urged his supporters to vote for Simba Makoni. Such an unprecedented overture shows Ncube’s pragmatic side and that he is open to negotiations.
Not forming a coalition is not an option
Failure to form a united opposition is a prescription for defeat. The MDC–T is trailing ZANU–PF in polls and no one who is seriously concerned with political and electoral strategies can afford to ignore these, no matter how flawed or old they are. Not only do the polls show that ZANU–PF support has surged but most importantly, the party may use these numbers to justify a rigged electoral “˜win’. Poor shows at rallies, an unequal level playing field and circumscribed regional and international support also counts against the MDC-T.
Politics needs ideals and policies, but most crucially a sense of direction. Post-independence electoral history of Zimbabwe has two important lessons: No political party has successfully challenged President Mugabe on its own and preoccupation with legality and political reforms in a ZANU–PF dominated Zimbabwe does not work. This is a reality that is still to register with the opposition.
ZANU–PF is corrupt, ruthless and violent, but nobody can accuse President Mugabe’s party of being directionless. They alone seem to know how to get what they want in the next elections and they may well be rewarded for that. Their adversaries should be wise enough to draw together and substitute competition for political union. A coalition coupled with an effective campaign strategy offers better chances.
Simukai Tinhu is a political analyst based in London.
Electoral Legitimacy: Why it matters” http://read-online.org/archives/2446
I think you will find that whatever coalition Morgan may wish to make he will find it difficult to get elected whenever they have a date agreed. His only coalition is with ZANU-PF if they will have him again. The background was described wel in an article in the Herlad of 7 June….
Zimbabwe: July – the Month the MDC Calendar Skips
Nathaniel Manheru, Herald 7 June 2013
I am intrigued. You have a maiden ruling on elections from the newly established Constitutional Court. The ruling requires that the authorities ensure elections are held by end of July 2013, all to ensure Zimbabwe remains a bona fide democracy run by a government, as opposed to being ruled by decree, by an unbridled executive.
I wrote about this two weeks back when then, the position of the Judiciary — the only other arm to remain in place after June 29 — was still a matter of conjecture. Not anymore. We now know the mind of the Bench, which is what makes the idea of any extra-electoral rule after the expiry of Parliament on June 29, resonantly untenable. It simply means we will have an executive ruling by decrees, ruling without a checking Judiciary.
It is that bad, with everything pointing towards a constitutional crisis, indeed towards an MDC — yes — an MDC formations-supported coup. There are more surprises. An MDC formations-instigated coup done not for themselves, but for a reluctant Robert Mugabe — their supposed political bÃªte noire!
Who can fathom the reason, who the rhyme, for me? Rule us a little more, a little longer, Mister President, seems the plea from the formations who just cannot have enough of Mugabe Presidency.
Still more surprise: the man being accosted to do so, without even the encumbrances of the Bench, refuses that offer, rejects it! What a strange autocrat! I am intrigued.
A modest proposal
More intrigued the more I apply my mind to the whole matter. You have Moyo, the Speaker of the Lower House of our Parliament. Constitutionally, he is the face and embodiment of rule of law, of the democratic principle of checks and balances.
The House he presides over, is the fount of democracy, democracy’s wellspring. But today he has a proposal to make — Jonathan Swift, with his savage sense of satirical irony, would have called it a modest proposal — and his proposal is that the three principals meet and agree to extend the life of Parliament by God-knows-how-many-more-moons! And of course Zimbabwe will hit a first in the history of mankind: getting the Executive to extend the life of Parliament, when in fact Parliament is itself the starting point of any politician who merits to govern democratically!
Of course it makes perfect sense. After all, is it not true that the child is the father of man? And here we take this aphorism literally! Politicians can make and remake the womb that carries and bears them, a womb called Parliament! And the invitation to do such a miracle comes from the womb itself!
History is replete with examples of Parliaments whose lives are terminated abruptly by the executive. Indeed history is full of examples of governments which are either ended or extended through actions of parliaments.
But we are Zimbos; we reverse things here. We are ready to furnish history with this novelty of a Parliament whose life gets extended — at its own request — and by those it is supposed to oversee!
