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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
Zim now the looting continues
B Moore, The Independent (Zimbabwe)
August 16, 2013
President-elect Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF
has outwitted its main opposition, Morgan Tsvangirai’s
MDC-T, once again.
61% to 34% victory in Zimbabwe’s July 31 presidential race
and its two-thirds majority in parliament guarantee it a firm hold
for the next five years (barring yet to be seen constitutional changes),
although its own internal tensions may see it fall from heights
that even it did not expect.
Machiavelli-style tactics, a classic Gramscian combination of forceful
power and sly persuasion the dialectic of coercion and consent,
to confound the 14-year-old MDC-T challenge, along with most members
of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), the African
Union (AU), and the Western world (including the Andrew Youngs and
Jesse Jacksons who filed into Harare’s State House hoping
the US could take a clean and sanctionless Zanu-PF beyond pariah
The scale of
Zanu-PF’s claims of a “credible” electoral win
are tarnished by reports of chicanery and what the MDC-T likes to
call “shenanigans”, as it declares the results null
and void, but it is doubtful that records of all the “revolutionary
party’s” electoral misdemeanours will change the harsh
world of real politik that will allow Zanu-PF’s careful plan
hopes for a crossover reached their peak in what is said to be Zimbabwe’s
largest ever political rally, in Harare, behind the Rainbow Towers
Hotel, two days before the hastily packaged election process reached
89-year-old president may attain his 2005 promise to rule until
he is 100 years old. The crossover was in stark contrast to the
hopes of the MDC-T, its civil society supporters, and democrats
the world over, but it does mark a fundamental transformation in
the Zimbabwean polity and social order.
political actors will face at least five years of deep change as
their country marks the end of its ruler’s 33-year reign,
with no anointed successor in sight.
securocrats (reportedly involved in diamond mining) masterminded
a campaign that blended carrots (for those who would respond negatively
to coercion) with sticks (wielded directly or indirectly in the
form of timely reminders by “retired” and otherwise
members of the security apparatus) for those for whom carrots were
Those in Matabeleland
who do not easily forget the Gukurahundi in the 1980s that may have
killed 20 000, were showered with teapots and other diamond funded
were happy to have their rates arrears annulled shortly before the
elections (not thinking how this would worsen their already shambolic
municipal service delivery, and forgetting how central state stymied
any efforts by MDC-T councillors to get the cities running again),
while others in the cities were hassled into a state of fear approaching
the mid-2008 presidential “run-off”, when the violence
was so severe Tsvangirai pulled out, by Zanu-PF-instigated militia
chiefs were told to line up support for Zanu-PF in time honoured
fashion: the consequences of a repeat of the March 2008 vote, when
even the inventive vote counters could not manufacture a majority
for Mugabe, were made more than clear.
struggling to make ends meet on the farms carved out of former commercial
units were showered with inputs, directly in Mugabe’s name.
a small example being the headlined flagging of an invented Freedom
House public opinion piece saying that Zanu-PF would win with 69,5%
of the vote, but which had been “gagged by the American embassy”
was also part of the mix.
the MDC-T’s flat-footedness and a hubris partially generated
by over four years of being so-close-but-so-far to power in the
heavily skewed transitional Inclusive Government (IG, often called
the Government of National Unity) corralled by Sadc’s facilitator
Thabo Mbeki after the mid-2008 bloody run-off, Zanu-PF’s clever
and long-planned strategy won the day.
however, will lead to flip-flopping between ultra-nationalist policies,
from the hats of some of Zanu-PF’s young turks, and efforts
at technocracy by some of its older guard, who would like their
leader to fade away with a reputation renewed from the last few
years of disrepair.
of 1980, the Mugabe who romped into power with a post-liberation
war election that history may show to be as marred as this one,
will try to be reborn. Along with policy fluidity will come mixes
of retribution and co-optation amid internal restructuring in both
Today, as since
2000 when the MDC-T entered the electoral fray while the “land
invasions” got underway, the opposition has been defeated.
