IS DEMOCRACY ON TRIAL IN ZIMBABAWE

...UNPACKING THE 2018 ELECTIONS

The nation is at a standstill, as Zimbabweans anxiously await the Concourt ruling on the challenge mounted by Nelson Chamisa's MDC alliance who are challenging the presidential election results announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission(ZEC). One would say that the country has been arrested because of these developments but then again, that is the price we pay for democracy. Unless and until the Concourt decides otherwise, the results announced by the Justice Priscilla Chigumba led commission are that Zanu PF won the parliamentary and presidential elections clearing the way for Emmerson Mnangagwa to form the next government. 


There is, however, something very bizarre about the outcome of the just ended 2018 elections, and the behaviour of the Zimbabwean politicians and the electorate itself in those elections. There was something disturbingly dysfunctional about our fledgeling democracy that injects a sense of cynicism. One wonders whether politicians are just playing a self-serving game for their own narrow and parochial benefit that compromises the common national good.
Unless and until one really critically analyses what happened and what was exposed in the last election, we may actually not notice or we may miss the non-sense and contradictions that these elections exposed.  This article seeks to unpack these strange and unsavoury ironies and dig deeper into their meaning.
We advanced our democratic space:
The elections were observed by no less than 50 observer institutions from all over the world including Governments, regional and international organizations, civil society bodies, and such crucial global players and partners such as the EU, UK and USA. We also had the group of Eminent Elders, led by its chair, former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan( whose untimely death I have just learnt with sadness) visiting Zimbabwe. He was accompanied by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Lakhdar Brahimi, former Foreign Minister of Algeria and UN diplomat. They met all political players in Zimbabwe, including the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission All attested to the free atmosphere that was prevailing, and the majority of them have given unqualified endorsements to the elections as having been free and fair.
This is real progress. One might say that this is as things should be and therefore there is nothing to write home about,   but we cannot ignore that context is everything, and within the Zimbabwean elections polity, this was unheard of before, and definitely would have been unthinkable under Mugabe. Just rewind to 2008, when a re-run was called for, and an unprecedented orgy of violence was unleashed on the MDC Alliance leaving more than 200 people dead and the effects of this injustice are still felt. Some families who were victims of the violence like the Chironga family of Chiweshe which I interviewed just before former president Mugabe called for elections in 2013. We all recall how Mugabe had no shame going on the poll alone after Morgan Tsvangirai decided to pull out of the presidential re-run owing to the violence which took place between March 28 to 27 June 2008.
Back to the present opposition presidential candidateNelson Chamisa is now claiming the results were rigged in favour of Emmerson Mnangagwa.   Chamisa contends that he won the election, and pronouncements to that effect were made even before the official count was made (I shall return to this aspect later).
The MDC Alliance have exercised their constitutional right and taken the challenge on the Presidential elections to the constitutional court. They have been allowed to do so, and have effectively derailed inauguration plans Government had. The government, through Minister of Foreign Affairs, has given an undertaking to honour the outcome of the Courts.
But that’s as far as I can go with the positives of these elections. The rest is at best confusing and at worst makes no sense.
The paradox of the Presidential and parliamentary election results.
Not only is the above outcome and narrative senseless and preposterous; it is very dangerous for a nascent democracy like ours. It would be logical to conclude that people vote for a party because of what it stands for and by extension that vote is reflected in the vote for the leader as well.
Not in Zimbabwe.
There are a couple of reasons that explain this narrative.
I will start with the Zanu PF side of the equation.
Divisions within the Zanu PF.
 For the revolutionary party, the outcome where they won parliamentary elections resoundingly but their Presidential candidate struggled for his win, reflects the deep division within the party, and that the person of ED is the main target of this division.  This was a typical case of “bhora musango” reminiscent of the 2008 Presidential election. But to be objectively fair, this should not have come as a big surprise, given the recent events.
Then there are the active, and openly anti-ED G40 members, now led by Jonathan Moyo, who has had a tiff with ED from the time they were in Zanu PF.  Moyo led a crusade against ED, revealing that he was part of the Tsholotsho plot to unseat Mugabe in 2004. He accused ED at every opportunity of trying to usurp power from Mugabe and labelled him a secessionist. He made the dramatic 72-minute video presentation at the politburo meeting on 19 July 2017 linking ED to the Blue Ocean strategy document that was seen as the blueprint for the takeover of state power by ED.
So bad was the dislike for ED that attempts were made on his life, including the famous ice-cream poisoning. Then there was the brazen assassination attempt on 23 June 2018 when ED and other top leaders survived a bombing.
The above fact reveals the error in the assumption that all people who are in Zanu PF and support Mugabe and don’t like ED will shift their vote to MDC Alliance. This is based on a misunderstanding of the hold that Zanu PF has on its membership. It also reveals a shallow understanding on the part of the MDC Alliance President when he made the erroneous strategic and costly decision to form an election pact with the former dictator Robert Mugabe. Mugabe succeeded in costing ED votes but did not succeed in negatively affection Zanu PF votes.
