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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
July 31.... what's next
August 07, 2013
July 31 Election is receding into the rearview mirror for a
lot of people, for some not fast enough, for others too slowly,
but soon it will be a forgotten event, as people grapple with the
reality of its results, its impact on our aspiration and implications
for our nation.
The Crisis in
Zimbabwe Coalition has always argued that, while Zimbabwe was on
an undeniable transitional trajectory, the possible transitional
outcome as the sun sets on the Inclusive government, was that of
a prolonged transition. It had argued that whatever the outcome
of the July 31 Elections, there would be no democratic outcome to
the transition (Crisis
in Zimbabwe Coalition’s Transitional
Barometer #5 of June 27 2013).
defined a prolonged transition as a situation in which the incumbent
(President Mugabe) would manipulate the elections but unlike in
a derailed transition, would also be determined to stabilize or
even advance democratic gains made during the transition (read GNU
era). That might include avoiding changes to the constitution, making
sure that relevant commissions work, enable independent press to
continue operating and commit to promoting peace.
The theory, that Crisis
posited, was that the incumbent would be faced with two routes to
attain this. The first would be to form another inclusive government,
with the protagonists for legitimacy or to enable an effective government.
The decision would also have the possibility of being a result of
external exigent factors such as the political agency and actions
of a tenacious opposition, civil society or regional and international
The second route, is
where the incumbent would be bold enough to form a one party government
as before the inclusive government but would seek political legitimacy
or self-preservation through committing to stabilize or even advance
the democratic gains that were made during the initial phase of
the transition. The scale of democratization would then also depend
on external pressure from the citizenry, civil society, political
parties or regional and international bodies.
In theory, in a prolonged
transition, there would be no greater likelihood to return to closed
authoritarian practices but there would still be, in the initial
stages, a challenge in that the democratic gains made during the
transition would be co-existing with some old authoritarian practices.
Depending on the struggle for democratization, a breakthrough would
be found over time, with the intervening 5 years and the early onset
of the new regime being a foundational school of democracy needing
more time to graduate.
Looking back at the above
theoretical framework, and seeing how accurate it seems to be in
the aftermath of the election, gives us no satisfaction as an institution
whose vision is a democratic Zimbabwe and as an institution that
had hoped that the destination would be reached in the shortest
possible time. However, it is what it is, and we all have to accept
that there is a discrepancy between the world as we want it to be
and the world as it. We have to accept that despite the political
ideals and aspirations we may have there now exists a political
reality that is characterized by a ‘resurgent’ Zanu-PF,
which is standing on the shoulders of a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
On the other hand, we
also have the reality of a ‘defeated’ opposition that
is taking longer than anyone would want to figure out the most strategic
way to engage with this situation. It has stated that it will i)
disengage from government but apparently that doesn’t mean
withdrawal, ii) go to court and appeal the results as well as iii)
take its grievances to SADC and the AU regional blocs, which by
and large have endorsed the election as legitimate, for reasons
best known to themselves.
The first action needs
more than a dictionary to understand and simply shows us that there
is a lack of clarity on the part of the MDC itself. It shows that
they are still grappling with the “to be or not to be”
and ‘to what extent to be’ questions. All so confusing
for everyone, including themselves.
The other two actions
that have been mooted by the opposition in response to the political
reality are legitimate and perhaps even necessary but insufficient
to achieve any real remedy. They appear to be exercises in futility.
For starters there is the reality of institutional capture where
the judiciary in Zimbabwe is concerned which is well documented.
The Judiciary is largely beholden to and at the service of the Executive
as represented by President Mugabe, who staked its benches with
known and perceived sympathizers in the 6 months leading up to the
It is these courts that
rushed the entire nation and the region into an election bereft
of democratic reforms, which would have imbued it with more legitimacy
and made it less prone to contest. Morgan Tsvangirai fared badly
in these courts as Prime Minister; there is nothing to indicate
that he has attained a “Jealous Mawarire” character,
which will allow him to fare any better as a Private Citizen alleging
theft by the “owner” of the court.
The other terrain that
has been chosen which is the regional front, does not promise too
much joy for the opposition either. This bloc, SADC, had an observer
mission during the elections, which made pronouncements on the election
that do not assist their case much. Different leaders have congratulated
the winners, in moves interpreted as endorsements. The truth will
count for little to this regional body, especially if it is not
backed up by incontrovertible evidence. Add to that the innate wish
to be right and the reluctance to self-correct that is inherent
in us as humans, and the chances of success become even dimer for
The court case
only has value in as far as it will allow history to record a statement
on the electoral theft, with no hope of recovering the stolen ‘good’.
While going to SADC will assist in keeping the region engaged, it
must be borne in mind that this is a body which, to all intents
and purposes, has failed to shepherd Zimbabwe to a peaceful, free,
fair, credible and undisputed election - which is the mandate they
attained at the signing of the GPA.
