IT was a great defeat by any measure.n the eve of the elections, a number of business executives had put their bets on then Prime Minister (PM) Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) party.
One business executive, a proprietor of a banking institution saved from sinking into oblivion by ZANU-PF, called a prayer for a New Zimbabwe just before the elections; it was widely viewed as “defection” to the other side.
Certainly, nobody would bet on a dead horse, and ZANU-PF appeared to have been a dying one.
But the outcome of elections last week was more than just shock and awe to many who had not believed ZANU-PF had an answer to what had hitherto looked like an unstoppable tide for change.
The demographics certainly didn’t favour ZANU-PF; hordes of youthful Zimbabweans, so-called born-frees born after Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, were seen as so disenchanted with the party that in their numbers, the demise of ZANU-PF had been sealed by their ballots on July 31.
With most urban areas having been taken by the MDC-T in the 2008 elections, which had been in an inclusive government with ZANU-PF until the July 31 elections, it was thought that the MDC-T’s support could only increase.
Even with a manifesto that promised to create a million jobs once elected into power, the real MDC-T programme depended on the perception that people had become so disillusioned with President Mugabe and his party that it was no use working hard for their votes.This put the MDC-T into a slumber, but as they concerned themselves with selfish agendas while in power, bickering over positions (provincial governors, for example), influence and other issues, they forgot that they had been elected to serve.
In local authorities, where MDC-T councillors were voted into power, residents were billed with exorbitant arrears for rates accumulated during the Zimbabwe dollar era, which ended with dollarisation in 2009, the year the inclusive government was formed.
Pleas for write-offs were ignored, and reports of poor residents being subjected to crude debt collectors were rampant.
Residents’ disgruntlements against increases in rates were equally dismissed.
The MDC-T did not come to the rescue of its voters. Many councillors turned looters, and residents watched in despair as those they had voted to ameliorate their suffering worsened their plight once in power.
In government, MDC-T ministers joined the gravy train — as elections drew closer, they changed cars, while exasperated civil servants’ pleas for salary increases received discourteous rebuke.
To many Zimbabweans, the perception had always been that ZANU-PF politicians were pitiless. But when the pain came from those they thought better about, the anger should have been seething.
In a hard-hitting critique of the MDC-T’s loss, blogger, Denford Magora, a critic of President Mugabe, said: “While Tsvangirai was in government, he turned his attention almost exclusively to chasing “reforms” and fighting Mugabe for more power in the Government of National Unity. Neglecting his constituency, he fought to have tea with army generals in the misnamed National Security Council. He thought he could afford to park his supporters and only come back to engage them when he was good and ready.”
In a comment to a story on Tsvangirai’s drubbing, one writer said: “You toady up to a ruthless leader in a self-serving political alliance, and you end up as a junior partner with no real power, while, at the same time, becoming virtually indistinguishable from that which you originally opposed.”
Even before results started coming out from various polling stations, it was clear ZANU-PF had romped to victory, garnering a two-thirds majority in Parliament with its presidential candidate getting 61 percent of the votes and avoiding a runoff.
Tsvangirai, who had pledged to release election results ahead of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), hastily called a press conference where he declared that the elections were “null and void”.
Legally, it was his announcement that was null and void.
True, driving through Harare on polling day, I was convinced the MDC-T would bury ZANU-PF and its leadership by a crushing majority; an overwhelming vote for Tsvangirai would easily overwhelm any rigging machinery. It’s the reason Tsvangirai implored his supporters to turn out in large numbers to frustrate any rigging.
And indeed people turned out in large numbers to vote, producing an outcome that confounded even staunch ZANU-PF activists. On the afternoon of August 1, a once-despondent ZANU-PF member called me with a jubilant voice: “We have won!”
It’s an election that is likely to seal the fate of the MDC-T. While the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia said the elections were stolen by President Mugabe and demanded a re-run, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) said it had been conducted in a peaceful manner and was free. They avoided declaring the election fair.
Former Nigerian Leader, Olusegun Obasanjo, said even though there had been acts of transgression, these were unlikely to be material to change the outcome. He counselled Tsvangirai to concede defeat.
South African President, Jacob Zuma, who had been a SADC-appointed mediator to Zimbabwe’s political crisis, quickly congratulated President Mugabe on his victory. He was followed in showering President Mugabe with congratulatory messages by Tanzanian President Kikwete, who had been part of the SADC Troika dealing with the Zimbabwe issue.
This inevitably exposed Tsvangirai.
The US, UK and other so-called Anglophone states have traditionally wanted regime change in Zimbabwe, and their calls for a re-run were quickly dismissed offhand by ZANU-PF as partisan.
Speaking after the victory by ZANU-PF and President Mugabe at the polls, a former government bureaucrat now based in South Africa said: “The MDC-T leadership got into a deep slumber after getting those ministerial positions while Tsvangirai became PM. They took ZANU-PF and the electorate for granted and forgot to work hard in mobilising grassroots support and strengthening their structures.”
Himself an MDC-T sympathiser, he noted in a message to this writer: “MDC-T have been caught with pants down and will live to regret and count their losses for a long time to come….Indeed this landmark election is a closed chapter for them and need to eat humble pie and accept defeat.” es, ZANU-PF was not necessarily on fire but it blew the competition. It won all but three Parliamentary seats in Manicaland, swept the board in Masvingo, Matabeleland South and Mashonaland Central, lost only one seat to its renegade member who stood as an independent in Mashonaland East, lost only one seat in Mashonaland West, gained six seats in Harare.
Magora, a member of Simba Makoni’s Mavambo/Kusile/ Dawn (MKD) party, said in his blog that while Tsvangirai besieged himself with unimportant issues, President Mugabe put into motion “an incredible drive to register voters”.
