“I AM an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened,” and so said Mark Twain many years ago.
Guest Column by Vince Musewe
This is so true in Zimbabwe where nearly every analyst is anticipating and actually talking up violence before the next elections, while those outside our borders are anticipating a peaceful election. Isn’t it sad that most Zimbabweans I have spoken to, because of their past experience, expect the future to be the same? “Zimbabweans paralysed with fear” so read the headlines recently. Nothing can be further from the truth.
It is so awful that even when President Robert Mugabe stands up on a podium and talks peace, nobody wants to believe him because of the past. Okay, I do agree that it doesn’t help when, soon after that, one of his minions stands up and talks about how Zanu PF will never allow anyone else besides our erstwhile freedom fighters to be President. This, of course, continues to fuel high expectations of a violent election and so everyone gets their pens out and writes about how violent things are going to be. The cycle continues. If and when the violence actually happens, everyone says “you see, we told you so” and life goes on. How miserable.
I think that our mantra should rather be “no elections without reforms” and all of us, progressive Zimbabweans, should shout out loud about how the lack of reforms, as anticipated in the Global Political Agreement (GPA), is intolerable and must be in place before we go to vote. Pity we can’t all abstain from voting in protest because if we did, guess who would win by a landslide majority by merely bussing a few hundred policemen to a polling station to vote?
Now just imagine that you had to participate in an election where your competitor has exclusive access to the media, controls the police and calls the shots on who gets to administer the process of elections. That is exactly where we are now. Unless media reforms are in place, the police, army and all the despicable minions of the incumbent are excluded from the electoral process and we might as well forget about change in Zimbabwe.
Added to that, are the unconfirmed rumours that the ANC of South Africa is assisting Zanu PF and advising them to use a strategy of creating exaggerated anticipations!
For goodness sake, that is not new, for the last 33 years we have had exaggerated anticipations and exaggerated “enemies of the State” out there; these being those Zimbabweans that challenged the status quo.
In a strange way, I kind of understand where Zanu PF is coming from; imagine that after 33 years in power, you really have nothing to show for it on the ground except that your cronies are deeply embedded in the mismanagement and plunder of national resources. You would, of course, do all you can to avoid exposure and any possible loss of your material wealth or hegemony. In addition, with the possibility that you may actually be charged for crimes against Zimbabweans, you would be in a bit of a fix, wouldn’t you?
What you would then do is to try and frustrate any transparent election process because you would know it’s the end of the game for you. You would also look for and find enemies everywhere and be extremely paranoid and use all resources at your disposal, including the police and army, to protect your interests and incriminating secrets. Your last resort would be to do your best to influence the voting process to secure an unfair advantage over your competitor.
So you fill important positions with your sympathisers. You would do your best to avoid overt violence because everyone will say “we told you so!” and the little credibility that you may have would be thrown out the window.
So expect more resistance, an overdrive in the spewing of propaganda and more intrigue, but I do not anticipate we will see much violence this time around.
I am trying to tell everyone who cares to listen; to talk less about impending violence and talk more about getting our electoral process and the voters’ roll sorted out; to make sure that at least 10 people they know are registered to vote. With that done, no amount of violence will convince rational Zimbabweans to continue to vote for a party that has created so much pain and suffering.
If indeed it is true that the ANC is assisting Zanu PF, we Zimbabweans who want change need to make sure that we will not forget that after the elections. After all, what goes around comes around.
Vince Musewe is an economist based in Harare. You may contact him on email@example.com