Why Mnangagwa ‘won’, but lost the 2018 election

PRESIDENT Mnangagwa won the 2018 election on one hand, but lost it on the other. First, while the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and Mnangagwa celebrated their vindication by the Constitutional Court (ConCourt), the upshot was that Zec, Mnangagwa, and the ConCourt got tainted.

Moses Tofa

While the MDC Alliance lost the ConCourt challenge, it exposed the degree to which the entire system is defective.

Second, there is an entrenched perception that Mnangagwa is a ruthless man who played a role in the commission of grave human rights violations, including Gukurahundi. Mnangagwa has rejected these claims, claiming that he is “as soft as wool”.

However, the August 1 shootings in which seven people were killed and scores injured seems to validate the long-held perceptions about the crocodile.

Additionally, they seem to falsify the “new dispensation” narrative which Mnangagwa has desperately been peddling since his rise to power.

Third, it is oxymoronic that Mnangagwa won with a very slim margin while Zanu PF won more than two-thirds majority in Parliament.

This shows that all is not well within Zanu PF.

There should be a crisis of confidence in his leadership.

He is likely to commit considerable energy towards fighting internal factionalism.

It is likely that some within Zanu PF will disrupt his efforts.

The crisis of confidence may be largely hidden from the public eye at the moment, but it will gradually play in the open as Mnangagwa proceeds with his term of office.

Any ambitions by him to go for the second term will attract a backlash within the party.

Fourth and most importantly, Mnangagwa had hoped that the election would deal with the legitimacy crisis which has been troubling him since November 2017.

Unfortunately, it did not.

This disadvantages him from two fronts.

Within Zanu PF, those who assisted him to rise after his expulsion from the party and government will continue to claim that they fought for him to be where he is.

This is especially considering that apart from the coup, they also fought to ensure his slim margin of victory in the elections.

A resounding victory in a largely credible election would have assisted Mnangagwa to liberate himself from the claimers and enforcers of entitlement.

But the election left him entangled in the mesh of entitlement.

This means that Mnangagwa does not have the power and latitude to make major decisions. He is not the prince in Zanu PF.

He is the crocodile, but the waters are those who fought for him.

The power lies with the waters, and not the crocodile.

The crocodile serves at the pleasure of the waters, and is told that you can only go this far.

It is, therefore, futile to expect a radical change in the leadership of Zanu PF, including the presidium and the Cabinet.

Externally, the opposition has remained disgruntled, making it difficult for it to accept his desire and call to move on.

His tragedy is that the ability of a post-election country to move on depends on the question of legitimacy.

This makes his task to restore the economy very daunting.

Mnangagwa’s “missed opportunity”

In my view, Mnangagwa missed what could have been a golden opportunity when he took over power from former President Robert Mugabe in November 2017.

For the first time, people across the political divide, both in Zimbabwe and the diaspora, united against Mugabe.

Civilians were seen embracing the military, one of the institutions which they dreaded over the years.

Mnangagwa could have capitalised on this atmosphere by entering into a government of national unity (GNU).

By choosing to go for elections, Mnangagwa spoilt the atmosphere of nation-building and plunged the country back into polarisation.

There was need for a GNU arrangement, which could have postponed elections for at least five years, while uniting the nation and reforming institutions and the economy.

Such a GNU would have offered Zimbabwe a rare opportunity to bury a significant part of its dark past and move forward.

The foundation and principles upon which a GNU is built are important.

GNUs, which are formed against a background of violence and stolen elections have inherent problems.

These include a tendency by parties to feign unity while focusing on outmanoeuvring each other, including setting snares against each other.

In addition to forming a GNU, Mnangagwa should have stated that he would not contest for presidency at the end of the GNU.

His role should have been to assist the country to turn a new chapter after years of despotic rule.

This task required him to put the interests of Zimbabwe above and beyond those of individuals.

This route could have made him a two-sided hero — a hero of the liberation struggle and a “late hero” of the post-independence struggle for legitimacy, democracy, and transformation.

Such a GNU could have legitimised him and liberated him from the claimers and enforcers of entitlement.

There were mainly two barriers to the formation of such a GNU. First, the crocodile was probably willing, but the waters were not because it was against their interests.

Second, Zanu PF does not want a GNU in which the opposition appears to have paid its own way.

Instead, it wants to be seen stretching a “magnanimous hand to give the opposition what it does not deserve”.

Under this strategy, the party prefers to “trounce” the opposition first and then stretch out its hand.