The effects of the contradictions
 So, does this mean our democracy is producing the kind of contradictions where we love a party but do not like its head? Try imagining a country where the Head of state is from an opposition outfit, and parliament is controlled by the party of the ousted President. This would be the case if Chamisa won the Presidency. This is what is called a Lame duck president. Parliament would frustrate the President, refuse to pass laws initiated by an Executive they are at loggerheads with. There is even the real danger of Parliament seeking an impeachment of the President.
If you flip the argument the other way, Donald Trump has survived all his scandals today simply because the Republicans control both houses. Otherwise, he would have long been impeached over the Russian scandals among many others.
Zimbabwe democracy is still too nascent to produce such a kind of political dichotomy. Something is not making sense to me.
I see Nelson Chamisa, the person (not the Presidential candidate), as coming out the main “winner” from the entire electioneering process. It was such an opportunity for him. Here is why. 
In a rather very strange way, the opposition as a political institution now stands captured by one individual. They have gone to court in his name. They are beaten in elections without him, and the hopes of those in the Alliance with the ambitions of tasting state power rest on him winning the Presidential challenge. Chamisa has become the Donald Trump of Zimbabwe. Donald Trump has captured the Republican Party by appealing to the base of voters, to the extent that he does not care about what the elected Republican party members in Congress and Senate think. At one time he bragged that he could shoot someone in the street and get away with it. Right now, Nelson Chamisa can say and do anything within the MDC Alliance and get away with it. The Alliance is Nelson Chamisa, and Nelson Chamisa is the Alliance.
The second paradox, which is the inverse of the first is that, while the MDC Alliance managed to have only 63 seats in parliament, its leader almost made it as President. He was narrowly beaten by Mnangagwa.
The ConCourt Challenge:
Chamisa may not be aware of it, but I think by going to court to contest the presidential election, he is now caught between a rock and a hard place. As I said, it is seen as less about the MDC Alliance challenge to power as it is about the Presidency, which means it is about Chamisa being President.
I am rather fascinated by the arguments I hear are put forward before the court as part of the challenge, and I really wonder whether this is turning into a theatre for lawyers rather than a settlement of a political impasse.  Chamisa says Chigumba did not announce the Presidential results herself as required by law, and therefore the results should be nullified. So the mouth of the announcer is becoming an election decider.ED says Chamisa did not serve papers to him as a person and to the right address, and so the court should dismiss the application. So the location is now the issue rather than the allegations of vote rigging. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is burning, and that old lady that danced for Chamisa has gone without a meal. Does she care about addresses or who announces?
There are people who think that Chamisa missed an opportunity in this election to become a statesman. Glory came to him too fast and too soon. He started to run before he could crawl. He suffered serious cravings for power, which would have come to him anyway if he was patient. His appeal was to the wrong constituency that is rightfully angry and disenchanted but not the one that determines the fate of the country. He was only two years old when Zimbabwe gained independence. He needs to have a measured approach when dealing with matters relating to those that dodged the bullets of the fight he now wishes to take on. 
Chamisa fought a good fight and I have tremendous. If he wins, good luck to him he will certainly need it especially since he burnt all his bridges as he used them to cross into political office. He forgot he might need them on the way back.
Zanu PF as a party has its own huge challenges. The elections were a wake-up call to the realities of the divisions within itself. They have to undergo a healing process if they get the mandate to rule. How that is to be done I have no idea. As long as Mugabe has a bone to chew with his “tormentors”, and as long as he has his barking dogs like Jonathan Moyo, Zanu PF will always have a thorn in its side.
Balancing the advance of democracy with the divisions of a nation:
To wrap up this discussion, we need to ask whether the election has done good or bad to the country. As I said at the beginning, the election process advanced democratic space for Zimbabweans. They campaigned and voted in peace. However, the election also divided the nation in a rather acrimonious way. It set the rural voter against the urban, the young against the old, and local against the diasporans. It relied so much on fake news and hardened positions based on unsubstantiated allegations. There is no doubt that the conduct of the just ended elections advanced our democratic space and practice. Up until the events of 1 August 2018 when there were violent demonstrations in Harare leading to the loss of six lives following army intervention, the electioneering in Zimbabwe had been uncharacteristically peaceful. The opposition was able to hold rallies wherever and whenever they wanted, something that was unheard of in the past.  For the first time, we did not see concentration camps, Green bombers on the campaign trail. Zanu PF was also able to lock down its Youth Wing, whose ability once unleashed can be testified by the way they led the  Grace Mugabe Interface rallies.

