MDC needs to keep its foot on the pedal
By Freeman Chari
In the March 2008 Harmonized elections Zimbabwe witnessed the first free and fair elections in its history. This was the only time that MDC could paste its election material on the fence surrounding the Shake-Shake ZANU PF Headquarters in Harare. Very few incidences of violence were recorded. The question that has never been addressed is why Mugabe chose not to use his trusted weapon in that election. I will try to answer that.
1. The concept of fifty plus one was not incorporated into the Zimbabwe Electoral Act in 2008; rather it has existed in our laws for a very long time. It was never raised as an issue in previous elections because the circumstances never called for its prominence. In particular, the 2002 Presidential elections saw Mugabe cruise to a disputed 56.2% victory. Thus Zimbabweans were in the dark about this provision until just before the 2008 elections. Why did it become so much of an issue in 2008?
Simba Makoni emerged as a challenger to Robert Mugabe a few months before the election. There were widespread rumors that Simba had support from people like the CIO Director-General Happyton Bonyongwe and General Zvinavashe. The Makoni project shored its banks with the presence of Dumiso Dabengwa and Rtd Major Mbudzi.
Following the revelations by both Dabengwa and Mbudzi that the Mavambo project was meant to scuttle Tsvangirai’s presidential bid there arouse a critical need to examine how this could have been planned. A look the leadership then could give us an insight. Simba Makoni has always been touted as a possible successor of Mugabe and came with a known moderate and rational voice that appealed to the middle class.
Dabengwa brought the tribal card and military presence that could give assurances to Matabeleland and the military. What is not clear is what happened between MDC-M and Makoni to the extent that the party decided to back Makoni and not Tsvangirai. Although Makoni’s stature and military backing gave assurances of possible change there is room to speculate that MDC-M could have been unknowingly drawn into the plot.
2. So the presence of a third force built and funded by ZANU PF could have provided a hope for survival for the ailing party. Strategically a win for Simba Makoni would have meant continuance of the status quo. A win by Tsvangirai would be easily manipulated by moving some of his figures to Simba Makoni so as to diffract the known accusations on ZANU PF.
A slight failure by Mugabe to reach 51% could be shored up not by Tsvangirai’s votes but by titrating a few from Makoni’s numbers. Whichever way, ZANU PF was prepared to win either through Mugabe or through Makoni. When you control the system you can afford to let your enemies get some token control of the obvious so that they feel comfortable and forget to be alert.
I might not have concrete inside information on how ZANU PF rigs elections but in 2004 I demonstrated to the then Chairman of the Election Commission at University of Zimbabwe Tapiwa Mutava that the fluorescent ink used in 2002 Presidential Elections could be quenched off using Phosphotungstic Acid a chemical used in many government medical laboratories.
I also demonstrated in 2005 that what we called indelible ink was a stain that resembled Carbol Fuchsin which is easily decolorized by acid-alcohol. The Central Intelligence Organisation definitely knows these things. They are the architect of the voting system and can manipulate it.
3 The line up of the most important organs in elections was in the firm hands of ZANU PF. Retired Brigadier General George Mutandwa Chiweshe was the then appointed ZEC Chairman. Tobaiwa Mudede was Registrar General. There was a unilaterally appointed Supreme and High Court Bench with the likes of Godfrey Chidyausiku , a former ZANU PF legislator and Attorney General.
All organs of the security intelligence were firmly in support of the system- CIO, PISI, MI, Army and Police. Mugabe could afford to test the waters. After all he could be afraid of a loss to Tsvangirai when in actual fact he could beat him. A win against Tsvangirai in a free and fair election could give his government credibility but if his plan backfired he could count on his trusted lieutenants listed above to throw spanners for him.
These examples just show that ZANU PF does not take lightly the aspect of planning and execution. The reason why every ward has an intelligence network is because the party values information. Every move that ZANU PF makes is a well calculated effort towards consolidation of its power. They rarely enter into elections or negotiations in which they do not foresee a win.
The 1987 Unity Accord and the recent GNU are good examples. In 2008 Mugabe insisted that he would only begin to talk to Tsvangirai after the June run-off which he was proud enough to run alone and win. He knew he would have little leverage if negotiations were held on the basis of the March elections. He laid a claim on the presidency through a blood and force.
It is high time that we know our enemy better and begin to outmaneuver it in the same manner MDC did on the election of the Speaker of Parliament. So when Mugabe calls for an early election in at a time when it is apparent that he will lose, then we should all be wary of him for he never enters a race to lose. He would rather run alone than lose.
Hoping that SADC now has teeth
When the news of the adoption of SADC PRINCIPLES AND GUIDELINES GOVERNING DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS reached Zimbabwe in August 2004 I was in the MDC Information Office with the then National Information Officer Maxwell Zimuto and then UZ President Gift Nyandoro. We were ecstatic and immediately began penning articles on how the 2005 elections would be different. We thought SADC had finally stamped its foot on Zimbabwe.
When the elections came, SADC sent Election Observer Mission led by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. The observer mission was deployed on the 23rd of March for an election that was to happen on the 31st March. In a week Ngcuka claimed they had covered 2000 political meetings and had concluded that the elections had met SADC standards.
Given the environment at the time only a fool would make such a conclusion. Even her statement was full of contradictions in which she noted irregularities but went on to disregard them. There is every reason to suspect that Mrs. Mlambo-Ngcuka had strict instructions to declare the elections free and fair regardless of the facts on the ground.
