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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
must regroup and fight back
Tinhu, The Independent (Zimbabwe)
August 16, 2013
hotly contested elections have come and gone and the country’s
patriarch, President-elect Robert Mugabe, has been declared the
His party, Zanu-PF,
also trounced rivals capturing more than two-thirds of the parliamentary
seats, paving the way for the octogenarian leader and his “revolutionary”
party to walk all over the new constitution (which they never really
But more importantly,
and indeed more worryingly, this win has created a dilemma for the
opposition, which now has a few options on the table to ensure its
The first option
is for the MDC-T to challenge the electoral outcome through the
courts. However, there are grounds to be cautious when it comes
to this option.
Not only do
Zimbabwe’s courts have a record of partisan rulings, with
most of the judges having been appointed by Mugabe (and benefitting
from Zanu-PF’s patronage networks), historically, few significant
rulings have been made in favour of the MDC-T.
argued that even if the courts were independent, 61-34%, the margin
that Tsvangirai was beaten by is too wide a margin to contest. Tsvangirai’s
party will have to produce solid credible evidence to convince the
courts that the election was stolen.
Indeed, no one,
including senior MDC-T officials, is expecting this move to produce
anything of substance.
The second option
is to hope that MDC-T supporters initiate some kind of a political
protest, as in Egypt, in an attempt to force Mugabe to step down.
This is unlikely
considering the heavy-handedness with which Zimbabwe’s security
forces have handled previous protests. This is also risky because
if Mugabe’s party officials perceive these protests as having
been incited by the MDC-T leadership, they might use this as an
excuse to incarcerate them.
In the meantime,
there is little evidence of planning for a potential protest, with
people on the streets generally going about their business as usual.
The third option
is to appeal to regional bodies Sadc and the African Union (AU)
with the hope that these organisations might pressure Mugabe to
seriously consider a re-run of the election. MDC-T leader Morgan
Tsvangirai’s party has compiled a dossier to be sent to these
But, there are
also difficulties with this move. As it appears, Sadc and the AU
have endorsed the electoral outcome, and South African President
Jacob Zuma, who until recently has been critical of Mugabe, sent
a congratulatory message to him for his victory.
nations have since followed suit, with the exception of Botswana.
To Sadc, AU and some African leaders, as far as the Zimbabwe problem
is concerned, it is solved.
The MDC-T might
also call on the West to put pressure on Zanu PF. But, with Mugabe
likely to be out of the way before the end of his term, this time,
the West’s relationship with Zimbabwe is likely to be driven
more by realpolitik than concerns for human rights or justice.
the European Union (EU) and United States in particular, might not
want to be seen to be alienating the AU and Sadc who have had observer
missions in Zimbabwe during the elections. Britain, America and
Germany might have expressed concerns on how the elections were
conducted, concerns that will definitely fall on deaf ears.
rhetoric is likely to die down as time progresses.
MDC-T has stated that it will not participate in national institutions;
for example, MDC-T winners in this election might not to take up
their seats in the local councils, parliament and the senate.
which seems to have already been reversed, is problematic on two
levels. First, it has the potential to split the party as those
members who won might decide to take up their positions in government
are reports Mugabe is attempting to split the opposition by luring
MDC-T party members who won parliamentary seats to join the new
Zanu-PF will certainly go ahead and run the country without the
MDC-T. Zanu-PF has always wanted a one-party state, and it will
not be surprising if they use this as an opportunity to seriously
consider governing without the opposition.
MDC-T must seriously consider one immediate interest: ensuring that
it survives this defeat. The history of electoral politics in Zimbabwe
suggests that a heavy defeat at the ballot box is a good indicator
of what is likely to happen to the opposition party.
To date, this
has been the heaviest defeat that the MDC has suffered, and may
well be its last as all political parties that have faced such electoral
defeats in the past disappeared immediately after the election.
it is an open secret that Mugabe’s party is very keen on crowding
out other parties from Zimbabwe’s political space. Especially,
with the resignation or death of its patriarch, Zanu-PF is conscious
that its political fortunes are likely to decline.
In order to
strengthen its hegemonic status on Zimbabwe’s political scene,
it will attempt to pursue the MDC-T with the resolve and ruthless
efficiency with which they won this election.
Indeed, by winning
a majority in parliament, the machinery has already been set in
motion to destroy Tsvangirai’s party. A series of legislation
meant to restrict the movement and growth of the MDC-T (and other
opposition groups) is likely to be passed in the next five years.
It goes without
saying that this last is the most important and most realistic option.
The test of the MDC’s true strength will be whether it is
able to march on without its main ideologue and founder, Tsvangirai.
