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By Dr Alex T. Magaisa

WAITING for Godot is an epic play by Samuel Beckett, in which, as the title suggests, the characters spend time waiting for Godot. However, Godot never arrives.

For most Zimbabweans, this has been a hard week, waiting for a definitive outcome of the elections. At times, it has seemed like waiting for Godot.

It has been a week of speculation, conspiracy theorising and true to character Zimbabweans have dealt with their pain and anxiety with good doses of humour. For instance, there was an email depicting a skeletal figure represented in slow motion, a reflection of the snail’s pace with which the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has been announcing the election results.

And yet another suggested that since the formal outcome from the ZEC were taking so long, it might become necessary to resort to the parallel market for results. And the parallel market for results has been as vibrant as the parallel market for foreign currency and goods on which most Zimbabweans have relied in the last few hard years. The lack of information has spawned a huge parallel market of information, which has kept the public occupied.

Even international broadcasters appear to have been dominant players in this parallel market, feeding off the rumour-mill and fuelling it at the same time. A dramatic headline one minute, only to be replaced in the next minute by yet another dramatic one. Hopes raised one minute, deflated in the next and so went the cycle.

Plainly, the choreographed announcement of results has been part of an elaborate plan by Zanu PF to manage the shock and pain of electoral defeat at the hands of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The whole episode has been like a long book of many small and diverse chapters which you just cannot put down, even for a moment.

More importantly, it has been a calculated attempt at handling the alleged defeat of President Mugabe by Morgan Tsvangirai in the presidential election. These are people who are not used to defeat and plainly, they have had great difficulty swallowing the fact that most ordinary Zimbabweans no longer trust them with power. For even if the result was not enough to give Tsvangirai the presidency without a run-off, it is still a huge embarrassment that Mugabe could have gained less votes than his nemesis.

There is very little left to the imagination here. If Mugabe had won and they were confident about it, they would surely have announced the result amid pomp and fanfare. That they have not is itself an indication of loss and the difficulty of dealing with, let alone accepting it.

It says something about the role and effectiveness of elections in the world of Zanu PF politics that a party organ, the Politburo, is called upon to discuss the election results before the people who voted are informed of the outcome.

This column has previously questioned and cast doubt on the role of elections in deciding the hard leadership questions in Zimbabwe. Events surrounding this election in this drama appear to give credence to the theory that we may have misplaced faith in elections and that answers to the leadership question in Zimbabwe lie in a land beyond the ballot box.

It would seem that in Zanu PF’s world, an election is only as good as a confirmation of their determination to stay in power. Anything else is treated with caution and derision.

We have here, men and women with a strong, but misplaced, belief that the people of Zimbabwe owe them something. Their world is defined by the 1960s and 70s when they led the liberation struggle. In this world, neither their failures in the post-independence era nor the lack of plans or ability to address the current problems can mask the glory of their greatest hour.

Their outlook is defined, not by the plight or wishes of the people of Zimbabwe but their perceived battle against the forces of colonialism. They have not moved out of that mode – for them it’s a continuing battle – they are saying, with uninhibited arrogance, ‘No; all of you ordinary Zimbabweans are in the dark. You know not what you do, so we will show you the way’.

They probably consider themselves supreme beings living far ahead of their people and are, therefore, only doing what is necessary to ‘educate’ the masses. They cannot understand why the people are being so ungrateful. It is a strange world they inhabit these people – far removed from reality of the ordinary people.

Zimbabweans are faced with the hard political question of how to translate ‘winning an election’ into ‘winning power’. Zanu PF lost the election but they still control the power of the state.

The great fear is that it appears to give meaning to Mugabe’s unfortunate comments prior to the election, when he said that Tsvangirai would never rule as long as he is alive. He did not say Tsvangirai would never win an election. It is negotiating that path from winning an election to assuming power that is now the great challenge. The ballot box, therefore, appears to be the catalyst for change, but not the sole, decisive factor.

At present Zimbabweans are having to contend with a form of a constitutional dictatorship, with Mugabe as the sole holder of power in the country, in the absence of parliament. Not even the parliamentarians who have won can have legal authority until they are sworn in and according to Section 63(4) of the Constitution, the period of tenure of parliament is deemed to commence on the day the person elected as President enters office.

The elected parliamentarians have no choice but to await the election of the President. The risk of prolonging this constitutional dictatorship is heightened by the fact that the President has far-reaching powers to make law under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act.

Sometimes, you do wonder, if Zimbabwe could find an alchemist, perhaps a Rotina Mavhunga (she of the Chinhoyi magic diesel claims), to convert all the mineral wealth into black gold. Perhaps the world might care a little more.

You do wonder, whether we are simply doomed to fail. Or perhaps that we are at that point in an arduous trek through the vast desert; at that point where we can see the palm trees; the point where we can see the signs of water. Are we destined to succumb to thirst just as the palm trees appear on the horizon?

Sometimes you do wonder, whether we are all waiting for Godot. And that, as in Beckett’s drama, Godot may never come.

Alex Magaisa is based at Kent Law School, UK and can be contacted at

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