Where the opposition faltered

In politics, it is always strategic to be a “detective of the right moment” as Robert Greene warns us under law 35 of The 48 Laws of Power.

In respect of the July 30, 2018 election, the opposition stumbled at least two times.

First, it faltered when it joined Zanu PF in the November 2017 demonstrations without setting conditions for its participation.

The architects of the coup wanted to avoid attracting the attention and possible intervention of Sadc, the AU, and the international community.

The best way to achieve this was by making sure that Mugabe resigned as soon as possible. However, this was difficult to achieve without the cooperation of the opposition, especially in the impeachment process.

Without such cooperation, Mugabe could have probably dug in, causing the situation to deteriorate and complicate.

The opposition should have set minimum conditions for cooperation, including laying a clear roadmap to the post-Mugabe era.

Instead, it was caught with euphoria. It forgot that Mugabe the person may go, but Mugabe the system could remain intact.

It acted under the impression that a Zanu PF without Mugabe at the helm would be easier to fight. However, it was clear that after the military intervention, Zanu PF was going to assume a more military nature.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the “Egyptians” which the opposition assisted yesterday, have turned against it today.

Second, the opposition faltered when it participated in the 2018 election. This election was important for Mnangagwa than it was for the opposition.

Mnangagwa was desperate to cleanse himself of a coup-backed legitimacy. The only way to do this was through an election.

A boycott by the MDC Alliance could have made it difficult, if not impossible, for Mnangagwa to redeem himself from the coup-linked crisis of legitimacy.

Yes, some smaller opposition parties could have participated, but this could have been inconsequential.

It is better for a crisis of legitimacy to be linked to a contested election than a coup.

Now that the legitimacy crisis rests not on the coup, but on a stolen election, Mnangagwa can feel comfortable because this kind of crisis is common on the African continent.

Where do we go from here?

On the one hand, Zanu PF wants the country to close the chapter of elections and “move on”.

On the other, the opposition is aggrieved and believes that working with Zanu PF is as good as certifying the electoral theft.

The opposition has resolved to consult its support base on the way forward.

In my view, the way forward is not an easy one. I am, therefore, confident that Mnangagwa and Zanu PF do not understand what they mean when they say let us move forward.

In the same vein, I don’t trust that the opposition knows what it takes to move the country forward.

This is Zimbabwe’s dilemma of dilemmas. Moving the country forward requires a major shifting of positions, principles, practices, perspectives and approaches by Zanu PF, the opposition and all citizens.


  1. We are in a very difficult situation . This was caused by a some who thought it was ok to be mandated by some figures from the blue and not figures from the people.
    Africa is and will suffer from this desease for quite some time until people who are not self centered come in as actors in our politics.

  2. Comment…what a critical analysis

  3. The article does not merit meticulous consideration of its details, except necessary mention of its gross aberration. The fundamental purpose of national elections is to grant the electorate its constitutional right to boot out non-performing holders of political office and replace them with other aspirants to the posts. From as early as 25 years ago our urban electorate, has with progressively louder and louder voice over years, registered through the ballot box, its perpetually increasing displeasure with ZanuPF govt performance. However the same cannot be said of the rural electorate, that paradoxically registered through the ballot box ITS PERPETUALLY INCREASING PLEASURE WITH THE PERPETUALLY WORSENING ZANUPF GOVT PERFORMANCE OVER 2 DECADES PLUS. No price however can reasonably be offered for research works successfully unravelling the above Zimbabwe rural vote ‘mysterious pattern’, public secret over decades. Whether rural or urban the Zimbabwe electorate boasts of highiest literate levels in Africa, and of basic reasonableness at least for successful identification of progressively failing govt service delivery. Hence no credible Zimbabwe national elections were ever possible without prior effective remedy to the Rural Constituency Capture (RCC), OR Vulnerable Rural Vote/Voice(VRV). Hence Zimbabwe’s INCREDIBLE 25 YEAR SOLE FUNDAMENTAL CHALLENGE. RCC or VRV. Period.

  4. Numbers do not lie. The majority of Zimbabweans voted resoundingly for Zanu to form the government for the next five years. MDC lost resoundingly in both the local elections and parliamentary elections. Mnangagwa obtained well above the required 50% + 1 vote to be declared the president of the country. There are therefore no issues except a small boy who wont stop crying because of the deflation of his over-inflated ego.