Indeed, since its formation, Tsvangirai’s name has been synonymous
with the MDC-T, and his bravery in the face of a true political
test must never be under-estimated.
ousting this once key gladiator, who has led the most successful
opposition group in Zimbabwe, will be the first step in the right
direction. Tsvangirai himself has already indicated that he has
no intention of stepping down any time soon. Indeed, he told a press
conference in Harare recently that he has the full backing of his
party. His supporters in the party have also argued that he needs
to finish the job that he started.
the good of the party, Tsvangirai needs to step down retreating
to moral arguments to support his continued candidature will only
worsen the situation. If Tsvangirai remains as MDC-T leader, by
the time Zimbabwe goes to the next elections in 2018, it means the
former labour leader would have served 20 years as head of a party
whose constitution before amendments stipulated a maximum of two
five-year terms. When the former labour leader joined politics,
his aim was to dislodge the authoritarian regime of Zanu PF. Fourteen
years later, and amending the constitution to remain as head of
his party, the morality of him asking Zanu-PF and Mugabe to step
down might be questioned, let alone the strategic utility of the
West and pro-democracy supporters’ relationship with a leader
who utilises undemocratic practices within his party.
The two potential
successors to Tsvangirai are Tendai Biti, the all-powerful secretary-general
of the party, and Nelson Chamisa, the youthful organising secretary
who is aligned to Tsvangirai’s faction. The ascension of Biti
will be problematic.
There is no
doubt that he is brave. However, he lacks tactical finesse required
of a high-level statesman, and at times appears erratic.
following the Sadc extraordinary summit
on Zimbabwe in July this year, he went on to inaccurately and prematurely,
through his Facebook page, pronounce the outcome of the summit.
and scatter-gun approach to high-level politics is embarrassing
and does not instill much confidence in Biti’s capacity to
act like a true statesman.
most importantly visionary leadership, which is capable of strategic
thinking, is the indispensable foundation for the MDC-T’s
future. Nelson Chamisa, who seems to be a credible purveyor of opposition
politics, appears to have these qualities.
He is not always
the most imaginative, but the youthful politician has the perfect
combination of gutsiness (those who know him from his student politics
days can attest to this).
have been a complete politician and realist that the MDC-T needs
at the helm of the party had it not been for his occasional idealism
shaped by his addiction to strident neo-liberal views and his disturbingly
constant reference to the Bible at political rallies.
views shaped immutably and meticulously by his born-again Christianism
will compromise a tragic view of politics, something required to
succeed in Zimbabwe’s brute political scene. But these are
the things that can be worked on as he matures further.
Unless the MDC
adopts a nationalistic and Pan-African outlook, it will struggle
to gain the sympathy and support of regional players, be they political
parties or governments.
The party will
need to loosen its close ties with the West, at least in public
aside by the AU and Sadc of the its concerns with these elections,
and on the other hand, the African political class’ quick
endorsement of a Zanu-PF win, are not a coincidence. Below the surface,
the political class in most African countries has never been comfortable
with MDC-T’s perceived reflexive dependence on Britain and
MDC-T has been unable to see the games that the Sadc and South Africa
have been playing with them: on one hand, feigning solidarity with
their requests by having endless and fruitless summits on Zimbabwe,
and on the other, pulling the rug from under MDC-T at the eleventh
hour when the Sadc and South Africa refused a re-run
of 2008, but forced MDC-T into coalition with Zanu-PF as a junior
partner despite having won the elections. Also, the current endorsement
of this election has nothing to do with its credibility, but a subtle
quid pro quo for Zanu-PF standing out against the West, something
that African nations cannot do.
Thus the MDC-T
needs to soothe its relationship with other African states who are
frustrated with what they perceive as being a too cosy a relationship
with the West. In other words, a major re-alignment in the eyes
of the public could put the MDC-T on an ideologically acceptable
policy to its neighbours, and lock in a Sadc and AU alliance with
Adopting a nationalist
agenda will also draw some of Zanu-PF’s soft supporters, and
even stalwarts and their patronage networks, votes and supporters.
The MDC-T has to give both foreign and domestic critics what they
want Pan-Africanism and nationalism, respectively. They are perfectly
free to disagree, but ignoring it altogether, especially in public,
is not an effective approach.
No vision for
unseating Zanu-PF will stand without attempting to undermine its
the party may appear to be in robust health, from inside it is confused,
almost dazed, and is currently suffering from frequently angry and
perpetually fighting factions led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru
and Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mugabe skillfully manages
this internal balance and his resignation is likely to see the party
Zanu-PF cohesion can be achieved through a multi-pronged approach.
by stocking old rivalries between the two factions within Zanu-PF
or promising better patronage benefits than what it can offer to
either of the factions. Undermining Zanu-PF will not only bring
some of the most hardened men on Zimbabwe’s political scene,
but also patronage networks and votes.
There is no
doubt that Zanu-PF has some of the most brilliant minds on the nation’s
political scene. On the other hand, though dedicated and very brave,
the MDC-T cannot boast the same resources.
The MDC-T needs
to recruit ruthless politicians, who surpass or at least match the
brilliance of the Zanu-PF strategists; those who understand political
machinations required to get into power.
a political analyst based in London.
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