It has rejected the results as fraudulent, and as the numbers proving
its point are being crunched, its leaders debate the merits of pulling
out of the seats they have won.
carefully pre-contrived by the ruling party and Nikuv, its electoral
mercenaries from Israel (to be sure a sight better than mercenaries
of Executive Outcome hues in the past) with a myriad of tricks including
a fantastical voters’ roll, and slated in polling stations
with such tricks as thousands of “assisted voters” (instantly
“illiterate” voters being helped along by police officers,
who in any case were overly-represented in the stations), will inevitably
be proven fraudulent enough, but they will take months if not years
In any case,
the Constitutional Court that will be the forum of disputation is
packed with Zanu-PF partisans. The international complainants will
lose stomach, hoping to engage with the victors of an election already
declared “credible” (note how international standards
have changed where democracy is dangerous) by Sadc and the AU to
encourage stability and maybe even the pursuit of neo-liberal economic
policies. The MDC-T will have to stomach the bitter pill and become
a purely oppositional party once again.
leaders debate a boycott of parliament and local governments, the
party will have to consider the demands of its members who need
a salary, not to mention the needs of their constituents.
To leave them
to the whims of the exultant victors would likely be counter-productive.
The MDC-T will have to rebuild along the lines of opposition parties
It will be faced
with two serious issues in the next weeks, months and years:
leadership will be questioned. He has fobbed four elections since
2000. Noble history aside, he is severely hobbled. Perhaps excessive
reliance on the likes of the International Republican Institute
has contributed to the fall of the one-time trade union-based party.
This ties in with the second issue: the party must rebuild its mass
As this process
unfolds, the Cold War between secretary-general Tendai Biti and
much younger national organiser Nelson Chamisa no real challenge
to Biti must be resolved without tearing the party apart.
The party has
failed to organise well enough to counter the cunning Zanu-PF centaur:
50 years of war and operating in the milieux of local and international
maneouvering has created a party very hard to beat; the MDC must
learn to beat it and faction fights will not help.
preaching does not match dedicated intelligence and hard electoral
work that matches Obama’s in calculated sophistication.
Biti, no longer
hamstrung by the poisoned chalice of the Ministry of Finance and
an IG bereft of diamond revenues that could barely get its hands
on enough funds to run the election, can now focus on where the
MDC-T left off in 2008.
As for the mass
base, with trade unions decimated in 15 years of de-industrialisation
and a core of youthful civil society intellectuals disenchanted
with the MDC-T’s collapse into modes of politics reminiscent
of African patron-client relations and its inability to make the
IG work, one foresees a hard road ahead.
habit of harsh recrimination to those seen to have stymied its right
to eternal power, and the path becomes strewn with even more obstacles.
New parties led by seasoned civil society actors may flower. How
can the MDC-T rejoin these former colleagues?
too has a history of imploding during times of crisis, and this
victory could be a crisis in disguise. Authoritarian populist policy
and practice could ruin Zimbabwean society once more.
There are no
assurances that diamond and platinum revenue will be ploughed into
the state coffers and redistributed, but even then extractive economies
are not enough.
With the cancellation
of payment of overdue rates perhaps followed by that for electricity
in an economy long used to regular power outages how will the municipalities
rebuild their failing service infrastructure, let alone pay their
civil servants are wondering if they will be paid. Will the international
financial institutions re-engage to get their over US$10 billion
current economic discourse wobbles from instant indigenisation (49/51%
deals on offer to multinationals have capital fleeing and the stock
exchange tumbling) and weak technocratic offerings: pre-election
promises to return from the US dollar imposed to stop free-fall
in early 2000 to a local currency are said to have been reversed,
but no one can tell if this side of the policy debate will win.
will not be derailed any time soon.
the more visible competition in the longstanding “Mnangagwa
vs Mujuru” competition for succession, the “group of
40” or “super-Zezuru” faction - and these categories
are very fluid, kept under control only by the now-flagging abilities
of Mugabe to keep them guessing a self-destructing Zanu-PF could
well be in the cards. The “patriots” could be emboldened
by diamonds but the other factions have access to more of them.
mean that it is unlikely that many of the gems will get to the state
institutions needing them.
If the economy
nosedives again, the choices facing Zimbabweans at large will be
stark. They have become very adept at making the informal sector
work and bringing in millions from relatives in the diaspora but
this is a precarious political economy at the best of times.
may well have to consider the resistance option once again. Will
the MDC-T be able to marshal a collective desire for contestation
to its side before it gets out of hand, or will a Zanu-PF style
of populism win the day?
As always, in
Zimbabwean politics, the phrase born out of its neighbour’s
struggles - a luta continua - is apposite, especially as it jars
with its turn in the English variation to “the looting continues”.
Moore is a professor
at the University of Johannesburg.
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