Multipartism without a meaning: A prototype of Zimbabwean democracy

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KENYA celebrated her 52 years of independence on 1 June 2015. I love Kenya specifically; it’s a weakness that I can’t shrug off. It’s a country that has gone through a lot of changes that have seen it reassert itself as a tourism destination and well-known internationally for its world-dominating long-distance runners, and more lately Oscar-winning actors like Lupita Nyong’o and the fact that US president Barack Obama’s father was Kenyan.
The country is full of ‘firsts’ that make it a standout nation that is littered with classical examples that other African countries can only yearn for. Kenya was the first testing ground of Ushahidi: Meaning “testimony” or “witness” in Swahili. Ushahidi was a website that was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. Combining social networking with Google maps, it rapidly collects data from the crowd and visualises what happened, when and where. Now it is the mostly used crisis mapping platform in the world.
Also related to technology, Kenya was the first developing country to have an open government portal, the 22nd country globally. In July 2011, Kenya launched the Kenya Open Data Initiative, becoming the first sub-Saharan country to do so and second African country after Morocco, later followed by Tunisia and Ghana. This made key government data freely available to the public through a single online portal.
On one hand, you have a younger President in the form of Uhuru Kenyata who has reinvented and dusted himself down from the perceived “bad boy” image that saw international critics fingering him for having had a hand in the violence that marred the December 2007 disputable elections. He was also the first sitting head of state to appear at the International Criminal Court.
His name Uhuru is a Swahili term for freedom and history; it is said the name was given to him in anticipation of Kenya’s freedom which came as early as 1963. In 2002, he ran as a presidential candidate and lost to former President Mwai Kibaki by a wide margin. This didn’t dissuade him but in the December 2007 presidential election, he smartly calculated his moves and backed Mwai Kibaki (the one he had lost to in 2002). After the disputed elections that midwifed the inclusive government, he became Prime Minister by April 2008 as part of a coalition government. Today, he is the President of Kenya and how he got there involved deliberate steps that saw him wrestle power and fortify his own political future.Advertisement

His immense contribution during the inclusive government as Deputy Minister saw Kenya restoring stability and re-culturing and eliminating a culture of violence that had continued to dog the country after the disputed elections. Of course opposition parties in Kenya must also be given credit for putting the country first when they formed an inclusive government that paved way for a more peaceful election in 2013 which was won by Uhuru Kenyata. In a show of brotherhood and good citizenry, Raila Odinga played his part also in pleading with his supporters to cease fire and work towards the development of the country. It’s called putting country first, regardless of differences.
Today Kenya has an energetic leader who is very interactive on several social networks where he regularly updates citizens on literally everything. They managed to transition from the well-aged Kibaki and today critics of Kenyata have other issues against him which in some quarters are limited to other things outside good governance and accountability. Enough about Kenya.
A world where numbers matter…
I watched with keen interest political developments in the run up to the June 10 by elections as fly by night “thinktanks” of gloom and doom gave their abysmal prognoses of the effects of the MDC-T boycott. This is a debate that will continue with many seeking answers to the “what ifs” of what could have happened.
To a right thinking person what this meant was that victory had come uninvited for Zanu PF which guaranteed a clean sweep. The boycott, as it was, would midwife victory to Zanu PF which already controlled Parliament with more than two thirds majority! Numbers and more numbers!
The problem with opposition politics is the problem of ever learning and never making amends. Every opposition party claims that it can displace Zanu PF without even answering the “how” part of things. Others claim they have numbers but when real opportunities to seize power present themselves, they falter and fail dismally. What a pity!
The inclusive government period is a case in point where opposition parties were supposed to strategize and reorganise themselves after Zanu PF had lost elections. But the period of the inclusive government is littered with examples of how discord and lack of clarity among opposition parties gave Zanu PF breathing space to reorganise itself and outsmart them once for all.
I remember one specific meeting when former Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara   was talking about the need for economic revival. One would mistake him for a Zanu PF Minister as he unpacked and recited the Zanu PF rhetoric on sanctions and what had caused economic meltdown. It left the audience shell shocked while Zanu PF MP’s and members present momentarily transfixed before withdrawing into guffaws of armpit laughter.
With a negative fame culled from an illegitimate stay in the inclusive government after he was fired from MDC-W, Mutambara continued to masquerade as a principal for his former party. Today, no one really knows where the learned Professor is but what’s true is that wherever he is, he is being tormented and haunted by memories of his dismal failure during his regrettable stint in the inclusive government.