 For these reasons alone, we have to celebrate our progress, but above all, give credit to those who made that possible.  Progress is incremental, whether we like it or not. The road to full democracy is a journey, and every step forward on the way makes the journey shorter.

According to the statistics, Zanu PF won 145 of the 210 Parliamentary seats, giving the ruling party a two-thirds majority while the MDC Alliance bagged 63 seats.
However, in the same elections, the Zanu PF Presidential candidate ED received  2, 46 million votes to Chamisa’s 2, 15 million votes, a narrow margin and barely avoiding a Presidential run-off.
 Going by the above statistics, the Zimbabwean election has produced two sets of paradoxes. One is that the people endorse fully to be governed by Zanu PF but are less enthusiastic of the party leader. This means that people do not want to be governed by the opposition  MDC Alliance but would be less uncomfortable about having the Alliance Presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa as president of Zimbabwe.

Zanu PF has been a party deeply divided for a while now.   We may be forgetting already that prior to the departure of Joyce Mujuru from Zanu PF in 2015, the divisions had been in two camps, the Mujuru camp and the Mnangagwa camp. That was “solved” by Grace Mugabe engineering the dismissal of Joyce Mujuru. But the cracks were left yawning.
Before the events of 17 November 2017 when the people took to the streets in an Army engineered uprising, Zanu PF was controlled by the G40 faction whose leader was Grace Mugabe, and the kingpins were Jonathan Moyo, Patrick Zhuwawo, Ignatius Chombo and Saviour Kasukuwere. Their arch-enemy was the Lacoste Group, fronted by ED, and supported by War veterans and the Army. G40 was on the verge of finishing off Lacoste with the firing of Mnangagwa as Vice President on the 6th November 2017.  However the  turn of events after November 17 was swift and unexpected. Lacoste team triumphed and G40 were scattered and left licking their wounds.

G40 is fighting back

But if anybody thought G40 is out just because they are down, the results of the presidential election has proved otherwise. The resounding victory for Zanu PF and the narrow margin of victory for the Presidential candidate shows that there are many who voted for Zanu PF Member of Parliament but voted against ED as president, and in fact voted for Chamisa. This is the Bhora musango phenomenon that has only been created within Zanu PF, and perhaps in Zimbabwe only. It happened in 2008, and President Mugabe lost the Presidential election to Tsvangirai. Mnangagwa is aware this is what happened. He was quoted saying, at an address to newly-elected Zanu PF legislators, that
 “I want to talk in general terms that there were those who were saying vote for the MP, but as for the president do what you think is good for you. We know these people.” 
Victor Matemadanda, Secretary-general of the War Vets Association (ZNLWVA) expressed concern at the low margin of victory of their President, and inquiries are said to be on the way.
 What does this all mean?  
First, it means the elections went personal. There is a personal hatred for an individual rather than the institution he represents.  Second, it means the drivers of the personal hatred are still very powerful and influential within Zanu PF. They have a bone to chew and an axe to grind with ED, without whom they would not have lost power and influence.
 It is hard not to see the hand of former President Mugabe in this.  He made it public that he would not vote for Mnangagwa, as he cannot vote for “his tormentors”. Those who adore him, and ate from his plate when he was in power as well as those who felt tormented after his departure (the Sarah Mahokas, the Mandi Chimenes, and many others), would definitely take the cue from Mugabe and not tick the box against ED’s name.

 This was not an assault on Zanu PF or even the Lacoste elements; it was an assault on ED. The theory was that the snake is killed from the head. When ED prevailed in November, and elections beckoned in July 2018, the fight was definitely going to get personal, as the wounds were still very fresh.
 Second, the hatred for ED   has not translated into a hatred of Zanu PF, in as much as the dislike for Mugabe being President in 2008 did not translate into a dislike for Zanu PF. People within Zanu PF will tell you that the party is like a cult; once you get in, it’s not easy to get out. They prefer to fight from within.  The few that have left Zanu PF and become opposition members have struggled to make it. Names that come to mind are Joice Mujuru, Simba Makoni, Dumiso Dabengwa, Didymus Mutasa, Rugare Gumbo,   They have all failed to make a name for themselves as opposition politicians.  The only exception I believe would have made it were it not for the times he lived in, was Edgar Two Boy Tekere and his Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM).

