Zimbabwe Election 31 July …. an end of an era? — by Blessing Vava
It’s now only a few days to 31 July 2013, a day set for Zimbabwe’s make or break harmonized elections. The day is finally upon us despite doubts on the credibility of the elections, but it is here. The elections give an end to the Global Political Agreement and the Government of National Unity, transitional mechanisms initiated by SADC for Zimbabwe’s political players to work together to create conditions for the holding of a credible election.
Surely, we had the inclusive government since February 2009 and despite the cat and mouse relationship between the parties, there were moments of closeness and coziness characterizing the period these parties worked together for us to finally reach this day. We give them credit for attempting to stabilise the economy by stopping the economic nosedive (hyper-inflation) that had reached alarming levels due to ZANU PF’s mis-governance.
Commendably, political violence was reduced and indeed this election is one of the most peaceful ones the country has ever witnessed in recent years. Political party leaders should be applauded for their continuous calls for peace. The inclusive government also managed to draft a new constitution, which however gave too much power to whoever will become the president of the country: some of which powers Mugabe has already started exercising include constituting the constitutional court, proclaiming dates of polls and the temporary powers etc.
Above all, there is really nothing much about the inclusive government for the people of Zimbabwe to celebrate for it was an unpopular government in the literal sense that they were not voted in by the people. Rather, it failed to respect workers, students and ordinary Zimbabweans at large. The expenditure on trips and luxuries was exorbitant and often came at the expense of service delivery, investments in agriculture, industry and key tertiary services which obviously had an adverse effect such as local authorities recording some of the highest and worst cases of corruption since independence.
During this period some became too comfortable and reluctant to go for elections hiding under the cover of reforms, reforms they failed to undertake for the past four years as the inclusive government was basically incepted to deal with those issues.
However, many hope that this time a government of their choice is going to come out. Nevertheless, looking back at the inclusive government one can notice that it was a fertile ground for ZANU PF to dupe their opponents and dump them once achieving what the party wants. The four years did more harm than good to the MDC. They somehow lost focus, forgetting they were dealing with deceitful partners who took the four years to plot their downfall. In most cases the MDC was found defending government positions they would have normally attacked in previous years. They found themselves mud slung into embarrassing situations – many still recall the Chinotimba-Mahlangu scandal over a cellphone, the Prime Minister’s love triangles (or hexagons) , demonstrations by civil servants over salary increments, war veterans demanding compensation and farmers’ castigating the Minister of Finance for failing to avail farming inputs among other issues.
ZANU PF since signing the GPA has always been in an election mood, their focus was on retaining power after the collapse of the GNU. The party has always been mobilizing its supporters since 2010 while the MDC was basically demobilized. The MDC came out tainted with the love for opulence and corruption scandals which also involve their leader Morgan Tsvangirai. In short they were exposed as minors in government who failed to realize that the GPA setup was not a permanent creature, but a temporary measure to create a conducive environment for elections.
Certainly this is it and they have no one to blame when the election result comes out not in their favour. It was this comfort zone that alienated the MDC from the reality of the hardships faces the masses who had voted for them overwhelmingly on 29 March. Despite increasing alarm by the media, civics and generality of the people over voter registration irregularities the MDC either turned a blind eye or chose to be deaf. It seems they failed to learn from the Odinga catastrophe.
It is however, a public secret that ZANU PF is a sunset party, which has not won a free and fair election in recent years. But it is the party’s craftiness that will see them winners after a rigged poll, which is now likely to be endorsed by the regional bodies. ZANU PF has scored success in rallying the region to endorse an electoral outcome that is in its favor. The recent SADC Communiqué and President Zuma’s reining in of Lindiwe Zulu is a clear example of the region’s succumbing to ZANU PF pressure. The MDC and its allies have chosen to be economic about the truth by falsely celebrating SADC Summits outcomes that otherwise undermine its capacity to govern through a free and fair election. Hiring supposed political scientists to interpret a clear message of rebuttal and developing theoretical frameworks in dissecting political temperatures in the region is not sufficient and will not garner the gusto to avoid a rigged election.
From the look of things, this election is likely to go in Mugabe’s favour based on a number of reasons. In my view it is clear that the two MDCs aided ZANU PF to rig/win the forthcoming polls. It will be naí¯ve to think that a miracle will happen on the 31st of July and see Mugabe disposed from power. There won’t be any miracle votes, NO, the ground has already been prepared for Mugabe to win, and he is now preparing to give his speech at the UNWTO General Assembly meeting hosted by Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls beginning 23 August and officiating on Heroes Day as Head of State on 12 August.
Zanu PF knew that the inclusive government was not permanent and desperately wanted it to end, once discovering they had done their homework. It was only after they successfully manipulated the electoral system that they wanted elections soonest. The impetus is their President’s age and health so the sooner the polls are held and they secure a victory for him by hook or crook the better! Good for them because the constitution says if the president dies his party forwards a replacement.
The last election was disputed because of violence and hence Mugabe’s purported victory was heavily de-legitimised, something which they addressed basing on the lack of a peaceful environment which almost all the observing bodies seemed to agree to. Minus violence it will be difficult for anyone to dispute rigged polls by Mugabe. The nation recalls the 2million signatures against sanctions, we all laughed when this “˜exercise’ took place, the 1million march, the demarcation of constituencies, the convenient statements by the army. Has anyone wondered the silence among the generals over this election? Have they yielded to “˜reforms’? Do we still remember the outcome of the referendum and the voting patterns? The election will not be rigged on the 31st of July as some might think; rigging is something ZANU PF has worked on for all these years and the results were sealed on 16 March 2013 when Zimbabwe went for a referendum.
In Kenya Raila Odinga’s fate was sealed during voter registration and similarly the way the voter registration exercise was conducted in Zimbabwe clearly shows how serious ZANU PF rigging machinery wanted to manipulate or rather safeguard the 16 March outcome during the coming elections. The figures released by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) indicate that the rural areas especially in Mashonaland (ZANU PF’s strongholds) recorded highest numbers of first time voters ahead of the towns. The process in towns was tedious, frustrating and had bottlenecks that disenfranchised thousands of first time voters to register as voters. In some areas there are claims that ZANU PF was conducting its own voter registration probably in connivance with ZEC.
The voters roll is still not yet in the public domain despite that it’s barely a week before we go for polls. The Research and Advocacy Unit recently released alarming irregularities on the voter’s roll with at least 1million invalid voters appearing while the legible are disenfranchised. This election must be remember in history as the first election in post-independence Zimbabwe in which voters were not accorded time to inspect their names. The way the special voting was conducting raises suspicion. Many a times the MDCs have always complained about the voters’ roll yet it is this critical document that they gave little if any attention during their tenure in office except for the pronouncements at rallies.
The fear-factor, with memories of the 2008 elections still lingering in the minds of most Zimbabweans, as most societies are still in fear and will not vote freely. I also think the MDCs did not do much in terms of penetrating those areas to demystify the threats by ZANU PF.
The ZEC, despite the parties agreeing to reconstitute the commission, remains full of ZANU PF apologists especially at the secretariat and provincial levels, most of these are ex-military personnel and personalities who once served in ZANU PF, (I do not see them announcing a defeat of Robert Mugabe) even the chairperson’s credentials are questionable especially in light of her recent utterances over the “˜special’ vote.
Apart from these factors, the opposition parties’ failure to come up with one coalition gives an advantage to ZANU PF. The mainstream MDC failed to realise that Mugabe was playing chess with them by supporting the alienation of Ncube from the Monday meetings. ZANU PF knew well that disunity at that level will mean an impossible attempt at a “˜Grand’ Coalition. And as the process unfolds we are likely going to see high figures for ZANU PF especially in the rural areas as witnessed during the referendum, this they will justify by the turnout in their primary polls and the turnout at Mugabe’s rallies.
In conclusion, the MDCs stay in government was ephemeral!!! I do not foresee a defeat of Mugabe this time around, for this election is about his legacy, this is probably why his speeches are historical narrations of the liberation struggle. They will do all they can to ensure a victory for him. Change is certainly not coming soon as some might want us to believe, they surrendered this election to Mugabe long back. The 31 July poll, will just be a mock-election to rubber-stamp Mugabe’s stolen victory. Of course the other contestants as usual will complain of vote rigging but it will be difficult to prove. They will rush to the constitutional court (recall Justice Chiweshe of the 2008 election results drama), which will prove futile as the script is written already. They missed it in 2008, failed to put the mechanisms to avoid rigging whilst still enjoying state power. On July 31st ZANU PF will simply unveil the MDCs tombstone which they murdered and buried on 16th March!!!
Blessing Vava was born in Gweru but is of Ndau origin, his rural home is Chipinge. He served as the Students Union President at Bulawayo Polytechnic in 2006-7 and subsequently the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) in 2008-10. He has had brushes with the Zimbabwe’e security agents and was arrested on more than 10 times during his days as a student leader. He has published many articles on politics, constitutional reform, human rights and music in different newspapers. Currently he is working for the National Constitutional Assembly as an Information and Publicity Officer.