“Using their cell, ward, district and provincial structures, ZANU-PF went all out, street by street, mopping up every single supporter that they could muster to register and be on the voters’ roll. This process was also masked under the process of mobilising for the Referendum on the new constitution.”
“But MDC-T should have smelt a rat if they paid any attention at all to what Mugabe said during that referendum. (By this time, he had all the figures for voter registration of ZANU PF supporters by ward, district, province and constituency).”
ZANU-PF had also started mobilising for these elections through acquisition 550 vehicles, which included single and double cab 4X4, all-terrain vehicles, as late as last year. It also bought motor bikes for all its districts.
Sources within the MDC-T said Tsvangirai’s bane had been the people surrounding him.
“These are ZANU-PF through-and-through and do you think they would advise him to dislodge ZANU-PF?,” asked one senior MDC-T member who worked closely with Tsvangirai at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) where he was secretary general before emerging to lead the MDC-T.
Apparently, it has been suggested that the MDC-T had been infiltrated by ZANU-PF at the highest level. One member of the party’s executive, said to be “very close” to Tsvangirai, is said to have acquired enormous wealth in the past few years even though he has never worked anywhere in his life. Sources said he had been bankrolled by ZANU-PF.
A couple within the executive has publicly said they were family friends with a senoir army general’s family; the wife was seen running around with Didymus Mutasa, the ZANU-PF secretary for administration, to secure the release of his once-incarcerated son. She was heavily criticised for her action when she had done nothing to secure the release of at least 29 MDC-T activists who had been incarcerated for the alleged murder of a police officer in Glen View at the time.
But if there is anything that cost the MDC-T more than anything else, it was the rigging of party primary elections that shunted popular candidates out of the race.
“At one such election, a member of the executive clearly told supporters his preferred candidates whom he imposed against the people’s will,” a journalist who witnessed one such incident said. “he told the supporters to leave the party and join the losing ZANU-PF if they were annoyed by his actions.”
Even Tsvangirai demonstrated such arrogance during his campaign. At a rally in Manicaland, an old woman emerged from the crowd and charged that they would not support MKD candidate, Simba Makoni, in their constituency when they had chosen their own candidate to represent the party.
Tsvangirai publicly rebuked the woman, telling her she was disrespectful of the leadership and suggesting, indirectly, that she could quit the party if she was unhappy with his leadership.
Makoni, who stood as a presidential candidate in the 2008 election and thwarted Tsvangirai’s outright victory, endorsed his candidature in last week’s elections. He stood for a parliamentary seat in Makoni against a nominated MDC-T candidate and ZANU-PF’s deputy secretary for legal affairs, Patrick Chinamasa.
It has also been suggested that the MDC-T’s biggest benefactor had shifted allegiance and bankrolled ZANU-PF during the campaign after Tsvangirai had told him to stop meddling in the MDC-T.
“He told him that the MDC-T was his party and should not be told what to do,” said a source.
Evidently, the MDC-T campaign was not as splashy as its 2008 campaign; even its TV adverts were a pale shadow of the “Morgan is more” campaign that shook ZANU-PF during the 2008 campaign.
MDC-T spokesman Douglas Mwonzora, said “demonstrations and mass action are options” in their battle to force a nullification of the election results.
Exiled party treasurer Roy Bennett called for “passive resistance” against the electoral outcome.
“I’m talking about people completely shutting the country down; don’t pay any bills, don’t attend work, just bring the country to a standstill. There needs to be resistance against this theft and the people of Zimbabwe need to speak out strongly,” said Bennett.
This is unachievable. After losing nearly 15 years to political bickering between the country’s political gladiators, Zimbabweans want to move one.
Tawanda Nhire, an MDC-T supporter in Harare, said: “I’m hurt but we have to move on. Zimbabwe needs peace and the economy would surely suffer if our (party) president does not accept defeat.”
But rigging or no rigging, it would appear there is very little Tsvangirai is likely to achieve by agitating against the electoral outcome of July 31.
Mwonzora had indicated that they would wage “a three-pronged” approach” in challenging the results.
Firstly, they will seek recourse through the courts. Secondly, they will engage into a diplomatic campaign obviously aimed at isolating President Mugabe’s new government and force a re-run. Thirdly, they will resort to a political resolution that includes an uprising.
It is unlikely that these options would result in an overturn of last week’s poll results.
During his campaign rallies, Tsvangirai bid his supporters to attend President Mugabe’s rallies if forced to do so but to ditch him with a vote for the MDC-T at the polls. This was like asking a Christian to attend a congregation of satanists if forced to do so. Suppose they convert after the address?
If the MDC-T failed to counsel resistance even at that point in the electoral battle, how are they likely to convince the electorate to do so now?
At a press briefing, National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairman, Lovemore Madhuku, said Tsvangirai should concede defeat and allow the country to move on.
“The election results have been announced. There are winners and losers. Every election has its winner and losers. Given the peaceful nature of these elections and the compelling need to move forward, the NCA urges the losers to concede defeat and take the country out of the permanent election mode it has been for several years now,” Madhuku said.
He added: “The NCA, on its part, is convinced that the votes cast on July 31 were the votes counted and announced. The NCA does not know the reasons for that pattern of voting. The essence of an electoral system based on a secret, one person one vote is that each of the voters can only be sure about the vote he or she has cast. The way forward is to focus on moving the country forward while preparing for next elections. The interests of this country require that we all move forward focusing on building the economy of the country, deepening its democratic systems, promoting peace and unity and encouraging all of us to participate in the public affairs of our country.”
The struggle for Tsvangirai and his MDC-T party is to remain relevant; whether their “three-pronged” approach will work to ensure this remains to be seen.
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