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for the best, plan for the worst
February 06, 2007
When I first heard that Zanu PF was trying to bulldoze through its
plan to synchronise the Parliamentary and Presidential elections,
my heart sank. This Is It, I thought, the guaranteed extension of
another two years of Zanu PF government, with the injustice, economic
decline and social collapse that go along with that.
But when I thought
about it a bit more, I knew that I wasn't really all that surprised.
If Zanu PF can make it easier for themselves to stay in power, of
course they'll do that. And if they can combine elections to rig
two boxes with one voters roll, of course they'll do that as well.
however, I realised that when the elections are is much less important
than whether the MDC, and civil society, and normal ordinary every
day people, are ready and willing and motivated enough to do something
different. Whether we are prepared to break out of the "politics
as usual" mindset that sees us acting just the way the regime
expects us to act, and to instead catch the state off guard, and
make it dance to our tune for a change.
So then I started
to get a bit excited again like maybe in a strange way the delayed
election would inspire people to take a new perspective on resistance
and find new ways of organising.
Thus, when I
heard that the MDC and others were building their campaigns around
the demand for elections in 2008, some of that dismay returned.
Because as optimistic and excitable and positive as I might be,
I know in my heart of hearts that the ruling party has no interest
in real elections that could make a real change. If it agrees to
elections in 2008, it will do so knowing that it can rig them. Maybe
I'm too cynical here, but why would they agree to a new Constitution
now? What bargaining power do the people really have? Where is our
credible threat that convinces them they must listen to us and which
drags them, kicking and screaming to the negotiations table, or
at least out of office?
me thinking that a) demands for elections under a new Constitution
are unrealistic, and b) demands for elections without a new Constitution
(and without the repeal of unjust laws like POSA,
and the Broadcasting
Services Act, all of which make genuinely free and fair elections
an impossibility) are useless, because there is no point contesting
yet another election if we know it will be rigged.
Now this is
one of those times when I would welcome nothing more than being
I would be over
the moon if the current stay aways of doctors, nurses, teachers,
lecturers, students, and so forth brought the economy to a standstill
and forced Robert Mugabe to reconsider things just as strikes recently
forced Guinean President Lansana Coté to make concessions.
I would be ecstatic
if the current economic crisis wrecked the same havoc on Zanu PF
chefdom as it does in the homes of the rest of Zimbabweans, and
forced the ruling party to open up its eyes and make a change.
I would dance
with joy if demonstrations by the MDC, NCA,
and pro-democracy activists across the country made this regime
tremble in submission.
full of surprises. But in the meantime, we need to get prepared
to be disappointed, not just surprised. Zanu PF has no interest
in implementing a genuinely people-driven Constitution. It currently
has the legislative majority it requires to make whatever constitutional
amendments it wants, and it knows that making any significant changes
in the political playing field in terms of reducing repression would
work against it.
It doesn't matter
if the next election is in 2008 or 2010. An election in the current
environment and given the present electoral conditions cannot yield
any positive result for the Zimbabwean people. Given that it is
highly unlikely that these conditions will change, the pro-democracy
movement needs to take a stand against vote rigging, and boycott
future undemocratic elections. Failure to do so will make them merely
more complicit in the repression of all Zimbabweans. Contesting
in a flawed election process just legitimates the process. But our
oppressor cannot oppress us if we refuse to play his game.
We need to start
thinking now about what this stand against elections will look like.
We need to find alternatives that proactively and creatively engage
people without legitimising the oppressor's illegitimate elections.
A parallel process such as an independent referendum by pro-democracy
organisations, a spoil the ballot campaign, or even a boycott of
the election, will be essential.
alternatives should not be seen as disloyal, pessimistic or as a
vote of no-confidence in the MDC and civil society. Rather, they
are an integral part of the strategy for bringing democracy to Zimbabwe.
Initiatives to creatively envision these plans should be welcomed
for their frank understanding of the uncertainties of political
change. Developing these strategies now and doing the groundwork
that they require will be essential to their success, and to the
future of a truly free Zimbabwe.
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