THE Thursday judgement by the Supreme Court gives legal weight to the call for early elections, does it not? Of course the judgement relates immediately to three constituencies.
Yet its ramifications extend well beyond the three, to suggest many possibilities, all of them favourable to Zanu PF. The floodgates have been opened and it does not require any clairvoyance to predict the direction of events henceforth.
Only a little memory will help one recall that Zanu PF has been strenuously making a case for the re-enfranchisement of the more than 30 constituencies which have been frozen out of any representation, largely by God’s hand, minutely, but significantly by misconduct, critically by treachery on the part of three sitting MPs who decided to desert their party for a rival one.
On life support
Significantly, the court action has been brought about by the dissident MPs seeking to eat their cake while having it. The trio used the law to place themselves beyond disciplinary action of the party they had deserted, indeed to beat the national law which forbids floor-crossing. They used the law to cull comfort from, and hide in interstices created by the leadership wrangle in their former party.
They sought and found refuge in Arthur Mutambara, himself leaning on the life-support machine of legal technicalities. And as Mutambara stretched for a little more ounces of life, the trio clearly saw that they risked becoming his extended patient, thereby sharing his fate.
They wrenched themselves from the life of a man so providentially condemned, a desperate man whose sojourn at the country’s courts owed more to a plea for one more gasp than to the promise or prospect of one more life.
When the president loses to himself
As leader of this MDC faction, Arthur Mutambara is finished. Arguably, as a leader of anything in Zimbabwe’s treacherous politics, he fares no better.
Indeed his gratuitously foolhardy praise of Morgan Tsvangirai only last week amounts to coquettish or pimpish courtship by a proverbial woman only too aware of deeper wrinkles, coarsening flesh and greater, unimpressive gaps in a cavernous mouth that once kissed sweet, that once emitted scented breath.
The trio has discovered it measures 96 degrees in King Arthur’s shade, hence the legal action whose ostensible target is the President, but which in essence tells the story of continued fragmentation of the MDC formations.
Indeed a legal battle where Mugabe the President loses to Mugabe leader of a political party seeking an early electoral end to the political charade sparsely christened government of national unity. That is the beauty of politics’ multiple identities, is it not?
When a narrow man wins
With significant defections from MDC-T to MDC-N in Bulawayo only a week or so ago, and the rancour that followed, it is clear that MDC-N cannot wait for by-elections in the region, much as it is still to consolidate its hold in the three constituencies, let alone muster enough resources to match, still less surpass MDC-T.
But its recovery has been remarkable in a game where money might not be everything. MDC-N has been hammering the issue of devolution principally. MDC-N has been hammering Zanu PF, something Welshman Ncube and Priscilla Misihairabwi consider a sine qua non to electability in Matabeleland.
More significantly, MDC-N has been hammering MDC-T as yet another face of a Shona conspiratorial domination of Matabeleland. Very narrow and potentially divisive politics indeed, but politics finding currency, finding fertile ground in a region whose depressed economic fortunes, while representative of the state we are in as Zimbabweans, have always been made to assume a parochial resonance.
And the Dimaf debacle has been the proverbial hyena that coughs out white hair in a village which cannot account for one of its elderly women. The whole blame falls, arguably deservedly, on MDC-T whose Secretary General, as the country’s finance minister, is read as withholding a lifeline to the region.
The politics which this situation spawns for the MDC-T are tellingly evident in Thokozani Khupe’s unscheduled and undignified eloping from her urban constituency to what she perceives to be a safe rural seat.
The move amounts to another ringing victory for Welshman who had been humiliated by the same lady in 2008. Much worse, it has triggered a potentially divisive demotion of Thabitha Khumalo as MDC-T’s deputy spokeswoman.
However read, Welshman should be credited for mounting enough pressure on MDC-T as to trigger bleeding contradictions in that party.
Zanu PF’s needless missteps
But who else is smiling? Zanu PF of course! An MDC-T which is lamed in Matabeleland is an MDC-T which gets softened nationally. The party is bound to find it harder to defend its bid for presidency, well before we even factor in other complications gathering pace inside it.
And in spite of his waspish attacks on Zanu PF, Welshman is doing Zanu PF insuperable service, the same way that Mutambara’s gratuitous courtship and panegyrizing of Tsvangirai reinforces Ncube’s hatred of Tsvangirai, again for Zanu PF.
He is not, after all, aiming for Presidency. He is aiming for leverage against whoever emerges the President, something Zanu PF should have quickly grasped. And there is a lot to censure Zanu PF for in the unfolding equation.
Zanu PF could have been laughing more in the unfolding circumstances. While there was a genuine legal argument to delay the ascendancy of Ncube both to the leadership of the other faction of the MDC and to national vice premiership, there was little that stood in the way of Zanu PF to make some symbolic show of goodwill and fairness.
We did not have to make Ncube win his place — or the obverse — to make Mutambara effortlessly keep what he no longer deserved, even then to our detriment. And with each legal battle Ncube won, the legal argument which Zanu PF summoned and relied upon to keep Mutambara in the posts deteriorated from the threadbareness to an outright fig leaf we did not need for our so well-covered front.
