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Wither Zimbabwe after Mugabe landslide

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This is the second and final part of an article by Durban University of Technology lecturer Rodwell Makombe on the just ended elections and the way forward for the country.
MOST people who have suddenly turned against Tsvangirai have, in my opinion, realised that, in Zimbabwe, opposition does not pay. We have seen how the MDC-T has been treated since 1999. Tsvangirai has scars all over his body to bear testimony to this crude fact. I also know that those in the Zanu PF camp will say Tsvangirai invited it upon himself. This is the abyssal mentality from which Zimbabwean need to deliver themselves. It is not right for law enforcement agents to operate as private security for an individual. Does it seem right for the police to batter people who have not been convicted of any crime?
I know this does not seem to be a problem for those who are benefiting from the status quo but what we must remember is that if we encourage this culture (and we have done this for very long) we will create a violent political culture that will stay with us long after Mugabe is dead. Did I just say “dead”? The unimaginable? The idea of Mugabe’s death scares the daylights out of some people’s minds. They don’t even want to think of Mugabe as mortal and when I mention this, they are right on their toes, “why do you wish him dead, you are a puppet”. This is the kind of thinking that is not helpful for the future of our country. We have to learn to think beyond mortal beings.
Whatever we do now as a nation shapes our future and if we don’t do the right things, our great grandchildren will reap the fruits of this selfishness. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, but whatever a man soweth, that he will surely reap. You cannot batter people and get them to vote for you in a trance of fear and expect to go all the way to heaven. We can learn something from the Arab spring: rule by hook or crook is not guaranteed. However, some people have vowed that what happened in the north will never happen in the south.
I have said that people like Madhuku and Majongwe have realised that opposition in Zimbabwe does not pay, so they have decided to take a u-turn and drive back towards their stomachs. This is because the idea of opposition in Zimbabwe is so limited that an opposition party is one which must always pick on the wrong things and gain a foothold from which to launch a campaign in the next election. This is the habit that has got us stuck in an election mode since 2002. On the other hand, the incumbent also sees the opposition as a bunch of dissidents bent on causing confusion and destabilising the country. Whatever they say must not be taken seriously. I have read many articles that have been written about Tsvangirai’s personality, particularly his sex life. For many, this personality flaw has overshadowed everything else about the man. I don’t intend to clean up the mess on his behalf but I really wonder if anything good has ever come out of our opposition leaders.Advertisement

I remember in the early 90s, in the naivety of childhood, we used to sing derogatory songs against Edgar Tekere and praise songs for Robert Mugabe, yet we didn’t know anything about their political manifestos. Tekere was a sell-out that was it. I think it’s high time we, as Zimbabweans, stopped inheriting sentiments, whether for soccer teams or political parties. Some people have harvested handsomely from this blind discipleship.
We also know that Ndabaningi Sithole suffered the usual Zimbabwean fate of those who dare think differently. Here is a man whose name is all over our history books, yet for some reason, he could not make it to the national heroes’ shrine.  Joshua Nkomo was hunted down like a rat until he bowed down into a convenient unity accord. Now it is Tsvangirai. Surely, if we cannot learn something from this pattern of the past, then the future holds nothing for us.
Our friends and enemies have made it clear that only Zimbabweans will solve the crisis in Zimbabwe. If we want to solve this problem, we ought to grow our democracy, first and foremost, and learn to respect one another. We must learn to tolerate and even accept opposition. The results of the just ended election have shown me that Zimbabwe is only comfortable with one party in parliament, changing the constitution at will and doing whatever they want without any qualms about accountability. Although this is the simplest form of governance, it is not always the best. We also know that the GNU could not work because of the linear mentality of both Zanu PF and MDC-T. One mind cannot rule a country, no matter how intelligent. Our elders say one thumb cannot crush lice; it needs the help of another.
Did Mugabe really win?
