THE elections are over. The dust raised by the Sadc observer mission report, which pointed out the deficits in the elections, is yet to settle. But I think Zimbabweans are reading too much into it, and the opposition is pinning unwarranted hope on the same. Naively so.
Whichever angle one views it, it is now a fait accompli. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has resumed his second term, officially marked by the inauguration on September 4.
The lacklustre inauguration, blighted by the fact that just a few — only three — heads of state attended the ceremony, seals the deal still. Mnangagwa was once again handed the instruments of power, which would see him govern for the next five years.
The ceremony seals into the official annals of history the notion that Mnangagwa garnered 52,6% of the vote, defeating Nelson Chamisa, who got 44%.
Misplaced hope for fresh elections
The opposition has been burning the midnight oil plotting a strategy to push for a fresh election. Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) mandarins have been throwing around the proposition with reckless abandon.
Social media has caught onto the frenzy even without a clear articulation on what political and legal legs this demand is standing on.
At this point, the hyped tag of “disputed election” in the absence of a formal Constitutional Court (ConCourt) challenge is an inconsequential sideshow. Proponents of the court challenge do not naively suggest that any joy would have been found there by way of a favourable ruling for the opposition.
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But it is what would have given legs to the dispute, which legs could carry the CCC on its regional and international diplomatic offensive.
For now, the phrase “disputed election” remains just a plastic word without form or substance. Such form or substance could have been presented extensively in a hearing at the ConCourt.
In other words, the court challenge would not have been in pursuit of a legal remedy but a political communication strategy. Without such, it is difficult even for sympathetic regional leaders to entertain the proposition for a fresh election.
Tragically, Chamisa’s claim of rigging, itself an opposition chorus after each election, while legitimate, may end up being dismissed as a case of the boy who cried wolf. Or, more aptly, the boy who cried crocodile — pun intended.
The call for fresh elections is a hollow proposition bereft of form or content and the optics of such a call are not encouraging.
The optics are not encouraging
While I agree entirely that the deficits of the election delivered by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) seriously dent its credibility, fresh elections can only happen under a few circumstances, which are all non-existent now.
Firstly, it can happen if the ConCourt says so. Secondly, it can happen if there is no candidate, who has garnered more than 50% plus one vote in the presidential election. Thirdly, under very rare circumstances, it can happen if there has been so serious a popular public protest or violent conflict that there must be a political settlement whose outcome may be a fresh election.
These conditions existed in 2008 and created a perfect storm for an irretrievably lost legitimacy. And that is precisely why Zanu PF agreed to power-sharing.
But we are not there, by whatever metric. Bad as the context is, none of the current conditions aptly fit into the 2008 scenario.
I hear in many spaces, parallels being drawn with the 2008 political crisis suggesting that the same outcome can be achieved this time around. Such a suggestion is anchored on a false equivalence; hence, the current call for fresh elections is a vanity fair. There is no clear pathway on how a fresh election can be successfully demanded.
Of course, the international community, through diplomatic engagement, can pressure the political elite into a fresh election. The political elite, in this case, Zanu PF, may accede if it is clear that the government that emerges will seriously lack international legitimacy and recognition. The opposition’s diplomatic offensive would have held some hope if one of the conditions discussed above existed.
This is the handicap that the opposition must contend with. Sadc and the international community simply do not have a strong enough excuse to intervene.
Zim deserves a capable govt
A favourite phrase by the opposition every election cycle is, “You can’t rig the economy!” This is based on the allegation that Zanu PF rigs the electoral environment and process such that it is skewed against the opposition.
It challenges the new government to bring viable and sustainable solutions for turning around the economy because political tricks and shenanigans will not work when it comes to economics.
As the new dispensation begins its second term, it must deploy capable hands to address the urgent and increasingly desperate social and economic challenges.
There is a need to galvanise society towards a new national project anchored on a far-reaching structural, ideological, and moral transformation. Forging a new Zimbabwe, so to speak.
The new government must embark on rebuilding the legitimacy of the state and the credibility of its institutions. Public institutions must deliver on the social contract.
They must deliver for the many and not fall into the pitfall of becoming corrupt and inept dispensers of patronage to a few interconnected elites who haemorrhage the state.
There is a need to renew, strengthen, and de-personalise public institutions with bureaucrats serving the greater public good, not parochial partisan interests.
Deliver on the promise of progress
The new government that will be installed in the next few days must carry with it and deliver on the promise of progress. It must deliver outcomes emanating from citizens' legitimate expectations within the ambit of the social contract.
It must deliver public goods and change the material conditions of the masses.
Most citizens do not care who is at the helm of government. They care about their material conditions. They care about a working economy, a stable currency, social services, social protection, justice, etc.
They need to know that their safety and security is guaranteed. They need to know that they will get medical care and that they will not have to endure the gnawing pangs of hunger. They need jobs! Decent jobs. It is jobs that deliver dignity, food, and shelter. Jobs deliver access to healthcare and to education.
But, when these are not delivered, citizens start to care about who is governing. As such, the ruling party must focus on delivering on the promise of progress, an expectation so desperately held by the masses who are contending with harsh realities in the daily struggles for survival.
A competent opposition
The opposition has accomplished a critical feat in these elections. It has denied Zanu PF a two-thirds parliamentary majority. A ruling party with a two-thirds majority is a danger to democracy, to progress, and to those who dissent.
It can weaponise its super majority and pass laws that stifle dissent, like draconian legislation passed in the 9th Parliament, including retrogressive constitutional amendments.
In the same vein, an incompetent opposition is a danger to democracy. You may wonder, dear reader, what I mean by an incompetent opposition.
It is one that is embroiled in incessant internal squabbles, rendering it incapable of reaching a consensus on critical issues. One that is weak and incapable of holding the incumbents accountable or representing its constituents effectively.
We have seen the implosion of the opposition in the past three parliaments characterised by political cannibalism. The failure to resolve conflict has many a time resulted in an avalanche of recalls, which becomes a slippery slope to diminished opposition numbers in parliament.
Considering that the opposition has a wafer-thin buffer against Zanu PF gaining a super majority, one hopes the tragedy of opposition recalls is averted in the 10th Parliament. Otherwise, that would be an unfortunate development, facilitating a backsliding towards impunity as ruling parties with super majorities tend to do.
The opposition must accept its job and competently discharge its mandate for the benefit of society. The conduct of the opposition in the past Parliament, in which it resigned itself to the retrogressive business of bickering about the legitimacy of the incumbent, is both juvenile and inconsiderate of the people who elected them as their representatives.
The sober view
Politicians must move beyond the self-serving conduct of politicking at the expense of progress. The ruling political elite must commit to social dialogue, build national consensus, renew institutions, and adjust its sails to return to a path of democratisation.
The opposition must also spare us the protracted political posturing and move beyond the election. It must take its place and serve the nation with distinction. Most crucially, it must avert self-immolation and safeguard the status quo where Zanu PF does not have a super majority in parliament.
In short, I am saying, dear reader, that both the ruling party and the opposition must do their flipping job!
This is my sober view; I take no prisoners!
- Dumani is an independent political analyst. He writes in his personal capacity. Twitter: @NtandoDumani