The election was largely peaceful but disputed meanwhile the jury
is still out on its freeness, fairness and credibility. We would
be very disappointed and doomed as a people in SADC, if we have
leaders who accept that one (1) out of five (5) is a pass mark.
The biggest challenge
of course is that both actions are not supported at a symbolic and
political level by any crisis on the ground occasioned by popular
discontent that is acted out. Without that pressure the politicians
at the regional level will not act, because for them stability is
the ultimate price rather than democratization. To that end, if
stability is there they won’t want to upset the cart, and
as for the courts, well they have always been built as structures
that are impervious to anything other than the law.
futility of the short game and a possible way forward for the MDCs
So there it is, the short
game by the opposition is unlikely to yield results, except to instigate
a crackdown upon themselves, their perceived allies, the progressive
press and citizens by a parochial regime. This will happen because
the regime knows it stole the elections and tried to bury the evidence,
but is unsure whether any of these actions are being taken with
some credible evidence in hand.
Given the futility of
the short game, the long game for Zimbabweans in general, and pro-democracy
actors in particular, is to quickly accept the reality and then
begin to think of the bigger picture which involves keeping the
Zanu-PF regime in check by ensuring that its ill-gotten two thirds
majority doesn’t go to their head. This means quickly accepting
that to some extent, ‘all is fair in love and war’,
it might mean accepting the crushing defeat and taking up positions
on what is left of the battleground while trying to safeguard what
was fought hard for in the past 4 years as well as the political
positions retained at election.
Zanu-PF has already shown
that it is not hesitant to take up dramatic and high-risk actions
that move them ahead while everyone watches in consternation and
shock. If the elected local government officials do not take up
their positions in councils as part of disengagement, soon Harare
will have a Zanu-PF mayor and the city will be apportioned to Zanu-PF
bigwigs, as will other towns and local authorities where they have
If elected parliamentarians
do not go to Parliament, a speaker will be elected and soon, legislation
will be pushed through that may be retrogressive, with everyone
shouting hoarse from the sidelines. New institutions occasioned
by the mew constitution will be set up with people crying foul in
spaces where the noise will not make a difference. The economy will
be cut up into nice neat portions, which will be fed to loyal Zanu-PF
clients as part of their patronage system under the guise of empowerment
and indigenization. Diamonds will continue to be piled into big
army tankers or pocketed by individuals, with those that don’t
fit into the big Zanu-PF chefs pockets being thrown East to our
erstwhile friends in Asia, old friends in the Arab world and new
friends in Israel. A lot of this may be hard to stop, but democratic
forces have an obligation to try.
My short analysis is
that if the opposition does not have anything that will fundamentally
alter the state of affairs immediately and lead to a ‘real’
nullification of the July 31 election, it needs to get over itself,
and think clearly about how to ensure that we do not see retrogression
in critical areas and spaces of our body politic.
We are now in a prolonged
transition as a nation, and that circumstance will not change in
a day. What happens in this variant of transitional outcomes will
depend on whether we are successful in firstly, forcing Zanu-PF
not to retrogress to the pre-GNU political realities. Secondly,
if that task is successful, stability would have been achieved,
and the next task becomes the need to put ‘real’ pressure
to advance the reforms that were aspired to in the interregnum covered
by the GNU, and some which are captured in the new constitution.
role for the rest of us, and our possible saving grace
The above is
not just the role of the MDCs. Opposition here also includes existing
and intended Political formations. The NCA
and its leadership, barring the disagreeable sentiments they have
publicly made with regards to the last election, should know that
it is their task to assist in the above otherwise whatever political
dreams they have will die a still birth. If anything, they have
a greater obligation to do so, because from my viewpoint thus far,
their envisioned movement has been at variance with the pulse of
the people, especially the people they seem likely to capture as
a founding support base, which bodes ill for them.
Having said the above,
we have stated in our projections that the only way that this prolonged
transition can lead ultimately to democratization, doesn’t
depend solely on political actors. The scale of democratization
will also depend on external pressure applied by the citizenry,
civil society, and political parties as well as regional and international
pressure. So it is everyone’s responsibility. The sooner civil
society and the greater citizenry accept this and stop deferring
to the MDCs for action and leadership, the better the chances of
success. The sooner everyone accepts that they have a role to play
in pushing for democratization, and that it is not just the role
of an established opposition reeling from a stolen victory, the
better our chances of safeguarding the country from backsliding
to the authoritarian days of old.
Those of us who felt
robbed now need to quickly overcome this grief and engage with the
political world as it is, instead of just mourning about the political
world as we would have wanted it to be. Everything is spilt milk
now, and we best be advised to go fetch another cup, instead of
crying over it.
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