I WAS sitting in companionable silence with my Sekuru Munya, enjoying sundowners on the stoep of his farmhouse. As the night settled, thousands of diamonds were splashed across the velvet of the Masvingo sky. The gentle breeze carried wood smoke and the scents of the bush that enveloped us; and the various grunts, whistles, chirps and sighs of birds and animals reminded us that we are never alone.
These days my sekuru’s bones creak as he shifts his weight in his rough-hewn, rawhide armchair. The privations he endured and the wounds he suffered during the liberation war now exacerbate the debilities of age.
Breaking the silence, he muttered, “They have both gone… but that young man, he will never win.”
“Who?” I asked, Mnangagwa?”
“No. No. Mnangagwa will win… I mean that young man, Chamisa, who took Morgan Tsvangirai’s place,” he replied.
Then he surprised me with his insight as he continued, “I fought for these people; I killed for them; I lived with them; I know them. They will never give up power.”
He continued his prognostication: “Even now, they are scheming to manage the elections, so they will win narrowly. Then they will invite the young man and his party to join them in the government… but they will remain in control. They will appease the people by reigning in the excesses of the past and rebuilding the economy, but they will never give up power.”
Sekuru Munya did no study beyond primary school. He is unsophisticated by the standards of today’s world, but I trust his innate wisdom and his intuitive understanding of our people. His remarks set me thinking and developing this possible scenario.
Having strengthened their grip on power, there is no way known that ZANU PF are going to expose themselves to any possibility of electoral defeat at the coming elections.
President Mnangagwa has made much of proclaiming that his government “will ensure that Zimbabwe delivers free, credible, fair and indisputable elections”. He has been expansive in his invitations to foreign observers to witness the electoral process. A credible vote is essential to establish the democratic legitimacy of Mnangagwa’s government and is the key to unlocking badly needed financial aid and repairing relations with Western powers.
Let there be no doubt that ZANU PF is controlling the electoral process. They will be so smart about it, with a combination of data manipulation and practised coercion, that Mnangagwa is confident he can get away with it under the noses of international observers.
That there is technological subterfuge underway became apparent at the beginning of 2017 when ZEC purchased BVR kits from Laxton Group without the servers necessary for storing and processing voter data. At the time, Paul Bellin, the Chief Legal Officer of Laxton Group criticised ZEC, saying that buying the BVR kits without the central system was like “buying a car without an engine”. It is still unclear where ZEC is storing the data from the BVR process and what is being done to safeguard its integrity.
More recently ZEC awarded a contract to Ipsidy, a Laxton Group rival in South Africa, to ‘clean up’ the list of registered voters by ensuring that there are no double entries of voters or other aberrations. The involvement of these different groups makes auditing the whole process difficult especially in view of ZEC’s clandestine data processing and storage. It must also be remembered that, right from the beginning, ZEC refused EU support for the development of the voters roll because they wanted complete control.
ZANU PF has set out to create the impression that BVR enables them to detect who individuals vote for by detailing youth cadres to demand and record serial numbers from people’s voter registration certificates. This is nothing short of blatant intimidation that capitalises on people’s lack of understanding of the technology and, despite official notices from ZEC and the police declaring that it is illegal, the practice continues.
For many weeks now, ZANU PF has been organised and campaigning in rural Zimbabwe. Activity is high in the rural areas. There are daily meetings and prospective candidates are distributing foodstuffs, paraffin, rice, fertiliser, seed and other goods. Once again, traditional leaders are being co-opted to support the ruling party and to influence their people’s vote even though the Constitution specifically prohibits them from doing so.
So, the stage is set for a carefully manipulated election result. The rigging will be smart, and ZANU PF will win with a small majority of say 52 per cent. At that stage, President Mnangagwa will point to the evenness of the vote and call for all parties to put aside political differences and come together to rebuild the country.
He will propose a government of national unity with Nelson Chamisa as Prime Minister. Chamisa and MDC will accept in order to have a share of power, and there will be others who will accept eagerly because, having been there before, they will be keen to get their snouts back into the trough. Zimbabwe will have government with ZANU PF in control and the opposition effectively neutralised. Time will tell how accurate Sekuru Munya’s prognostications are, but he has certainly given me food for thought.
President Mnangagwa has been making all the right noises as he has embarked on his charm offensive at home and abroad during his first 100 days in office, but he would appear to have made one false step. We have to wonder if he has not revealed his true self by visiting the DRC’s dictator Joseph Kabila and declaring:
“I feel home away from home. President Kabila is a brother to me, I am his elder brother, he is younger, but of course he is my elder colleague.”
At best, he has demonstrated a profound lack of judgement by associating himself with a man who is responsible for wars and conflicts that have killed nearly 6 million Congolese people and inflicted untold suffering on citizens, particularly on Congolese women.
As for Nelson Chamisa, he moved swiftly and seized the day. He showed that he has more political nous and is better at strategic thinking than the others. The ducking and weaving that has gone on to demonstrate that he has acted according to the MDC Constitution echoes ZANU PF’s protestations that the coup was not a coup. It fools nobody and simply demonstrates that he has been poorly advised. He needs clear thinking, principled and informed mentors from outside the party who do not have vested interests in his electoral success.
If Chamisa does not call a Congress to endorse his leadership, the question of his legitimacy will continue to be a running sore. It is clear that momentum and public sentiment are with him and he should easily carry the day. In the unlikely event of defeat, he should quietly bide his time. His day will not be not far off.
The MDC is riven by dissent and distracted by sorting out their internal wrangles. They have not even started campaigning yet. Chamisa needs to get out and campaign hard in the rural areas. For sure there are some who do not even know that Mugabe is no longer in power. The city vote will most likely be solidly for the opposition. It is the rural vote that will determine the result of the elections.
It is not impossible that ZANU PF could be defeated at the polls. Zimbabwean voters are not fools. Having seen the end of Mugabe, they now have a taste for change and could be moved to turn out in such numbers as will make rigging impossible and send ZANU PF packing as well.
There is no doubt that Nelson Chamisa has what it takes to spearhead a new generation of leaders in Zimbabwe. He has only a few precious months left in which to resolve the present crisis in the MDC, draw together all opposition parties into one united alliance, conduct primary elections to select parliamentary candidates, and promote an unprecedented voter turnout. There is not a moment to be lost.
Tapson Muchena is an academic and a keen observer of the Zimbabwe situation. He can no longer remain silent. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @TapsonMuchena