A Parliament that fears elections! Ha ha ha!
Tinombonzi vanaaniko isu! A real modest proposal but said in earnest!
See who is hurt
Anyhow, the Constitutional Court has spoken, but not without giving us more ironies. Does anyone remember that Zanu-PF was opposed to the idea of a constitutional court? That it was an unnecessary expense given that the Supreme Court could, and did in fact play that role without costing the taxpayer a farthing more? Of course the MDC formations, obviously under a giant seizure of unthinking admiration of the South African constitution, insisted the court was needed.
Reluctantly Zanu-PF acquiesced and, yes, we now have it. And its maiden judgment, which appears to have gone against those who pushed for it! So much about just building institutions without thinking. Today just see who is hurt!
But that is not the intriguing part. When the judgment was delivered, you had a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office — or what claimed to be it. The statement intemperately accused the constitutional court of going off limits, of overstepping its bounds, thereby encroaching the sacred grounds of the Executive. Quite a serious charge, and one which would have been made after very thoughtful regard. Or so one thought.
It turns out the Prime Minister was in South Africa when the statement was cobbled, cobbled ostensibly to speak for, and represent the reflex of a man and a party which agitated for the inclusion of a Constitutional Court in the new Charter. But the facts stood bare and brittle. The Court had not invited a case. It was approached, and this in the wake of a seemingly interminable bicker within the Executive on elections and election dates. Its role was to interpret the law so the Executive is properly guided. This it did, paradoxically attracting the charge of overstepping its mandate from the very Executive whose bicker precipitated the case, and therefore its maiden convening, in the first place.
Where were all the lawyers?
Sensing things are taking an unwanted direction, Tsvangirai abridges his short holiday and rushes back home, all to find a meeting of his party’s executive virtually set. In panic, the meeting is held and — surprise, surprise — the outcome is exactly the opposite of what the statement attributed to the Prime Minister intimated. The MDC-T executive embraces the judgment, while noting the pressures the judgment creates for the Executive which must comply with the judgment. That way the party restores its fear of the rule of law. Or upholds the myth of its fear of it. Just who had issued the first statement attributed to the Prime Minister, through his spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka? Magaisa?
Using the un-looking Luke as a billboard? And why wouldn’t the MDC executive find a better way of making an about-turn, without making the position of the Prime Minister look so uneducated? More important, why does a party with such a surfeit of lawyers stumble on legal matters? Where was Biti?
Where was Matinenga? Where was Mwonzora? Where was Gonese? Where was Chagonda? Where was Tsunga? I will not talk about the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, itself a pen for volunteer lawyers for the MDC-T.
Or are we looking at a flexing of legal skills against the Prime Minister? To degrade his position, his estimate in public eyes? Rearguard action by an embittered clique? Where is leadership when you cannot trust the reflex of your leader? Or his minions? What a remarkable contrast with how Zanu-PF handled the same matter!
A Third Force at work?
Of course the Prime Minister can no longer rely on Professor Madhuku. Instead Madhuku makes it plain and loud that the judgment is “sound” at law, dealing a mortal blow to the MDC-T case which has always profited from an avalanche effect of multiple endorsements. And something keeps reminding me of my conversation with Madhuku, specifically his contention that NCA will one day morph into a full blown party, specifically that when that moment comes, it shall recall all its members embedded with MDC formations.
Is this a gradual build up? Why would a Biti who has been frothing about outstanding issues suddenly supinely whimper about the urgency of a Presidential proclamation of election dates in order to save the economy? Who gets sacrificed to redeem the economy? And what form does the sacrifice take in political terms? Interesting questions to ask in this brooding hour.
Then you have the photo-shoot, a dramatic one at that. It has Tsvangirai, Makoni, Dabengwa, Mushoriwa and Semwayo, all paraded with clear uneasiness. These men have decided to collaborate in opposing Zanu-PF on the election date issue, possibly in the forthcoming elections.
