ZIMBABWE tomorrow votes in yet another election in as many years since 1980. There was a time in the not distant a past when elections had become boring, uneventful events.
By Rashweat Mukundu
The results were known in advance that Zanu PF would win, the question being by how much and how many. PF Zapu, Zum or Zanu Ndonga supporters were harassed, beaten or fired from work for being “sell-outs”.
With the passage of time, so much has changed the face of Zimbabwe’s politics. And today Zimbabwe makes a date with destiny.
This description of today’s vote might appear overstated, but in reality this election is going to define Zimbabwe’s future.
Zimbabwe has been in a transition of sorts since 2 000, more so a transition from the political stranglehold that Zanu PF had on the politics on the country, a stranglehold that was bolstered by the abuse of state institutions, including the civil service and security sector.
A key element of this transition was the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU) from 2009 to date. The GNU was meant to usher lasting changes, but has a chequered scorecard with as many failures and few successes.
The mere fact that we still have the security sector campaigning for Zanu PF means that the GNU has to some extent failed in addressing a key challenge in creating a fair electoral playing failed.
Human Rights Watch rightly named the security sector question the “elephant in the room”. We vote today with the elephant still in the room. Regardless the GNU has created a semblance of an environment that allows for free electoral campaigning.
Despite resistance, the state media has been forced to air some MDC-T and MDC messages. It is, however, in Zimbabwe and some tin-pot dictatorships that access to the media is celebrated as victory in national politics. The same goes for the space that private radio station ZiFM and state owned Star FM have provided for debates on the elections.
For the first time we had live discussions hosted by civil society bringing all political parties and aired on a national private radio station, ZiFM. Under normal circumstances such media access should come naturally, but not in Zimbabwe’s debauched politics.
For the first time they are many electoral variables that Zanu PF has no control over, access to information. As many citizens have access to a variety of information, not only via the mainstream traditional media, but also online based media.
In this environment, Zanu PF dominance of the media is still an issue, but no longer a determinate factor in politics.
Another issue is that Zimbabwe votes today, in an election which is not only a contest between Zanu PF and the MDC parties, but a contest within Zanu PF itself. Noting the controversy around transition or stagnation debate, I still argue that Zimbabwe is on the verge of a historic turning point from the leadership and dominance of President Robert Mugabe to a leadership of either the MDC or new leaders from Zanu PF.
My argument is based on history where the leadership end of domineering political figures including China’s Chairman Mao and coming in of Deng Xiapong effectively put China on the path to being an economic giant it is today, the politics in China has, however, remained the same.
It is for this reason that I call this election a date with destiny for the people of Zimbabwe as our vote, and how the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) manages the process, will determine the future, a future without Mugabe, whichever party wins.
If the MDC-T wins, this will usher in a dramatic change to our politics and indeed a break with a history of violence and fear. The MDC-T will not be in a position to intimidate citizens as Zanu PF did. And will naturally be expected to drop disastrous economic policies adopted by Zanu PF, including the company grabs.
Zanu PF deception and façade of an all-important and self-sufficient country, when nearly 80% of our people live on less than a dollar day will have to be dropped. Zimbabwe is a country that needs to go back to the drawing board on its political, economic and social policies.
In essence, an outright MDC-T win ensure that the transition can be fulfilled, not only in name, but by citizen’s continued demands for an action oriented government that resolves service delivery issues, put in place an efficient bureaucracy and empower citizens to determine the course of their future.
On the other hand, a date with destiny can as well mean a return of Zanu PF and Mugabe. This will entail a long drawn transition in which Mugabe will hang on-the scene for another year or two, figuring out what do with his fractured party. As things stand his vice Joyce Mujuru stands a better chance of taking over.
Under the rule of Zanu PF, old habits will undoubtedly die hard. There will be consolidation on the hold on economic levers, including the use of money. The MDCs as we know them today will likely disappear should Zanu PF win, more so if Zanu PF starts its internal power transition process.
I argue that when Zanu PF feels comfortable with power, it will likely make a dramatic shift to resolve its differences with the West and indeed ‘normalise’ relations. The future under Zanu PF will not be so much about political contests, but the entrenchment of any economic elite with roots in politics.
Zimbabwe will be more or less like Russia. The law will apply selectively, corruption will become more institutionalised. The connected will grow rich and the majority will settle for whatever comes their way. Since Zanu PF’s internal transition will be negotiated amongst the rival factions, compromises will be made between the Mujurus and the Mnangangwas, key being how to parcel out the economic benefits equally.
At this stage Zanu PF will not be a party driven by any ideology, but economic and self-interest. A return of Zanu PF will entail an economic and political programme based on buying off the opposition, not only internally, but the MDCs, civil society as well as the international community.
The international community seem to have swallowed the bait already with calls for civil society not to prejudge the election and also that all they want is not a free and fair election, but a credible election.
In essence, the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe are on their own in a world largely defined by self-interest. It is for this reason that we need a new political system at State House, one that we can challenge as citizens and change as we wish. Zanu PF won’t provide that hence my statement that today is a date with destiny, and it’s up to us to shape it.
Rashweat Mukundu is the Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute