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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Post July 31.... what's next
    Macdonald Lewanika
    August 07, 2013

    Zimbabwe’s 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).

    The conceptual perspective

    The Coalition 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 bodies.

    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.

    The contextual reality

    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 elections.

    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 opposition.

    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.

    The 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 a presence.

    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.

    The 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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