How Zanu PF has stolen polls since 1980
In over three decades in power, President Robert Mugabe has been crafty
enough to outwit his foes even from within his Zanu PF inner-circle and has
survived the most daunting situations during his political career, raising
the question of whether there is really anyone who can outwit him. Lest
people forget the circumstances behind Zanu PF winning the 1980 election
against Joshua Nkomo’s PF-Zapu, the truth is that the party won for two main
Firstly, the guerrillas threatened to go back into the bush and continue
fighting if Zanu PF did not win the election.
Secondly, people were tired of the war with all its horrors and wanted it to
come to an end at all costs.
Similarly, Zimbabweans today desperately need a government-change no matter
who comes into power. In the 1980 elections people were cowed into voting
for Zanu PF. According to the Lancaster House agreement, all ex-combatants
were supposed to be at the assembly points, but Zanu PF sent mostly the
mujibas (war collaborators and informers) there instead and left the real
ex-combatants to roam free, terrorising the people, something they are still
doing over 30 years later, because for them it is a tried and tested method
that bears results.
In the 1980 elections, ex-combatants went about with binoculars, making the
rural folk look through them to see how they were able to read things from
afar. This was a novelty to the people who had experienced that before, they
were amazed to see how binoculars were able to miraculously bring things
People were told that on election day the ex-guerrillas would use binoculars
to see who they were voting for.
The same crooked means have been consistently employed by Zanu PF to attain
victory in all elections to this day.
Even the way Mugabe ascended to lead the Zanla guerrilla fighters was
questionable. During the decade Mugabe was in detention, between 1964 and
1974, the late General Solomon Mujuru and Josiah Magama Tongogara led the
At the time Mugabe and Edgar Tekere were released from prison, they were
helped to cross into Mozambique to join other guerrilla fighters, where
Mujuru implored guerrillas, most of whom had never met Mugabe before, to
accept him as their leader. The move was initially met with resistance but
eventually the guerrillas gave in.
Seeing a deepening tribal conflict in which over 20 000 Ndebeles were
reportedly massacred by Mugabe’s North-Korean trained soldiers, Mugabe
crafted another survival strategy in which he coerced Joshua Nkomo into a
The coming of the Zimbabwe United Movement (ZUM) to the political playing
field did not ease the tension in the country, with Zanu PF crushing the
former left, right and centre, frustrating the party’s leadership by
arresting activists and supporters. This led to ZUM losing in the 1990
elections under conditions that were deemed unjust.
Another presidential election was held in March 1996, contested by Zanu PF’s
Mugabe, Zanu-Ndonga’s Ndabaningi Sithole and former Zimbabwe Rhodesia Prime
Minister, Abel Muzorewa.
Mugabe won, claiming over 90% of the vote, although turnout was just 32,3%,
largely as a result of Sithole and Muzorewa withdrawing from candidature
shortly before the elections.
Sithole withdrew after claiming that Mugabe undermined his campaign, while
Muzorewa pulled out after the Supreme Court turned down his bid to postpone
the elections on the basis that the electoral rules were unfair as state
funds were only available to parties with 15 or more seats in parliament. In
December 1997, Sithole was convicted of conspiring to assassinate Mugabe; he
appealed and then died while out on bail.
Then came 2002, through hook and crook, Mugabe again shot his way back to
State House. In March 2008, Mugabe’s future looked bleaker than ever as
Zimbabweans again voted in presidential elections.
Prior to the plebiscite, Mugabe had declared that he would “abide by the
will of the people”. In an interview on the BBC, a spokesman for Zanu-PF
said of the Mugabe presidency; “He shall rule this country for as long as he
likes.” But the vote was a huge blow to the party that has ruled Zimbabwe
since independence in 1980.
When he cast his ballot in the first round, Mugabe said: “If you lose an
election and are rejected by the people, it is time to leave politics.”
Surprisingly after failing to win enough votes to avoid a run-off with
opposition challenger Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe displayed more
characteristic defiance, swearing “only God” could remove him from office.
Clearly, one can see that Mugabe has never won a legitimate election before.
BY JEFFREY MOYO
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