Was not the inclusive government an opportunity to learn and strategies for the 2013 elections for the opposition parties that were in government? Numbers and coalitions are the real game changers in Zimbabwean politics today. The issue of egos get in the way every time talk of a grand coalition is brought up. The country comes last to these opposition parties as they continue to seek the “vain” glory of having singlehandedly displaced Zanu PF. Today, sad to say, this is the biggest tale which will remain on our restless lips, remain there and very hard to displace!
June 10 by-elections: Hear Hear!
Let’s pretend that the talk of electoral “irregularities” was not there and talk about the chances of those who participated in the by elections winning a single seat. I know some would love to give the excuse that they were testing the ground and measuring their effectiveness but surely you cannot simply go for an election and not expect to win. I hate arguments that invoke a false group spirit, all in order to justify the unjustifiable.
I had the opportunity to visit Tsholotsho just a few days before the by-election in the area. As I approached Tsholotsho, trees along roads had posters of Jonathan Moyo. Upon reaching Tsholotsho Business Centre, it became worse. Apart from this, Moyo had his team called the G40 which was campaigning non-stop, door-to-door every day. They gave rice and several food stuffs. Some might call it vote buying or whatever but as I saw his team hit the ground, it proved that he was determined to win at all costs.
I say all this because I remember a certain friend of mine who was standing as an independent candidate who had a budget of a paltry $50 (before Ecocash deductions) who was vying for one these rural seats with such an amount. The writing on the wall was clear but this denial that people have that is not supported by an scientific evidence that is representative of the situation on the ground encouraged him till results day when he received the clobbering of his life time. Just because you have a few sympathisers and faceless characters on Facebook who are not even registered voters should never fool you into doing the seemingly impossible.
Time has come to call a spade a spade. It is our skewed analysis of the power dynamics that have fuelled Zanu PF to even go beyond their own expectations. We continue to criticize and label those who analyse objectively the future of opposition politics as Zanu PF sympathisers or apologists or whatever term we see fit.
The chances of a single party doing the seemingly impossible task of displacing Zanu PF are minimal. They have their intact machinery in the form of ZEC, untouched, in place. The implication is that all future elections will be skewed in the favour of Zanu PF. Look at how ZEC handled the issue that Guzah who was not a registered voter. Is he not an MP today albeit the noise that pressure groups and the independent media made?
Then there is People Last or Money First
One question that keeps ringing louder each day about this cabal is what does the future hold for them. While we have only witnessed scathing attacks on Zanu PF by the 3 mates in ruin, Jabulani Sibanda, Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo, there has been total silence from Joyce Mujuru. The only statement she issued out was to say she was sorry and her denying all charges that led to her dismissal. She did this with a sickening rhetoric that casts false hope that maybe,  just maybe, the political gods will smile at her again and be readmitted into the party she claims she “loves” so much.
While those who were linked with her have been dismissed, harangued and insulted especially through the public media, Mujuru has remained mum, basking in cold comfort that per adventure she would make a comeback.
She has been quiet for long a time and there is never a day that she came out defending those people whose political careers were cut short because of the alleged links to her. While there is continued speculation that she intends to challenge Mugabe come 2018, will she gather enough grassroot support to mount a serious threat by then? Only time will tell. The years ahead will have many eyes.
Where to now?
The Zimbabwean scenario is not very unique from the rest of Africa. There are classical examples of countries in Africa where opposition parties formed coalitions to manage transitions but just like I have alluded to earlier; our opposition politics never entertain such thoughts. It’s all about egos, egos and more egos. It’s about who gets what or who brings what.
Zanu PF has benefitted greatly from this disorientation, discord and lack of organisation within opposition politics. That is why you have people like Transport Minister Obert Mpofu continuing to insist that he will install urban tollgates. He has empirical evidence that there will be no back-clash.
Today Chombo, though he has been moved to Home Affairs, is a happy man after having directed local authorities to introduce prepaid water meters which have received a handful of protests. And from that decision what do you get from opposition parties? Nothing but useless, tired and empty threats to demonstrate against such a move. At least they must be given an aorta of credit for demonstrating on Facebook; at least none of the targeted audience gets the message! If they could boycott drinking water, I bet they would!
As the electoral bell continues to shift our gaze and focus towards judgement day (2018), exciting times await there.