Crucially, the photo-shoot does not have Welshman Ncube. Not even Priscilla. Crucially, it is not clear whose mission Dabengwa and Makoni are pursuing, whose project they are. Just a few days before, Dabengwa praises Mugabe for leading in peace crusade. This is at the memorial service of Mai Msipa, wife of a Zanu-PF Politburo member.
Way back but not too way back, Dabengwa intimates affinities with Zanu-PF. This is in an interview with Zimpapers. In that same interview he blasts Tsvangirai, reminding Tsvangirai he has risen enough for his faculties! He should not hope to go any farther. Far, far back, he again told the world Mavambo was put in place to save Zimbabwe from another Chiluba. And before, that Mavambo was launched to deny both Zanu-PF and MDC-T outright majority.
That was then, when both Makoni and Dabengwa traded more on aura and image, than on real worth. Now their political worth is known, better known. What is this new parade meant to achieve? A Chiluba? Another GNU? Beyond their miserable persons, they have no one else to deliver to anyone, infinitely more to deliver by way of miseries wrought by big, un-suppressed, vaulting egos.
So the photo-shoot was not a numbers game; only one of false symbolism. More fundamentally, the judgment forced MDC-T to play out its reflexes, all for Zanu-PF to take notice of. That done, the way is much clearer.
Going against principles and guidelines
The last perplexity relates to Sadc: what it can do, should do, in respect of Zimbabwe’s ever entangling electoral politics. Much is made to hinge on President Zuma who is expected to fight in the MDC corner. I don’t know the basis for such expectations, let alone the soundness of it all.
But clearly it beats one’s mind how Sadc is supposed to sidestep a Constitution and a constitutional judgment, all in the name of “election roadmap”. Or the GPA. Or outstanding issues. Zuma has to have a sound principle on which to make a case on Zimbabwe’s elections.
That principle will have to start with Zimbabwe’s national laws and legal instruments; will have to fall within our court processes as they have unfolded to date. That principle will have to fall within the four corners of principles which govern democratic elections, principles contained in instruments Zimbabwe has acceded to.
Key to all these instruments is the primacy of national laws and national institutions. It does not matter that one is looking at Sadc Guidelines, AU principles or UN Declarations on the same.
Nowhere is it provided that processes must ride roughshod over national laws, national institutions.
That is key and one hopes the MDC formations know that. What is more, no one person, no one leader, no one country, holds sway in Sadc.
That must temper expectations, downsize them to proper proportions. And as the facilitation team which left the country a few days ago now knows, there is a limit to what influence facilitation can achieve when there is a perception of bias.
Or a perception of seeking to traduce national sovereignty. I hope the rumour doing rounds, namely that Sadc is seeking to revise its election guidelines, all to make them tight enough to convict Zimbabwe, is just that: a rumour. I hope no one in Sadc forgets that of all the countries in that sub-regional body, only Zimbabwe has domesticated those guidelines which, by the way, were put together just before Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections, only to be thrown away soon after.
The message Morgan has forgotten
One more thing. Does anyone recall 13th February, 2013? I notice the media has forgotten all about that date and what happened on that day, a Wednesday. Some gentleman called Morgan Richard Tsvangirai addressed his civil society constituency here in Harare.
The country’s Parliament had just taken notice of a draft document for the constitution to have emerged from the protracted constitution-making process. On that day he made two key announcements both of which were reported by newspapers and news agencies. That included NewsDay, Thompson Reuters and AFP. First, he announced that, as principals, they had agreed that a referendum on the draft constitution document be held on March 16. Second, he announced, again on behalf of principals, that harmonised elections would be held in July 2013!!!! I did not say it; he did.
I did not report it; they did. What is all this furore about July and the pronouncement of the Constitutional Court about? Who is inducing amnesia? Who wishes for a shorter calendar?
We all think that will work, but is it feasible, who is going to go into coalition withg tsvangirai, on what terms and on whose terms…. all the way from http://www.inchis.com
Zimbabwe needs a non-partisan, independent electoral commission which will ensure the credibility of electoral monitors and the voters’ roll, permit fair campaigning of political parties, accredit media and other groups to monitor on the day of the election and analyse the entire process as a whole.