The outcome of the SUMMIT OF THE ORGAN TROIKA ON POLITICS, DEFENCE AND SECURITY COOPERATION on 31st M A RCH, 2011 was commendable for its strong language and decisiveness on the way forward. There are however certain lessons that we could be overlooking in celebrating this development.
1. From SADC, AU to the UN Security Council ZANU PF has relied heavily on the bipolar structure of these organizations. Let us remember that the Livingstone meeting was a troika meeting that was attended by only four other Heads States namely Banda, Pohamba, Guebuza and Zuma.
There is every reason to suspect that Pohamba was outnumbered by anti-Mugabe presidents in that Troika. In the event that the issue is referred to a full SADC sitting Mugabe could be assured of a majority vote from his trusted allies like Pohamba, Dos Santos, Mswati, Mutharika, Kabila whilst the loyalties of Mosisili and Guebuza may vacillate. In an event that he gets his traditional support, what will happen to the slight gain we have?
2. When Commonwealth leaders agreed to extend Zimbabwe’s suspension from the grouping in the Nigerian capital Abuja in 2003, Mugabe responded by pulling Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth. When the SADC Tribunal ruled in favor of white farmers ZANU PF responded by pulling out of the SADC Tribunal until the regional court’s mandate has been reviewed and regularized.
As a victory to ZANU PF the EXTRAORDINARY SUMMIT HEADS OF STATE AND GOVERNMENT OF THE SADC WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA on 20 MAY 2011 moved a moratorium on the SADC Tribunal just as ZANU PF had wished.
In the event that ZANU PF is cornered will it not pull out of SADC? If it does what will be the next step? Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that ZANU PF will not do that, they have on many occasions overdone themselves in things unimaginable!
Celebrating with one eye on the gun sling
In 1979 there were many false proclamations of end of war. Some guerillas prematurely celebrated end of war and were caught unawares and killed. The same with us, we won a battle at Livingstone but the struggle is not yet won. There is a general consensus that armed struggle is not a viable option for us as peace-loving Zimbabweans. Now in the absence of military action then we should be willing to increase our domestic and international pressure on Mugabe. Domestic resistance has become more and more difficult given the ruthless with which ZANU PF is willing to crackdown on any organized action in Zimbabwe.
Our biggest hope is through international solidarity. Let us remember that the Anti-Apartheid movement was driven mainly by the international community. Even Smith was brought to the table but international pressure. We do not need extra-ordinary activities but even small acts of organized and spontaneous solidarity can bring bigger results to us.
1. In April 2008 when a Chinese vessel landed in Durban, South Africa carrying arms of war destined for Zimbabwe, Satawu, Cosatu and other human rights organizations in South Africa pressured the government not to allow the shipment to land and proceed to Zimbabwe. Even as South African Defence Secretary January Masilela was willing to allow the shipment to proceed to Zimbabwe, gallant workers at the port boycotted offloading ship.
It is such acts by ordinary people that can make an extra-ordinary impact on our struggle. Now is the time for MDC to make intensive diplomatic overtures across SADC and indeed the whole world not at government level but at institutional level. To build and strengthen intimate relationships with organizations like COSATU, ANC, Botswana Democratic Party, Botswana Movement for Democracy, Botswana Federation of Trade Unions, Zambia Congress of Trade Unions, OTM and CONSILMO in Mozambique.
These are the people who will stand in solidarity with us when the Mugabe regime reneges on its obligations. There might come a situation where domestic pressure may become necessary in our neighbouring countries for them to institute tougher measures like sanctions and embargos on Mugabe.
2. The advantage we have is that MDC already has a fertile ground of sympathizers in the Zimbabwe Diaspora. It is unfortunate that its failure to manage the dynamics in the Diaspora is now reflecting badly on the image of the party. My experience with MDC’s external leadership shows a general lack of understanding of the struggle. It seems the thrust is simply to have a membership that contributes some monthly subscription towards MDC without a clear understanding of what our struggle looks like and where it coming from or where it is headed.
The enthusiasm has died down simply because there is nobody to assure our people that they have fought a big struggle but they still have a bigger part to play. Rather we have allegations of fraud, corruption and violence dominating the reports. The responsibility lies with MDC to build structures that will not bring the name of the party into disrepute, structures that understands the struggle and are willing to stand up to represent the party even in the face of adversity. The Diaspora leadership needs to move away from being tax-collectors to organizers of people on issues relevant to them like:
o Citizen and nationality rights
o Diaspora Vote
o Economic Empowerment – remember Joshua Nkomo despite being a politician had the audacity to tackle issues on his supporters’ welfare even before he left Zambia which eventually translated into many ventures that were however destroyed by Mr. Mugabe.
o International solidarity
The responsibility lies with the party to educate its leadership and membership so that their activity within the party does not impede the progression of the party but will add onto the general collective. Once the Diaspora knows its capacity, and once MDC leadership recognizes their potential and treats them respectfully then we have a landmine of opportunity for the party.
Keeping the foot on the pedal
Finally MDC needs to keep its foot on the pedal. Let us not forget history. Let us remember what the ZANU PF is capable of doing. There is no need to rush into an election that does not guarantee a win. In actual fact, the demands by the party should balloon to include some that have been ignored like the Diaspora Vote, SADC and AU military presence at elections, removal of Tomana, Mudede and all judges that have a blatant link to the ZANU PF regime like George Chiweshe and Chidyausiku. These are valid demands that we should not overlook given history.
As it is constant vigilance is our only chance for survival!
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