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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
Robert Mugabe scored a landslide victory in Zimbabwean elections
Tendi, The Guardian (UK)
August 05, 2013
There is a phenomenon
in African politics called the preponderance of incumbency. Simply
put, it maintains that it is difficult to defeat an incumbent president
in an election because they control the state institutions, which
they can use to retain power. Consequently, only in Zambia, where
presidents Kenneth Kaunda and Rupiah Banda lost in the 1991 and
2011 respectively, is there an established record of incumbents
losing to an opposition challenger.
have blamed this for Robert Mugabe's latest
victory in Zimbabwe's presidential election, and his Zanu-PF
party securing a two-thirds majority in parliament.
Mugabe's main challenger and the outgoing prime minister, has described
the result "null and void". Tsvangirai maintains that
his crushing election defeat was the result of rigging by the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the registrar general's office, which
manages the voters’ roll.
his MDC-T party went into a power-sharing
government in 2009 hoping to reform various institutional reforms
so as to nullify this preponderance of incumbency in Zimbabwe. Mugabe's
party certainly obstructed and subverted the implementation of such
reforms – anything other than this would have been political
But to say that
the preponderance of incumbency continued in the latest election
entirely because of Zanu-PF's obstruction and subversion of reforms
would be incomplete.
party lost sight of the need for rapid and comprehensive institutional
reforms in the early years of power-sharing. It expended most of
its energies in fighting for appointments to the ministry of agriculture,
attorney general, the central and provincial governors. By the time
it refocused on institutional reforms, the period to elections had
shortened significantly. There was little time, energy and external
goodwill left for the MDC-T to pursue what should have been its
main pursuits from the beginning.
MDC-T from early on sought to reform one particular institution:
the military, which it saw as having blocked its ascent to power
in the 2008 election. According to Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe underwent
a "de facto coup d'état" in 2008 and was now run
by "a military junta", making security sector reform necessary.
But the MDC-T's pursuit of this reform was based on a misunderstanding
of the military's relationship with Zanu-PF. The military does not
and never has ruled Zimbabwe; the MDC-T has never presented evidence
to the contrary, despite its passionate claims.
effective control of the military because of his power as commander
in chief. Zimbabwe's liberation history also shapes the relationships
of civilian and military elites in a manner that maintains the former's
control over the latter. The MDC-T's mistaken focus on the perceived
lack of civilian authority over the military resulted in it needlessly
haranguing and antagonising military generals with no real political
power. The MDC-T's efforts would have been better spent trying to
improve its ideological appeal to the military.
I followed the
election contest closely throughout July and had unique access to
some of the individuals involved in the campaigns. The Zanu-PF campaign
was run by a network of party officials, youth and retired military
officers who fought in Zimbabwe's liberation war. The party's commissariat
department was an important nerve centre in its campaign and had
as its principal directors the retired air vice-marshal Henry Muchena
and the former director internal of the Zimbabwean intelligence
service Sydney Nyanungo. On one of my visits to Nyanungo, I found
him and Muchena making plans for a campaign rally by the vice-president,
Joice Mujuru, in Binga. She was going to there to campaign on behalf
Why did you
guys retire to work for the party, what is in it for you, I asked.
Nyanungo rolled up the sleeve on his left arm to reveal a deep scar
and burn marks, and answered: "I operated the anti-aircraft
equipment in the 1977 Rhodesian attack on our Chimoio camp during
the liberation war. I almost died during that attack. I cannot allow
this country to go to people [the MDC] who do not connect to that
liberation legacy. That is why I came back to the party. I am not
even paid to do this job. It is my duty."
There was a
greater sense of unity, purpose and discipline in the Zanu-PF campaign
than in the MDC-T one. For instance, 29 members of the MDC-T who
were disgruntled with the manner the party's primaries were conducted
defied the leadership and ran as independents. Only three disaffected
Zanu-PF candidates did likewise. MDC-T divisions were particularly
stark in Manicaland province, where imposition of parliamentary
candidates by Tsvangirai resulted in a serious rift between him
and the provincial executive. Manicaland unlike in 2008 voted for
Zanu-PF this time.
polls on the likely outcome of the 2013 election demonstrated a
rise in Zanu-PF support while that of the MDC-T was shown to be
A largely unstated
factor so far in debates about how Zanu-PF won this election is
that for the first time in years the MDC-T ran a less effective
campaign because of financial constraints. As MDC-T insiders have
revealed to me, the party's traditional western backers were not
as forthcoming with financial support as they were in 2008. During
the campaigns Tsvangirai publicly criticised the west for giving
up on removing Mugabe from power in preference for eventual accommodation
with the Zimbabwean president. The west has been unequivocal in
its public condemnation of Zanu-PF's victory but in the coming weeks
it must answer hard questions about why it abandoned the MDC-T financially
prior the election.
largely calm and peaceful in the aftermath of the election. But
debate about the result is continuing behind closed doors. I have
been part of furious debates among Harare's middle-class intellectuals.
A clear fissure has emerged between those who maintain that Mugabe's
election win is entirely down to the preponderance of incumbency
and those who argue that this does not tell the whole story. I'm
one of this latter group, who take the view that a multiplicity
of factors converged to ensure Mugabe's election win last week.
The challenge in the coming days is for these intellectuals and
indeed the MDC-T to produce hard evidence demonstrating that Zanu-PF's
victory is explained by rigging alone.
Even in the
MDC-T there is no consensus that rigging was to blame. Some of its
senior party officials have quietly sent messages to Zanu-PF conceding
defeat and making clear their public pronouncements to the contrary
are a means of managing disillusioned supporters. Some of the leadership
of the smaller MDC party, which broke away from Tsvangirai's group
in 2005, have even broken ranks. Paul Temba Nyathi, for example,
states: "I got a feeling that Gwanda North [my constituency]
was unwinnable. People who used to come to our rallies and support
us suddenly could not look me in the eye. They started vacillating.
We had a free and fair contest, everyone was free to canvass and
the vote was peaceful in Gwanda North. Hand on heart, I think Zanu-PF
beat us fair and square. There is something that made people to
fall in love with Zanu-PF again."
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