Zim 2018 Elections: The Report Card as it gets warmer by the day

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By Seewell Mashizha

TICK tock, tick tock, the clock went, and tick tock, tick tock, the clock goes as we edge ever closer to that which is inevitable: July 30, harmonised elections day. I find myself humming Thomas Mapfumo’s anticipatory hit “Zuva Guru” in which he portrays elections as a joyful carnival for all and sundry. Mapfumo enthuses:

You will choose the one you want

And I will choose the one I want

If you win we shall say congratulations

If we win you will also say congratulations

Mapfumo’s lyrics are, in this case, a perfect picture of electoral bliss and harmony. The song was first released in 1979, in the period immediately preceding Zimbabwe’s independence elections.

In a sense, and with hindsight, Zuva Guru was prophetic, particularly when applied to the1980 elections and their aftermath. Mapfumo correctly foresaw that there would be a need to ease the tension that would likely arise before and after the announcement of the election results. And he was inviting all to celebrate the outcome – the culmination of a protracted struggle against colonial interests, beginning with Chimurenga 1 and continuing in various forms well into the twentieth century – as opposed to lamenting individual losses.

Once the elections of 1980 were done, the tension in the atmosphere then, was almost palpable. It was necessary to try and defuse the volatile situation. Victorious ZANLA and ZIPRA guerrillas were in designated assembly points while stunned and sulking Rhodesian soldiers loosely confined to barracks were spoiling for a fight.

The Headlands battle between Rhodesian security forces and a large contingent of ZANLA forces marching into the country to make their way to assembly points is characteristic of the brittle political atmosphere of the time.

Thereafter, there were attempts on Robert Mugabe’s life during the election campaign period and prior to the granting of independence on April 18. According to documented evidence, there even were plans to blow up Rufaro stadium and eliminate members of the new nationalist government. Talk about an impending coup by General Peter Walls was also rife.

Probably aware of the conspiracy that was afoot, Mugabe acted to try and forestall what was threatened. In his first address to the nation on March 4 in 1980 prime minister designate Robert Gabriel Mugabe stated:

In constituting this government my main concern, and that of my party, is to create an instrument that is capable of achieving peace and stability as it strives to bring about progress.

More significantly, and in a move that if properly recognized was a foreshadowing of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in later years, Mugabe offered an olive branch to former white Rhodesians and others that had engaged in mortal struggle against freedom fighters.

In that same broadcast of March 4, Mugabe said:

Surely this is now time to beat our swords into ploughshares so we can attend to the problems of developing our society.

In a magnanimous gesture cognisant of the then prevailing circumstances, Mugabe observed:

I urge you, whether you are black or white, to join me in a new pledge to forget our grim past, forgive others and forget, join hands in a new amity, and together, as Zimbabweans, trample upon racialism, tribalism and regionalism, and work hard to reconstruct and rehabilitate our society as we reinvigorate our economic machinery.

Thirty-eight years later Zimbabwe is, again at a crossroads with probably a once-off window of opportunity to grapple with many self-inflicted problems as well as many others, externally-propagated and internally fought. Governance issues and a sanctions regime agitated for and advocated by some of us as a quick-win formula for the seizure of political power were open realities.

The once-denied economic sanctions, sarcastically and euphemistically referred to as “restrictive measures” by their intended beneficiaries, are now an open secret. Hence Nelson Chamisa could, at a rally, tell his supporters that while he was well aware of their discomfort with sanctions (he actually used that word), they should be patient a little while longer as the sanctions would be removed once he was in power. Those were the early days of his flippancy about walking it to State House simply because he was younger than the other candidate.

This week the nomination court sits amid persistent reports of dissension and disaffection in the ranks of the MDC-T faithful concerning the candidates. The MDC Alliance is still to fully agree on and announce its list of candidates. At the same time the Khupe and Chamisa factions are, even at this eleventh hour, still wrangling over party name and logo. Each wants to ride on the persona of the late Morgan Tsvangirai as if there is magic in it.

We wait to see how everything finally pans out. But for now Thokozani Khupe is having the last laugh, seeing as the issues that she was opposed to in the first place, giving a lifeline to the practically moribund political careers of opportunistic individuals with more volume and brawn than brain. Indlamuva yinkosi, says a Ndebele adage. He who laughs last laughs best. Let’s get ready to rumble!

As largely expected, some among the 134 political aspirants to the presidency of Zimbabwe have begun to prune themselves off the branch of political contestation; the likes of Kisinoti (Kiss not) Mukwazhe and Moreprecision Muzadzi of the Zimbabwe Development Party (ZDP) and the Voice of the People (VOP), respectively, have wilted. They contend that the elections will not be free and fair because of “numerous electoral practices (sic)”. In what is essentially a curious attention-seeking gesture by no-hopers, their joint statement says:

The outcome of these elections won’t be a reflection of the true will of the people of Zimbabwe, but of the manipulated, hoodwinked, suppressed and helpless electorate.

Amazingly, the two gentlemen appear to be oblivious of the insults to the electorate embedded in their spoilt-brat utterance. The final nail in the coffin of their political daydreams was driven in when Chief Justice Malaba dismissed their case against the Political Finances Act.

There has been a lot of posturing and grandstanding along the way and, no doubt, we are still due for more of such inane political melodrama from some of the main contenders. Emmerson Mnangagwa has consistently been calling for peaceful campaigns and to date has not mentioned anyone by name while traversing the campaign trail. He has, instead, preferred to talk about policy, strategy and other things of the essence.

The way things are going, it will not be any surprise if white voters turn up in their numbers this year to endorse incumbent Mnangagwa. They have so far got more joy out of him than they have out of the MDC despite substantial material and financial support for that organisation since 2000 when they came out in full force with their workers and their cheques.

Yes, it is getting warmer by the day. We are getting there and everything shall soon stand revealed. We shall soon know who the real thing is. In the end, frantic rallies aimed at the numbers game may yet prove to have been nothing more than just a bit of hot air for one or more of the prospective contenders. In the end we shall also know whether programmes aimed at generational estrangement will have won the day or not.

Kugara nhaka huona dzevamwe, so goes a Shona saying. We learn from the experiences of others. One of these days political eclecticism will triumph and the political matrix of Zimbabwe will become a club of reconciled former competitors.

ZANU-PF’s ousted G40 cabal and the MDC enthusiasts of generational consensus had found something to agree on. The meeting between Alex Magaisa, former advisor to Morgan Tsvangirai in the GNU and Jonathan Moyo, Kasukuwere and Zhuwao was a precursor of the new dispensation that was being shaped across the political divide. In the end the scheme came to naught.

In Zambia when Kenneth Kaunda’s grip on power began to loosen, we saw former antagonists coming together in Frederick Chiluba’s MMD. That is what made it possible for Rupiah Banda to be president, regardless of his having been at one time been UNIP stalwarts together with Michael Cobra Sata and others.

Each new organisation subsequent to Harry Nkumbula’s African National Congress (ANC), UNIP included, splintered into separate entities that then morphed into new political parties. The fiery Simon Kapwepwe, Nalumino Mundia and others all tried their hand at separate political existence. Much later, the MMD of Chiluba also split and Sata formed the Patriotic Front (PF) which is still in power now under incumbent Edgar Lungu.

In Zimbabwe the Zambian experience is still in the making. Who would have thought that Agrippa Mutambara would be begging for political alms at the door of the MDC Alliance, or that a Chamisa who once said he was allergic to ZANU-PF would be defending the candidature of Kudakwashe Bhasikiti in Mwenezi East?  Which way, the political dice?