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A case of obdurate generals

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It is a no-brainer that the very same conditions that the Patriotic Front desired for democratic, free and fair elections in 1980, are the very same conditions we desire today.

Report by Vince Musewe

“By what faith can an election be regarded as democratic, free and impartial if it is surrounded at its four corners by Ian Smith’s policemen, his soldier, his district commissioner and his judge?” Thus asked the white paper drafted by the then co-leaders of the Patriotic Front, President Robert Mugabe and Jason Moyo, in 1977 during attempts to find a lasting solution to majority rule in Zimbabwe.

By what faith, therefore, can the 2013 elections be considered democratic, free and fair if they are surrounded at all four corners by Mugabe’s men in the army, in the police, the electoral commission and the Registrar-General’s Office?

History is amazing, isn’t it? Reading the book The Struggle for Zimbabwe, something which I always do, continually leaves me with a new perspective on our current reality. I continue to be intrigued at how the tides of change repeat themselves over and over and yet, we never seem to learn from them. Significant similarities always jump out from our past, especially now as we move towards change.

Smith was as obdurate as some of our generals are now, when it came to security issues and who would control the army and the police during the transition period.

He did all he could to delay the matter, kept moving goalposts, lied and connived to delay the inevitable. Funny enough, I see the same desperation in Zanu PF as it dawns on them that change is coming whether they like it or not. The danger of not accepting it now is that one can be swept away when it comes as happened to “good old Smithy”.

I think that we should be not naive now to expect our generals to accept that yes, they are talking to MDC-T leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai simply because they will compromise themselves in the current set-up. Remember what gets these men to support each other now is raw fear and not some constructive vision about the future of Zimbabwe. In that fear they must stand or fall together; in that feat they cannot accept the inevitable until the very last hour when the election results are announced and Tsvangirai wins. At that point they will know that there is no turning back and calls we be made and clandestine meetings held with the very men we see now insulting Tsvangirai. So I think as a good hunter, we should wait for that moment.

Another point raised by Mugabe during the transition period in 1977 was that he who controls the army and the police controls power. Because of that, the Patriotic Front insisted that an independent party should control the army and the police and not Smith. The venerable Lord Soames took that responsibility.

Now let us bring that thinking forward to 2013 and, of course, the same principles should apply, shouldn’t they? He who controls the army and the police controls the State and cannot be deemed an objective bystander in an election where he may be thrown out of office. I think Sadc must take note of this seriously.

I find it quite pathetic that Zanu PF is arguing to retain an unfair advantage and we are actually entertaining that. It is a no-brainer that the very same conditions that the Patriotic Front desired for democratic, free and fair elections in 1980, are the very same conditions we desire today.

History surely repeats itself and what matters is which side of it you choose to be. But I guess for everything there is indeed a season.

Vince Musewe is an economist based in Harare. You may contact him on vtmusewe@gmail.com

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