After all, this was none of our fight, and the man we appeared to redeem did not deserve our sacrifice, both intrinsically and by his subsequent political conduct in giving meaningless succour to the deserters.
Validating conspiracy theory
We also ceded to Ncube the vote of victimhood. For the region, he became a victor orphaned, nay, lynched by Zanu PF which should have dressed his weeping wounds after a bloody fight.
We also pushed him into a harder corner and stance from where he now demands both political and governmental leadership as a matter of self-gotten victory. And in the eyes of the voter in Matabeleland, we grew him into a lawyer who demonstrated professorship in his grasp and use of the courts, indeed grew him into a politician who uses the law to successfully punch through adversity, to punch above his numerical weight.
The materially inconsequential, but unrequited victories he has won in the leadership contest, has become huge symbolically for a region looking for a hero, craving for representational victory. We have cost ourselves trust in Matabeleland, even lending credence to Ncube’s conspiracy theories.
Pilfering Look East
Zanu PF can still regain ground, both symbolically and materially. Ncube still needs the goodwill of Zanu PF which he has deserved for long without getting, and there is a lot that can be done between now and elections. After all, the issue of devolution is now behind us.
Materially, Zanu PF’s support base in Matabeleland has remained stable, unshaken. But it has also not grown, with current efforts aiming at growing it against years of stagnation. Given the current realignment of forces in Matabeleland, there is real scope for that magical growth, against an MDC-T fending off attacks from MDC-M and Dumiso Dabengwa’s Zapu.
The frantic attempts by the MDC-T to raise its image using the Zanu PF initiated and negotiated water agreements with the Chinese government in the context of the broad Look East policy, clearly reveal an MDC-T at its tether’s end. We do not have to allow it to prance about as a solution to Matabeleland’s water woes, merely because it holds the water portfolio in the inclusive government.
The real game-changer
This being the environment within which the Supreme Court decision has been handed down, so what now? Well, effectively, the Supreme Court decision has brought the electoral law into what until now has been pre-eminently a politically framed national question of when to have elections.
Until this court decision, the whole debate has evolved as if only GPA principals, watched by SADC through its facilitator, have been the only factors at play. The Supreme Court has now shown this was a mistaken overrating of persons and institutions which, in any event, are themselves the players in the game about to begin. It has shown it is a game-changer, indeed the writer of rules of the game which SADC seeks to referee.
This is a key adjustment to the whole electoral equation in which all sorts of political arguments, not least among them the bogey of “outstanding issues”, were being summoned to extend indefinitely the saccharine but increasingly illegal governing moment.
If the MDC formations needed until June next year “to level the playing field”, they now have until August this year to do so. And we are in July!
Once we hold those by-elections as required by this judgment and presumably many others to come, it means the argument for delaying a national poll in the name of “outstanding issues” becomes hopelessly threadbare, obscene in fact. The MDC formations may now have to go back to the courts to make a case for a review of the Supreme Court judgment! Their only hope is to boycott elections, or to discredit them by triggering violence.
When can’t pay won’t wash
Secondly, if the “can’t pay” argument will not wash with the Supreme Court, it certainly implies the law takes the view that the ballot box may not be deferred for whatever reason, beyond the limits of the law.
Again that relocates the electoral epicentre from SADC’s capitals where the MDC formations have been heavily lobbying, to some small building so near to Parliament where the formations sit, so near to Munhumutapa from where these formations pretend to govern.
Again that makes Tendai Biti’s ministry irrelevant to the timing of elections and just as well that he had already set aside the US$100 million in SDRs for that purpose. He must find the money. In just this one Thursday, in the month of July, in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twelve, Zimbabwe’s sovereignty has been reasserted. Firmly.
Changing the governing landscape
Practically, the President will have to decide whether to proceed piecemeal, all the time waiting for a prod from another judgment from the Supreme Court as more challenges are made, or to proceed by way of declaring elections due in all the vacant constituencies throughout the country.
That means a mini-general election of far-reaching consequences for all parties, more so for the MDC-T which was beginning to use its ill-gotten majority in the lower house to abuse parliamentary processes. I bet my bottom dollar the MDC-T is fated to emerge worse off at the conclusion of such a process, however managed.
Zanu PF is sure to carry the day in by-elections. Check its record! Of course such an outcome will be a huge fillip, not just for governance in the immediate aftermath, but also for the general elections to follow.
Bolder, more daring measures
Or more dramatically and boldly, the President may use this judgment to dissolve Parliament and get the country to move post haste to harmonised elections! After all he is the President. What is more, as he correctly argues, the constitution was never a precondition for holding elections. Yet it is being used as if it is.
Zimbabwe has a constitution in place, on the strength of which elections have been held in the past, with the MDC even making significant gains under it. What is more, that constitution has undergone sweeping changes, all of them prompted by the MDC formations which participated in drafting the resultant amendments we now have as part of the electoral law. That often forgotten fact came through in Patrick Chinamasa’s interview last week.