A lot of people are either too angry or too excited to think through this question rationally. Those who lost seem to be overtaken by frustration, while those who won are swimming in a sea of arrogance. I remember the utter disbelief in Tsvangirai’s eyes when a journalist asked him “what is the way forward for the MDC-T, now that you have lost the election”. He was a completely knocked out of his seat. I could see he was fighting to contain very strong emotions. The man looked devastated, but he was not alone, he was in the shoes of many Zimbabweans at that time. This is a fact that those in the winning camp would not acknowledge. Let’s give the devil his due: Tsvangirai has a significant constituency of supporters in Zimbabwe. That cannot be ignored unless we want to continue in a delusive one-eyed vision.
But first, let us look at the hot question: Did Mugabe really win the election? I know that those in the MDC-T camp are likely to have an emphatic “no” as their answer, while those in the Zanu PF camp are likely chant “yes” in unison. The MDC-T believes that the election was stolen. They are even going the legal route to show that they mean business. I don’t want to profess to know much in this direction but rumour has it that some guys from Israel were hired to do the job. This is another thing about our country; we never run shot of news in the grapevine. But who knows, there is never smoke without fire, they say.
But did Mugabe really win the election? Sometimes we tend to be too philosophical about things to which a villager in Bikita or Kezi would have a straight answer. Let us apply some common sense to this question, although I know that with the high political temperature in Zimbabwe, common sense is not all that common. Who, in Zimbabwe, could have voted for Robert Mugabe? Common sense would say old men and women in Mashonaland, but this time he won in constituencies traditionally considered as MDC-T strongholds. How do we explain this? Some people say Zanu PF’s indigenisation is paying dividends. Those whose lives have been transformed by the land reform voted for Mugabe. But is this theory sufficient enough to warrant a landslide victory?
Some say, for several reasons, ranging from his wild sexual life to the imposition of electoral candidates, Tsvangirai gave away dear votes to the shrewd Bob. Others say that the MDC-T performed badly in the GNU, with corrupt officials tarnishing the image of the party. But what baffles me is that there are few Zimbabweans who can say that life is better under the current Zanu PF regime. I know some have benefited but I am talking about those (and I know they constitute the majority) who are still waiting for uhuru on the fringes of the grand land reform programme. I am talking about graduates who are walking the streets of Harare without jobs, whose parents are worried about the future of their children. I need not say much about hundreds of school leavers coming out of high schools and technical colleges. I can’t think of these desperate young people voting ZANU PF. Obviously; most of them don’t want to be farmers – that is, if they have the land in the first place.
I also know that provinces such as Masvingo and Manicaland (in fact we can safely generalise and say rural areas in Zimbabwe) have unprecedented levels of poverty. In areas such as Chiredzi, young people rarely finish their O’ Levels. Facing the bleak reality of poverty and education without jobs, they opt to flock into South Africa where they take up menial jobs as farm workers (or is it serfs). The bottom line of my common sense argument is that life is really difficult for the majority of Zimbabweans. Why then did these stranded people vote Mugabe?
Matabeleland is one area where Zanu PF has never been a party of choice since the atrocities of the early 1980s. But surprisingly, in this election, Mugabe got a harvest of votes in the affirmative. Tsvangirai only won a few seats in isolated areas. When we think about these things, we realise that there is more to this landslide victory than meets the eye. I wouldn’t want to stretch my imagination further but the notion of massive rigging suggested by the losers is not beyond common sense.
No one would rule Zanu PF out of the contest, but that they won 62% of the vote and snatched a 2/3 majority in parliament is too glamorous to go without suspicion. Anyone who has been to the rural areas of Zimbabwe knows how much the chiefs have been used to intimidate people. I also know that even the food parcels that are handed out by NGOs in the rural areas are claimed by Zanu PF.