    1. @Saziso I think you and I know the truth that the elections was stolen. Ed is ruling the country against more than 2,6 million votes. People always wanted changes from the day MDC entred the political arena. You see ED knows that,I am the president of Zanu pf and 0.1% of people who voted for him. Murume uya paari haana kana mufaro because zvese zvaari kuita hapana kana arikumbozvi supporter, people are simply doing what they used to do before elections. Even kunzi cash crisis yapera people wont even celebrate. Pakabviswa Mugabe paya makaona wani kufara kwevanhu asi pakawinner zanu hapana kana kufara asi kusuwa kwanga kwakazara.

  5. zanu ngaitonge yega isu machinja ane rudo takukambenera 2023 kunyanya iko kumaruzevha kwacho ikoko

  6. “Third, it is oxymoronic that Mnangagwa won with a very slim margin while Zanu PF won more than two-thirds majority in Parliament.This shows that all is not well within Zanu PF.There should be a crisis of confidence in his leadership.” What a poor analysis! Now look at the following figures and see that your slim margin and two thirds majority do not add up. If you analyse the figures below you will note that the number of registered voters for Harare is almost equal to the 3 provinces of Mat South, Mat North and Bulawayo. But those 3 provinces besides the total being equal to Harare only, they accounted for about 60 seats while Harare accounted for 28 seats. It therefore means that besides having more than half a million voters just to claim 27 seats in Harare for the MDC, Zanu PF had almost the same number to claim more than 50 seats. That is where the Presidential gap is covered. MDC wasted a lot of votes to garner a few seats in Parliament and that is what you do not understand. See below table of registered voters:

    Province People registered
    Harare 849 128
    Midlands 725 971
    Manicaland 693 874
    Mashonaland East 590 609
    Masvingo 585 785
    Mashonaland West 557 729
    Mashonaland Central 505 576
    Matabeleland North 319 549
    Bulawayo 243 146
    Matabeleland South 239 367

    So to sum it up, your analysis is very pathetic to say the least.

    1. Wezhira you are dull. The number of registered voters is not the number of not only the votes which were cast, but the valid votes. It is you who is pathetic. Mnagwangwa lost the election but he stole, period. I find this analysis very insightful.

  7. The truth is that ED is not wanted even in the zanupf. He leading people who are against him. Surely how can you have 19 seats in manicaland against 7 seats for mdca and loose in the same province for the president. Be very careful ED, People want their zanupf not you.

    1. ED our Zim president with progressive vision. lazy cry babies will always find scapegoat to consolidated their foolishness nd weaknesses

  8. ED is wanted by those who voted for him, Nero is wanted by those who voted for him. Saka ngazvigare zvakadaro but challenge for the Neros is that ED is at the throne and it will stay like that for the next 5 years.

  9. Comment…@ munya, challenge iri kwauri neni sha. nero na ed havana kana pressure paeconomic lifestyle yavo. anofa necholera tisu tichingonyombana. ita analysis yenafacts kwete kushandisa maemotions

  10. By rigging the elections, Mnangagwa dealt a killer blow to the myth that Zimbabwe had change following last November’s coup. He has proven that Zimbabwe is still a pariah state ruled by corrupt and vote rigging thugs. No investor would want to do business is a state whose next regime change is another military coup or some such violent act!

  11. WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE OF THE RIGGED ELECTIONS? Ma chinja you couldnt argue your case in court. Thabani couldnt present your arguement without evidence. You are all like your megalomaniac schoolboy politician, You are all crying babies believing in the pathological lies of your so called pastor-cum politician

    Rambai mechingoitiswa ED achingotonga

  12. Wezhira Wezhara above. Listen to seniour analysis. Its trivially imprudent for you to apply even your apparently not so busy mind, to our traditionaly and currently, undisputed urban vote. The Zimbabwe tradituonal electoral dispute like manner it attained its political independence was all RURAL BASED ‘NOCTURNAL’ BUSH WAR, IN WHICH THE SAME VICTORS WIN SAME STYLE, WHETHER RIGHT OR WRONG. Modern day world woud however expect above traditional victor to win fair electoral context different style. PERIOD.

  13. K ,ED won those so called elections.It is only about a month and half things have worsened as if it is three years.The Concourt was staged Zanu is a mafia supported by abnormal citizens ,who can support such a party that puts its interests ahead of the nation.Zanu inodya vana,only GOD knows how we are going to live under this Junta pavakuda vana vaMwari kwete vanhu VaMwari.This absolutely true that Nero won ,ED knows that.I see GOD sinking this Zanu pf govt before expiring of their stolen term.The mantra Zanu Pf ndeye kutonga vamwe vachingotongwa ELOHIM is going to prove that all who rule on this planet do so at HIS pleasure!

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