SOMETIMES in this game, the safest route into the immediate future is to keep your head down and wait for the dust to clear before looking over the wall to see what has happened. It is impossible to predict what is going to happen in the next few days/weeks here in Zimbabwe and the uncertainties are clouding everyone’s vision.
Guest column: Eddie Cross
It is a pity that this is so because I thought we were doing so well in the run up to the elections and then the way in which we handled the elections themselves. Had we continued on that orderly, managed path, I think we could have predicted a good outcome for all of us. Just so that we keep things in perspective let’s remember that the MDC Alliance increased its tally of Members of Parliament by a third to 64 seats, with one independent and one National Patriotic Front member and with Zanu PF being held down to 144 seats — just barely two thirds. Nothing like the overwhelming majority they held before.
Then we must recognise the massive sweep by the MDC Alliance of virtually every urban centre in the country, taking back from Zanu PF several key urban centres that were lost in 2013. I know that July Moyo, the Minister of Local Government was deeply disappointed in that result and that he himself was defeated, along with a number of Zanu PF heavyweights, in the election. The Gross Domestic Product of any country and the majority of all jobs and economic growth and even political decision making, is urban based, not rural. Today, a very large proportion of the population is already under MDC Alliance government in the form of the local authorities that will manage the urban areas for the next five years.
In South Africa, the Constitution has given the local authorities considerable independence from central government and autonomy. The Democratic Alliance (DA) has turned this to its advantage by making sure the local authorities they control have performed well, been less corrupt and delivered more to the people under their jurisdiction. The result is that they have been able to point to Cape Town, and indeed the Western Cape as an example of just what would happen if they governed the country.
It is a good strategy and the DA has steadily expanded its electoral base as a consequence. The MDC Alliance has failed to take advantage of its situation in Zimbabwe and if that does not change now, following these results, they will have to face the consequences next time, because loyalty in politics is a very fickle thing. The message for the MDC Alliance is therefore “deliver or face defeat next time”.
For Zanu PF the situation is no less different — sure they won the majority of the rural seats and the presidency, overall, but they must take into account the harsh lessons learned. Firstly, that they are vulnerable to the opposition — several rural constituencies were lost and both sides need to interrogate those losses and gains — I suspect that in all cases where the opposition put up a single candidate, the candidate was well organised on the ground and had good control of all the polling stations in the district, the alliance won the seat.
The alliance had duplicate candidates in over 20 seats which were lost, even though the combined alliance vote was greater than the Zanu PF vote. There is no doubt in my mind that Zanu PF remains very vulnerable to change and reform and to challenges on the ground that are well organised and managed. They know that.
The fact that the party did well overall and came out with a majority in both Houses of Parliament, does not disguise the fact that the presidential ballot was too close for comfort — however, it comes out in the end. 50,8% is just too tight.
This confirms the often talked about internal conflicts in the party — Emmerson Mnangagwa was fighting everybody — the Joice Mujuru elements, the G40, the Robert Mugabe loyalists, the elements in the military junta that has had such influence here in recent years; it goes on and on — everybody.
In fact, you ask yourself who was supporting the President in his personal campaign to stay in power? So the outcome was a remarkable political achievement. He is not a great speaker, hardly charismatic, not young anymore and facing a young country hungry for change. Yet he pulled it off! Amazing. I always said do not ever underestimate the man, he is a strategist and organiser of note.
So we have had 20 years of “guided democracy”, 17 years of democratic struggle with rising military control and influence, a “military-assisted transition” and now an eight-month military guided transition to a new democratically-elected government — however flawed, it was more democratic than in the past and better than many other elections in other countries. But whatever the changes in the recent past, the bus is still the same old wreck that former President Robert Mugabe left behind. No money, no tyres, no diesel and an older driver, newly ensconced.
He (Mnangagwa) knows he needs help; he will have to make peace with the international community to get the bus fixed so that it can start to move forward. He knows how to drive the bus, but the new passengers on the bus are going to be difficult to handle — three quarters of his own Members of Parliament are new to the job, much younger than the leadership and most may be G40 or sympathetic to them. Then there are the MDC Alliance people — led probably by Tendai Biti, who is no slouch intellectually and a highly regarded former Minister of Finance (“we eat what we kill”) and that pesky independent from Norton (Temba Mliswa).
His own party is in a shambles and will have to be rebuilt over the next five years so that it can fight a further battle to hold onto the reins of power. As if that is not enough, local government will be a constant headache, we have a run-away fiscal deficit, an inflated and corrupt civil service and a monetary situation which is in a shambles.
It is weeks away from the next budget cycle and talks with the International Monetary Fund loom large, the task of dealing with 20 years of chaotic land reform and illegal housing settlements on the periphery of almost every town, will also have to be dealt with.
He carries all the baggage of 40 years of close association with Mugabe and has to deal with this legacy for which he is partly responsible. He has to satisfy the ambitions of his close associates and maintain, at least in part, the patronage systems that got him over the line in the July 30 elections. Even I have to draw breath after that bewildering list of things to do before we can really get this bus back on the road.
Can all these problems be overcome and can we really mend the hurts of the past? The gunfire on the streets of Harare on August 1 graphically illustrated how fragile this situation is.
The aftermath itself was not pretty, we can do better, but we all have to appreciate that if we continue to fight each other and fail to concentrate on the mammoth task that lies ahead of us, we will not succeed.
The Afrikaners have a saying “unity is strength”. If we can get together and point ourselves in the right direction, we can show the world, just as South Africa did in 1994, that anything is possible.
Eddie Cross is an outgoing MDC Member of Parliament. He writes in his personal capacity.