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  • Hot Seat: ICG’s Trevor Maisiri analyses election campaign
    Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
    July 11, 2013

    Violet’s guest on the Hot Seat is analyst Trevor Maisiri, from the International Crisis Group. The discussion looks at the voters’ roll irregularities, where researchers revealed there are more registered voters than actual people in many constituencies across Zimbabwe. What is the motivation behind the formation of electoral alliances? Should the MDC parties form pacts against Zanu-PF even if they don’t share the same values and do not trust each other? Maisiri also provides a comparative analysis of the Zanu-PF/MDC-T manifestos and dissects dynamics in the military, which is said to be divided into three distinct factions; Zanla, Zipra and so-called moderates.

    Violet Gonda: My guest on the Hot Seat programme is Trevor Maisiri, a senior researcher with the International Crisis Group. Trevor let’s start by getting your thoughts on the political climate in Zimbabwe now that all political parties are in campaign mode.

    Trevor Maisiri: The tension is escalating given the contentions around the issues of pre-election reforms that are still outstanding. The MDC parties are still pushing in that direction for reform; Zanu-PF in the other direction is insisting that there must be no further reforms. We also see sporadic incidents of violence that are starting to emanate. We are also seeing political parties hate speeches yet again. This is the current shaping in the political environment in Zimbabwe as we head towards elections. Not to mention as well the issue of voter registration process that has been widely criticized for not achieving the objectives intended to. Also there are questions around the eventual voters’ roll that will be used for this particular election. So we have a tense environment and we have a lot of contentions which is likely to give us quite some disputes as well as we go towards this election.

    Gonda: Finance minister Tendai Biti, who is also the MDC-T Secretary General has said that his party has written to SADC to complain about the massive irregularities in the just ended voter registration exercise and he also says that they are concerned because the voters roll is in shambles and that Zanu-PF may use this to steal the elections.

    Maisiri: I think it is procedural for the MDC-T to write to the SADC facilitator, that is what is expected if there’s any issues that they’ve got to raise; however the question is around what kind of action SADC is able to take at this particular juncture. Looking at the Maputo meeting that was held on the 15th of June, there was a lot of expectation that SADC would then be able to be on the ground in Zimbabwe to help the political parties find consensus around issues that were highlighted in Maputo, but as far as we know SADC has not been on the ground and the political bickering has continued in Zimbabwe.

    So the writing of this letter by the MDC-T is indicative of the rising tensions that I’ve mentioned before; it is indicative of the role that SADC should play in Zimbabwe but it is also a development that must tell us of what is to come because the MDC-T seems to be preparing ground, should this election not go the way they think in terms of election reforms and also outcomes and other issues of that nature. I think they are also preparing ground to then dispute whatever result that comes out unfavourably.

    Gonda: The Harare-based Research and Advocacy Unit also revealed some disturbing discrepancies between the latest voters’ roll and the population census. In many constituencies more people registered to vote than the actual population found in those areas. Is the voters roll going to be a game-changer in your view?

    Maisiri: I should hasten to mention that it’s not only the Research and Advocacy Unit that has come up with these kind of findings; there are other organizations as well like the Zimbabwe Election Support Network and other independent researchers who have also identified similar problems which therefore means that the kind of allegations that are being raised seem to be valid to some extent. What it therefore means is if you look at irregularities in elections across the world or across the globe, you would realize that a lot of irregularities are around inflation of voter numbers which is also about deflation of voter number. So the moment that we see those kinds of discrepancies it raises a lot of questions around the capability of this coming election and it also raises the bigger question of whether this was being done intentionally, or just a systematic error or it’s also around the issues of lack of capacity.

    But what it really points towards is that there is a lot of discrepancies and using this voters’ roll in that kind of a status actually means that there’s going to be a compromised outcome of that particular election.

    Gonda: From past experiences, Zanu-PF pushed back against a comprehensive audit of the final voters’ roll and we know that the MDC is appealing to SADC to intervene but what other options are there?

    Maisiri: The challenge that is there is around the Electoral Act as well. If you look at the issues that the MDC is insisting upon which is the issue of creating a time to audit the voters roll; there’s no specific time given in the Electoral Act to be able to do that after the closure of the registration period because what the Electoral Act then specifies is that there must be continuous audit. The voters’ roll is open for citizens to inspect it and check for their names and correct details on it over a period of time. So any mechanism of auditing the voters’ roll that needs to take place after the expiry of this voter registration period must be through an instrument that ZEC itself must be able to put across and propose and then implement.

    So what the MDCs are basically asking for is for the leniency in the system through ZEC to be able to create that mechanism for audit. But like you actually said, Zanu PF is resistant to that kind of a development. But however the options are very limited at this point in time because one thing is there are recommendations that are being made to extend the voter registration period but what you look at is that the election date is now fixed so the more you extend the voter registration period, the lesser time you will have to compile a final voters’ roll and therefore less time for inspection. So it’s a case of a chicken and egg situation and the options are quite limited.

    The other issue that we’ve picked out is that some of the political parties have also looked at the options of maybe boycotting the election, should there be no address of this issue of a shambolic voters’ roll. But boycotting of an election is quite retrogressive especially to an extent whereby all the other parties outside of Zanu PF are not united. So should one party or two parties boycott, then the other five or six can still go for that particular election. So it is an issue of all the other political parties outside of Zanu-PF being coherent on this particular issue of the voter registration. Also if they take action as a coherent group we are likely to see a better response but at the moment there are different reactions; each party is running its own race and they are not coming together on common issues.

    Gonda: Some observers say that even if the registration exercise was extended there’s no guarantee that the new voters will have their names included on the voters roll. Some reports say most of the Zanu-PF registrations were actually done several years ago and that it would appear that the MDC parties should have mobilized their supporters way before these elections. Do you agree with this?

    Maisiri: Yes because when you look at the issues around the voters’ roll and voter registration it is not a proximate problem it is actually a structural problem and with structural problems. You cannot resolve structural problems by extending the voter registration period by one week because if it’s structural that means the same kind of issues are still embedded in the system – it’s a systematic issue. So because of that, a one week extension may not actually bring the kind of result that is required.

    And also like you rightfully mentioned between the periods of 2010 and 2012, Zanu-PF has been mobilizing some of its support base to go and register and during that period, because there was not so much focus on voter registration by the MDC and also by civil society, you realize that voter registration requirements were easier at that point in time. But the moment when the MDC and civil society woke up started demanding voter registration which was in March of 2013, at that time the screws had been tightened and also the requirements were a bit more strict as according to the Electoral Act. Therefore Zanu-PF had really done its homework and I believe most of their members had registered in that two year period to an extent that what we are seeing now is really an issue of the MDCs failing to bring their members to register as well.

    So I believe one, the damage has already been done, it was done from 2010, and number two it is a structural problem which may not require just a week to resolve. It’s actually an issue that requires a lot of time to be able to resolve and particularly to the extent that the election date is fixed. Then we go back again to what I said before – it’s a chicken and egg situation, it’s difficult to resolve these issues in the time that is left.

    Gonda: Let’s go to the issue of grand coalitions and electoral alliances. What is the point of having voting alliances?

    Maisiri: Voting alliances are there based on a couple of things: number one - it’s parties that see their ideologies are coherent therefore they want to be able to give impetus to a coherent ideology as they go into an election. Number two - some alliances are around facing what we have called the common enemy. Should parties realize that there’s simply the common enemy in the game, they will come together, gather around to try and gain momentum to be able to fight that particular common enemy in the electoral game. Number three - some alliances are really about confidence building. Some parties their stand alone status, they are not seen as credible or are not seen as being able to run the whole mile of the election race.

    So some parties come together to be able to build confidence in each other and build one great pact that builds confidence, not just within themselves but also to the electorate. So these are some of the motivations behind the formation of an electoral pact. But in the Zimbabwean scenario to be specific, I don’t think it’s about ideology, and neither is it just about building confidence. I think it’s more about the common push to want to see Zanu-PF off the political scale.

    Gonda: Right so let’s dissect the different alliances that we’ve seen. First of all the MDC led by Welshman Ncube and Zapu alliance what did you make of that?

    Maisiri: I think they do have something in common. Geographically if you look at where the parties have their strongholds, they’re both based in Matabeleland. And I think if you also look at the sort of challenges that Matabeleland has faced, I think Matabeleland has been looking for parties that sort of represent the issues that have emanated from that region – mainly around devolution, mainly around the issues of empowerment of the Matabeleland region and also mainly around the issues of the application and utilization of local resources within the region. So I would believe one of the greatest motivations around this pact is geographically convenient, or geographical location.

    Gonda: What did you make of the different information on the issue of the grand coalition, the accusations and a strongly worded statement statements issued by the MDC Secretary General Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga implying that MKD president Simba Makoni ‘lied’ about the group meeting to discuss the issue of forming a coalition?

    Maisiri: Firstly it’s difficult to tell exactly what’s been happening within and amongst the pact because you’ve got different information flying around, you’ve got denials, accusations and allegations but however what is unfortunate in this instance is that all the parties outside of Zanu-PF are now washing their dirty linen in public. It is something that is very deplorable, something that is very regrettable that these parties are now having to use the press to throw words at each other. We thought there was a maturity in these parties to be able to sit down, either agree or disagree in a very respectful manner and then move forward. The issue here is not really about getting a pact going at whatever cost, but the issue here is about getting a democratic space where those that want to join pacts can join pacts, those that want to form other pacts can join other pacts but the moment we see this kind of information flying around, these kinds of accusations and this sort of like-hate-language between those that are outside of Zanu-PF, it shows that the lack of political maturity is still prevailing and also the democracy that these parties are trying drive at is still also very premature.

    Gonda: It would appear that those who support the MDC formations would really want to see these parties uniting against Zanu-PF because they feel that without unity they will not be able to defeat President Mugabe’s Zanu-PF. But it would appear that they really do not have much in common so would you think it will be advisable to just form an alliance, a pact if they don’t share the same values?

    Maisiri: I think the biggest two challenges that these parties have is one – there seems to be a lack of trust across the lines and number two there simply seems also a lack of respect across the lines and without those two ingredients it’s going to be difficult to form a sustainable pact. Even if that pact goes on to win an election, the eventual government that they form is also going to be shaken by the failure to establish trust and respect. So those are two great weaknesses that create a challenge for a possible pact especially between the two MDCs.

    Gonda: We talked about the Zapu/MDC alliance, how significant is the Mavambo/Dawn/Kusile, MDC-T and Zanu Ndonga alliance?

    Maisiri: At the moment it’s still questionable whether Zanu Ndonga is still a part of the alliance with the MDC-T and Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn because we’ve also seen allegations within the Zanu Ndonga camp of who represents who and who doesn’t represent who. So it’s very difficult to tell whether the component in that pact is the authentic component of Zanu Ndonga. Whether it is or whether it is not we are not sure yet, we will find out in the coming days. But the Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn – the bit of contribution of Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn into the coalition, into the pact is rather not at a party level but I think it is the individuality of Simba Makoni that seems to create traction into that pact.

    And why so – it’s because if you look at the history especially of the MDC-T in government, one of the biggest challenges that they have faced is the issue of policy propositions, policy formulation and also trying to bring about other policy fundamentals that are different from what Zanu-PF have proposed or have used or implemented since 1980. So because of that issue you will find that a lot of people that are very savvy about technocratic issues, savvy about issues of policy formulation, savvy about creating a business environment, savvy about the technical issues of government have started to question the capacity of the MDC-T in that regard but by bringing in Simba Makoni who seems to have some credibility in terms of his period in government, credibility in terms of his period in the private sector, and some credibility in terms of his period in SADC, I think that sort of like plugs up the hole where the MDC have been seen to be lacking to some great extent.

    So that is the contribution that Simba Makoni brings into this pact. Whether that contribution is then able to move voters to be able to align themselves more with this pact is something else but at least that seems to be the key result area that Simba Makoni brings into this pact.

    Gonda: What about reports from the Herald saying one of the prime minister’s alliance partner Reketai Semwayo was already an MDC-T member but the party formed an alliance with its own member and also that the Zanu Ndonga leader Wilson Kumbula said that Semwayo was sacked by the party?

    Maisiri: It’s all so difficult to tell exactly what is happening in that regard because you know our initial suspicion was that since Morgan Tsvangirai has had a good relationship with Zanu Ndonga and remember at the anniversary of the death of Ndabaningi Sithole, Morgan Tsvangirai was the guest of honour, so our suspicion was that when Semwayo registered as a candidate for Chipinge Central under an MDC ticket we assumed that was because of the cordial relationship that the two parties had and they’d already agreed to set aside a seat for a Zanu Ndonga candidate. That is what our suspicion was at that particular point in time but given the issues that are emanating now where other Zanu Ndonga players and critical members to say, then disown Reketai Semwayo as a leader of the party that then creates a new dynamic altogether. So the question is around whether there’s also dissonance within Zanu Ndonga itself or whether the MDC was not clear enough about the structures of Zanu Ndonga and exactly who to engage in those particular structures. And also if they did enough homework in terms of finding out the critical players with whom they can discuss the issues of the pact with. We are not sure but all it does is bring this confusion, which again emanates from the difference that you see within political parties and multiplicity of factionalisms and divisions within even the smaller parties in Zimbabwe.

    Gonda: Supporters of all these political parties whether it’s Zanu-PF MDC-T, MDC-N they’ve all been complaining about the imposition of candidates and now that there’s this new dynamic, this new issue of political pacts – doesn’t that also create even more problems for some of the party members who will have to stand down in some of their constituencies to make way for these newcomers?

    Maisiri: Yes it creates a very big challenge especially given the history of how politics is played at some levels in Zimbabwe where politics is not seen as a game of service but it is seen as a game of gain. So while some of the candidates give their names over for parliamentary candidature, they do that because they want to see some gain out of the political game. So if those kind of candidates are then compromised by the electoral pact some of them would rather sacrifice the whole battle to fight for an electoral gain as an institution and look at their personal losses but again for some of them that are fair minded, giving up a position for the benefit of the bigger battle of getting the institution of the party into a better electoral position is the sacrifice that is expected out of any deserving party that looks at when you want to win an election. But however like I said it depends on how individuals perceive it – those individuals who are really sacrificial and are really genuine about the fight for democracy and getting their parties into government will be able to consider stepping down because there is a bigger gain for the institution of the party.

    Gonda: We talked about infighting and factionalism in the political parties but I understand that there are also divisions in the military - do you know anything about this?

    Maisiri: Not that there are clear divisions in the military but also it’s the interactions of top security officials that then creates either the perception of the reality of divisions within the military. For example if you look at General Chiwenga and Commissioner Chihuri of the police you realize that the two of them have not been tagging along in terms of carrying a coherent, consistent message of supporting Zanu-PF. And what you pick out as well is that there’s a very big view that there’s a former Zanla component within the security structures that seems to also follow that particular line. So in some instances it creates a perception of one faction.

    But you’ve other players in the security also like Perence Shiri who was actually in the Herald newspaper a week or two ago making statements such ‘as anyone should vote for whoever they want, nobody must be forced to vote for a party or a candidate that they don’t desire to vote for, all must be free to make their choice’, which is a departure from what we have heard from other military officers especially at a senior level.

    So you look at a person like that, you also look at the director of Central Intelligence Organization Happyton Bonyongwe. He has not been as forthcoming as other previous directors of the Central Intelligence in terms of pursuing and pulling and forcing through a line that is very supportive of Zanu-PF as a party. So you then realize that these two and others who are in that particular line are sort of considered as the moderates in that scheme of things because they don’t seem to take a very hardliner position on Zanu-PF issues.

    And then at the same time also if you then look at the structures of the military you will then realize that in the structures of the military there are those that are former Zipra, who were in the Zipra fighting wing in the war and if you do an analysis of where they are in the security establishment you realize most of them actually are in very low ranks of the military or most of them have resigned. And they are also maybe not so influential position and then you realize that there seems to be that particular perceptive group as well in the military of the former Zipra on their own.

    And then if you further look back between December and January of 2012, General Chiwenga was making all efforts to try and engage with the former Zipra ex-combatants in Matabeleland and this was seen as a way of trying to coerce them back into a unitary force to be able to walk with and also be on the same side as the whole of the military establishment.

    So when you analyse and look at all these establishments it will give you basically three perceptive groups within the military: those that are seen as moderates, those that are seen as hardliners on behalf of Zanu-PF and those that are seen as being excluded from that whole scheme of things which will create this overall perception that there may not be as much unity in the military establishment as there is. But again these are issues of perception, these are issues of analytical deduction which may be real or may just be perceptive.

    Gonda: We have seen the Zanu-PF manifesto and the MDC-T manifesto and we are waiting to see the manifesto from the MDC led by Welshman Ncube but let’s start with the Zanu-PF manifesto – briefly is it clear what the party stands for?