Fearing having power themselves
And as I write, Parliament is considering further changes to the electoral law, changes which would have taken a mere day had it not been for the fact that one of the MDC formations has, true to type, again reneged on positions agreed to early on under the GPA. But with the pressure of the Supreme Court judgment now evident, even an impasse on that front may no longer matter. Quite the contrary, it could very well be the reason for calling for early polls.
And as is already established, the prevarication of the MDC-T on all these changes and on the draft constitution has more to do with reservations which are internal and unique to it, than with the lack of consensus between parties.
Acting on fulsome optimism, the MDC-T fears a constitution that creates a strong executive, lest it misgoverns with it! Its leader, says some of its core players, cannot be trusted with undiminished powers by which disciplined Robert Mugabe governed! Tingapera, they opine.
When the EU begins to crack
Externally, something even more dramatic is beginning to happen. The accretive pressures which Zanu PF has been building against sanctions, both singly and through a series of manoeuvres that got the MDC formations in, have now got the offending EU to begin to crack.
The judicious leak through the Telegraph, itself an establishment paper, this week comes as a culmination of a series of not-so-subtle measures which the Conservatives-led British coalition has been deploying to undo the damage from the Labour days, been doing to reverse the constraining anti-Zimbabwe hype which the Labour government had over the years whipped to frenzied proportions.
Only last week I detailed aspects of this campaign whose local reflex is a despairing sense of abandonment on the part of the local white factor, so aggressively expressing itself through the effete Roy Bennett. But the British government has crossed the Rubicon and shall not make any further sacrifices for what, after all, are remnant elements from the rebellious UDI.
Britain has had to come to the realisation that picking a fight over the preservation of narrow Rhodesian interests at the expense of its bilateral relations with Zimbabwe might not be the right way to protect her place and interests in Southern Africa. After all, even demographically Rhodesia is a smashed beachhead which can no longer sustain Britain’s entry and penetration into the hinterland.
Ubi panis ibi patria
Much worse, this mistaken fight waged by Labour has hardened Southern Africa through Zimbabwe’s viral political influence worrisomely docking in dirty streets and settlements where the poor, unfulfilled majority are found in its neighbourhood. Within the European Union itself, the British racially bigoted position against Zimbabwe has become harder and harder to defend.
Critical players within the EU were beginning to make overt steps towards cutting deals with Zimbabwe, a move made more compelling and uncontrollable by the economic mayhem afflicting the Union.
One does not need much thought to provide an answer to whether or not a Greece, or Portugal, or Spain, or Italy so threatened with economic chaos need go by EU solidarity and sentiment, and not fall for a portion of the shimmering riches of Chiadzwa which Zimbabwe licentiously continues to dangle. And Dame Zimbabwe has been doing lots of lewd moves to a hungry subcontinent, knowing fully well the old saying, Ubi panis ibi patria, will do the trick.
Reading false defeats
I have been reading some very immature commentary on this sanctions matter from people I expect to know better. First, the whites. White voices have cautioned the EU against speedy removal of sanctions. They urge the EU to remember what the sanctions were about in the first instance.
Obscenely and incredulously, these voices proceed to suggest that sanctions had something to do with the realisation of democracy for the native here! I hope they grow up.
Then you have black politicians who naively think that the removal of sanctions wrong-foots Zanu PF. Really?How does the successful realisation of Zanu PF’s decade-long campaign yield a setback for it? They are in for a rude awakening.
The reversal of sanctions could very well be the beginning of a winning psychosis for the party. After all, the enemy has not been a small one; the victory thus cannot be a day-long carnival only, surely. Or the obverse: that those guilty of bringing the Nation to such a long grief cannot suffer a short guilt, a guilt feeling far shorter than ecstasy, surely?
For as long as the MDC formations live politically sanctions shall remain their enduring political signifier.
Indigenisation, the breaker
Much more, none within this dreaming tribe ever pauses to ask what Zanu PF’s core campaign message is, or is going to be. It was never going to be sanctions, surely, much as the issue of sanctions is sure to create the necessary atmospherics.
In any case the removal of sanctions owe to greater pressure mounted through the policy of indigenisation, is that not so? So why relegate the causal factor? It sounds very childish until one remembers this is an argument frothing from mouths of grown-ups! But one can depress these grown-up infants even more. America will not remove sanctions, certainly not before our elections.
And American sanctions have been the more overt, the more extensive, the more hurtful. So the sanctions discourse will not go away, in fact will be ramped up to greater frenzy, what with this inspiring breakthrough in Europe! It is such faulty reasoning which has always been the bane of opposition politics, the boon for Zanu!
Make no mind them!
Overall, the deck is clearing itself, fast too! Of course the EU will shout preconditions, will spice up the removal of sanctions with copious threats. Make no mind them! They have to save face. They have to manage home constituencies.
European sanctions are going, not by the largeness of European heart, still less the British one (if hearts they have). Sanctions are going because we have successfully turned them into such a frightful foreign policy disutility. Because we have held firm and fast. Because we have exhausted the ardour of the quisling politics they have spawned here. Yes, because we have forced EU onto the table, as in 1979. Yet another victory, Zimbabwe.
Nathaniel Manheru is a columnist for the Saturday Herald. E-mail him: email@example.com