During the Obama Administration, Obama‘s biggest frustration was that he had Republicans controlling Congress and Senate.  Hillary Clinton was taken through a serious roasting as Secretary of State by a Republican-led Senate over the events in Benghazi, Libya when the US embassy was stormed by gunmen and the US Ambassador killed, simply because they wanted to discredit her and spoil her chances as a Democrat candidate for president. Obamacare suffered the same fate.

MDC Alliance’s loss and Chamisa’s “win”

First, MDC Alliance is not a party,  and when you open the Alliance to scrutiny, what you see in there is MDC-T dominating the Alliance. Chamisa took over leadership of the Alliance on the basis of leading MDC-T following Tsvangirai's death.  The elections, therefore, provided him with an excellent platform to legitimize his position politically as President despite the fact that he lost the party legally to Thokozani  Khupe in court.
Secondly, the constitutional court challenge on the elections seems to be centred on the Presidency rather than on the performance of the Alliance as a whole. It is this fixation with Chamisa that was also costly to the MDC Alliance campaign as most candidates abandoned their own campaigns to join that of Chamisa. Chamisa the person has become bigger than the MDC Alliance as an outfit. Very few people can name the other Alliance partners outside Biti and Ncube. I cant. And these two are known only on account of having been in the MDC-T in the past.

 Chamisa, rather than MDC, became the direct beneficiary of the “Bhora musango” in Zanu PF.   The support Chamisa got from those within Zanu PF who did not and would not vote for ED, was therefore not because they love him (Chamisa) but they hate ED. 

Assuming he wins the challenge, Chamisa becomes President and heads an Executive under an extremely hostile Legislature controlled by Zanu PF. This cannot be good for Chamisa, for our democracy or for development. Parliament makes laws and approves budgets, and they can make life really difficult for the Executive if they are at odds. Presidential impeachment would not be off the lips of Zanu PF MPs and the President would have to walk a very tight rope. He will rue the instances he made it his business to insult Zanu PF and the persons in that party on their way to the top.
If on the other end the court challenge fails, there will be a lot of soul-searching and reflection within the opposition as to whether it was necessary to create this national furore over the elections. If it is true that there was no evidence that Chamisa claims he has to prove the rigging, or that, as reported, the opposition submission was sloppy despite assembling a big team and hyping the challenge to the international community as a solid challenge, then heads are bound to roll.
A discussion would probably take place regarding the strategy of the elections and the status of the opposition party under Chamisa’s leadership. Did Chamisa damage or promote the opposition brand? Was it smart to announce that you have won before the elections were over? Was is strategic and beneficial to associate the MDC brand with the loathed Mugabe? Was it smart to have the open support of the likes of Jonathan Moyo whom everybody knows was the architect of the misery especially in journalism and a free press through the draconian AIPPA and POSA, which he is the architects of? It is no secret that the professor was one of the masterminds together with ED and his allies of the attacks against democracy under the Mugabe regime?
Interestingly, it was Jonathan Moyo who was the first to tweet that Tendai Biti was safe and on his way to Zambia. He was the first to know and the first to tell.
No soul-searching would be adequate without asking these questions. It is the basis for cleansing the opposition and strengthening it going forward if it is not going to be the next government.
Chamisa’s bombastic approach may have worked during elections, but may have damaged the opposition for the next five years by creating tensions with the ruling party that had not existed during Tsvangirai’s time.

 When something is handed to lawyers, expect the worst. I now know what they mean when they say the law is an ass. This election was like a soap opera. Lawyers were even holding Press conferences, in the glare of the international media. There was so much competition for the cameras some were having interviews to give their opinions on the case. But remember Advocates charge by the hour. And if they have flown from South Africa, you pay for their upkeep too.

The future of the MDC Alliance.
 A hotspot awaiting the opposition is how to deal with the future of the Alliance. I suspect they will formalize themselves into a Party. But this is not without its own problems. They have to go to Congress and have elections for the positions including the Presidency.  The outcome of that, which might see the likes of  Biti and Ncube bounce back into the top echelons of the new party, may result in the MDC splitting, once again.
 The MDC also needs to work on its image with the middle class, the business community and the intelligencia. Right now, they are seen as a rag tag party of irresponsibility, full of lofty ideas and misdirected energy. They need to be less militant in their conduct of politics, and above all, to be humble and respectful in the conduct of politics. MDC claims to be guided by the ideals of Tsvangirai but they are not acting like the man they claim to adore. MDC Alliance threw more insults at their opponents in these elections than any other party, and the most insults on other candidates came from two people: Tendai Biti and Nelson Chamisa himself. These are the persons on whom the journalist cameras were directed at, and that cannot be a good example of leadership. Tsvangirai was not given to arrogance, hate speech, vulgar language or premature pronouncements. Sadly, all these attributes are now missing.