    Maisiri: I think it’s clear; it’s very clear what the party stands for. I’ve said that the biggest difference between the Zanu-PF manifesto and the MDC manifesto is that the Zanu-PF manifesto is a defensive manifesto. It is a manifesto that is talking about issues like – we are going to look at threats to winning the goals of our people, we are taking back our economy, we are defending our legacy. So it is a very defensive manifesto and usually when you look at the science of politics such manifestos are actually brought into life by either the perception of the reality of an enemy who is wanting to attack you or is wanting to take away what is rightfully yours. So Zanu-PF’s manifesto is not as developmental as it is defensive. What the party says is that ‘we are going to defend the gains of the liberation struggle, we are going to defend the economic indigenization and empowerment programme, we are going to defend the land issue’. It is more defensive than it is talking about new issues to drive either the economic social sector or the political sector forward.

    Gonda: What about the MDC manifesto? What stands out in their manifesto?

    Maisiri: The MDC manifesto is an open manifesto, it is not as defensive as the Zanu-PF one but they are talking about new issues that they want to embark on. It is starting from a baseline where they are saying that the economy has been destroyed by Zanu-PF so we need to build going forward whereas Zanu-PF is defending why the economy is where it is and also maybe why they need to still continue on certain policies.

    Gonda: And what is distinctive between the two parties manifestos?

    Maisiri: Zanu-PF has a very localized manifesto. There’s not much about the interaction of the kind of economy they want to build with a global perspective whereas the MDC seems to be very clear about creating a globalised economy. The Zanu-PF manifesto talks about delivering for the people, most of the issues in the Zanu-PF manifesto are about we deliver, we are going to deliver this, we are going to deliver that, we are going to deliver this whereas the MDC manifesto seems to talk about we want to deliver with the people, there’s an inclusivity of the general populace of citizens in terms of the programmes that the MDC is proposing in its manifesto.

    And then lastly the Zanu-PF manifesto is very clear about resource ownership. It addresses the issue of resource ownership and I think given the global extent of what is happening with issues of resource, depletion and also competition for resources, I think the Zanu-PF manifesto is quite clear, they are emphatic about resource ownership whereas the MDC, it’s not clear about the resource ownership regarding that particular issue of resource ownership.

    Those are sort of the comparisons across the two manifestos but at the same time I also want to emphasize that both manifestos, whatever they have proposed – there’s one big lack in these manifestos which is the mechanisms to ensure that what they are proposing comes to life. In one of the biggest issues in Zimbabwe and I think across the world is that good documents have always remained good documents as long as there’s no good leadership to implement them and both manifestos are very silent on the kind of leadership that they want to develop in government, in parliament, in the civil service, in the state institutions, in service delivery institutions, in local government to be able to deliver the fruits of the manifesto that they have proposed.

    Gonda: As I said earlier we are yet to see the manifesto from the MDC led by Welshman Ncube but from what you have seen so far; do you have any understanding as to what the party’s policies are or what they stand for?

    Maisiri: Not really. Until we see something from the MDC we are not clear in terms of what they stand for. One of the big issues they’ve been talking about in the past is the issue of devolution which I think is a winner with some of the very resource-rich provinces – such as Matabeleland province and Manicaland province. That’s the only issue that I would say I’ve seen from the MDCs at the moment.

    Gonda: And a final word?

    Maisiri: As we go towards elections, there are all pointers towards a lot of disputes. For example President Mugabe last week actually hinted that should SADC not work along the expectations of what Zanu-PF is expecting, he is going to pull Zimbabwe out of SADC. Then the MDC also gave a letter to the SADC facilitator around the complaints of the electoral environment that is prevailing. If you look at those two developments, it tells you that both parties at the back of their minds are already seeing a dispute arising either before the election, during the election or after the election and what it tells me is that there is high capacity and potential for a disputed election and in that regard, our urge is that the regional body SADC must be able to see its role, not just at this particular period only but it must be able to see its role in terms of how it’s going to deal with the potential of another disputed election. Also what is its role in the post-election period – I think these are critical reflections that we must all start to think about as we look towards and after the election.

    Gonda: Trevor Maisiri from the International Crisis Group, thank you very much for talking to us on the programme Hot Seat.

    Maisiri: Thank you so much Violet.

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