Another huge advantage for Zanu PF was the memory of the widespread violence of 2008. I don’t know if this can be taken into account in the auditing process, if it happens. No one would deny that ZANU PF is a party that thrives on the use/abuse of memory. As much as memories of the liberation struggle are conjured to stir fear in the rural electorate, the violence of 2008 was also used to reap a landslide victory. Who would dare vote for the MDC-T and risk sleeping in a cave like a rock rabbit?
Most of us know that in 2008 teachers ran away from schools and sought refuge in the cities. Some were beaten up in front of their students, others were brutally murdered. Since nothing was done to the perpetrators of this violence, what most villagers learnt was that opposition does not pay. Why would they risk their lives voting for the opposition, which they knew would never win? Mind you, pro-Zanu PF army generals had made this clear, and looking at their history, only a fool would take their threats for granted.
Where MDC-T candidates won in 2008, they did not manage to do any developments because in the GNU, their job was limited to providing life support for ailing Zanu PF. Some people, such as Raymond Majongwe, accuse the MDC-T of neglecting civil servants and advocating salary increases for parliamentarians. I wonder why Majongwe finds only the MDC-T guilty of this offence. MDC-T was not running government alone and we also know that Zanu PF was the big brother. In fact, the right thing to do is to blame the big brother even for the wrong things that the young one does. In any case, the elder brother must know better. I don’t think the so-called failure to deliver was a sign of incompetence on their part. MDC-T was not really in charge.
Clearly however, Zanu PF’s landslide victory has induced historical amnesia in many Zimbabweans. Otherwise how else could we explain Madhuku’s sudden transformation? Some people forget that Zanu PF has been in power for 33 years, and for them to tell us that they still have a vision for the country is a partial truth. 
The way forward
It has been suggested (Welshman Ncube also thinks this way) that it is useless for the MDC-T to try and contest the election result in court. Zanu PF has also confirmed that they will wait patiently for MDC-T to waste money in the courts before staging the inauguration. The point is that Zanu PF knows the outcome of the game before the referee blows the whistle. It is only naïve for anybody to think that the legal contest will bring anything positive for the MDC-T even if they brought human fingers as evidence of electoral fraud in court.
Mugabe has already been declared winner by his buddies in the region and beyond. It is surprising however that the very people sending congratulatory messages have expressed some reservations about the fairness of the vote. I don’t know how this business of “free and fair” works but I thought the two should balance before someone is congratulated.
Anyway, this is another long debate. Let us now talk about the way forward for Zimbabwe. There is no doubt that Mugabe is a shrewd and experienced politician, but in all his shrewdness, he is yet to demonstrate an ability to co-exist with opposition. It seems Mugabe is only comfortable working with parrots who agree with anything that his divine mind tells him to do. We know that those who have tried to think differently even in his own party have been quarantined and eventually discarded unceremoniously.
Mugabe is on record for discrediting the GNU as a strange union. He called it ‘this animal” to demonstrate his contempt for working with people of different views. He seems to be comfortable with a solo dance, where he is both the dancer and the judge. But this, to me, does not augur well for the future of Zimbabwe. In fact, this is another grey area that raises eyebrows about the so-called landslide victory. Zanu PF was very clear about the outcome of the election before the results were announced. Gideon Gono proclaimed that the economy wanted a “clear” winner and, as if he was speaking with a stick in his mouth, ZANU PF came out as a very clear winner with no strings attached.
The question that boggles the mind is how Zanu PF is going to take the country forward. Truth be told, time is not going backwards for Mugabe, and very soon, as nature would have it, he will be struggling with his joints. Can he really run a country in that state? This is a very serious question that we need to confront with sincerity and boldness. In most African cultures, we have a tendency of putting away these serious questions until the last minute.
Zimbabwe needs a plan for the future and that plan should, in my view, includes getting a young and energetic leader with vision. This is another issue that raises eyebrows about the rationality of the landslide victory. Did Zimbabweans really vote with their minds? Now than ever before, Zimbabwe cries out for sober and balanced leadership. We cannot continue to run a country through singing political jingles and enacting repressive laws, week after week, year after year, in season and out of season.