The future of Zanu PF

Zanu PF too has some questions to ask and answers to provide. Who sanctioned soldiers on 1 August to use live ammunition on the streets, even if there were demonstrations? That must have been the dumbest thing to do knowing the whole world was on the ground in Harare. No amount of provocation should have resulted in that reaction, given how much and how far  the ED Government had invested in patience, discipline and calmness. You don’t run a smart 10 000 meter race only to falter and fail in the last 100 meter stretch.

 But more than the internal fissures within the party, Zanu PF has a huge task to dust its image and make peace with the Zimbabwean people. This election more than anything else has revealed that Zanu PF is seen through the prisms of its past. Many people who voted MDC Alliance ere probably not guided by what MDC stood for. They were simply tired of Zanu PF and they wanted change. The past is seen through the prisms of misery and hardships. Zanu PF have to look themselves in the mirrors and admit that they have a bad image which is associated with their past over the 37 years of Mugabe’s dictatorship. They have a lot of work to change that image. The only way is to change people’s lives for the better. They have five years to do so, or they can forget about winning the next election.
 Or should they change their name? In Kenya, while KANU still remains, the people behind KANU moved on under different names. Just a thought.

Role of the media
The media was polarised and we saw respected journalists openly supporting parties when in fact our role is to be neutral and operate on the basis of fairness and accuracy. This election saw some journalists throw ethics out of the window as they actively campaigned for candidates of their choice. I even saw pictures of some wearing party regalia and it made my heart ache. Truth and objectivity were the biggest casualties as there was a sense of the media not playing its role in informing, entertaining and educating the masses. 

The role of the media in an election is to provide the masses with accurate information about the candidates so that they can make informed decisions in the poll. This makes the media a key driver in the democratic process and this is why a lot of noise is made about the freedom of the press. This is what the Fourth Estate is all about. 

Hate Speech

The language coming out of some politicians in this election was so astounding that if this is what free speech means, one sees some dangers inherent with this interpretation of democracy. Elections are supposed to be a contestation of ideas, and while it is granted that some not so nice things get to be said about an opponent in the elections, there should be some sense of respect and decorum for each other as individuals. Attacking the person of your opponent or assassinating their dignity in the name of free speech is an abuse of democracy and a bad lesson to youngsters aspiring to take up politics
Above all, the election fed into the minds of the population a certain disrespect for the very same institutions upon which that democracy is based. Political leaders led people to hate, distrust and attack the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) as it conducted its business. They told us to not trust the courts because the courts were captured by Zanu PF. The attacks went personally to the private life of ZEC chair Priscilla Chigumba. They taught people that if you don’t have your way you will not accept the verdict of a third party. You don’t hear this in other democracies and other elections.
 These things happened during this past election, and have caused so much damage to democracy that will live beyond the election itself. I don’t know what price tag one can attach to this damage.

Here is a case of democracy going overboard. Rights need to be prescribed within the rights of others. In his article entitled; "Why elections are bad for democracy" Reason Wafawarova makes 
reference to Brexit, and how it has actually divided the British people and they now doubt whether the referendum did them well or not.
 I think we do have similar questions in Zimbabwe, but in our case, the ills of our elections are not because of democracy per se, but because of the politicians who ran our elections.
 We have five years to reflect on that. We had our pluses and our minuses. But I feel we had more minuses than pluses. Democracy was on trial, and I feel it failed the test.

By the Way:
If anyone today is calling for sanctions being placed or maintained on  Zimbabwe, that person has to be labelled an enemy of the people. Whether you think the elections were free or not, it is well known that sanctions hurt the common man and not the rulers. For the likes of Jonathan Moyo to be calling for sanctions on Zimbabwe when he was in the forefront of demonizing them when he was in Zanu PF, exposes him for the selfish nighttime keyboard politician that he has become.
And,
 A friend of mine recently shared this quotation from  Thomas Sowell after a discussion on the political situation in Zimbabwe.  He says;“Politics is the art of making your selfish desires seem like the national interest.”



I don’t know anything about this Sowell guy, but going by the developments in Zimbabwe, and in particular the last elections, I agree with him.

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