Zanu PF’s triumph a Pyrrhic victory

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s “landslide” election win last week may turn out to be less than that. Once the self-congratulatory euphoria has died down, Zanu PF will wake up to the cold reality that i

t won a Pyrrhic victory.

Not a single urban constituency fell to the ruling party.

Harare South is a mixed rural/urban seat which has been the location of intensive resettlement, not to mention gerrymandering. But elsewhere Mugabe’s threats and blandishments made no impression on the country’s most important concentrations of population where a younger, more educated generation — the nation’s future — resides.

At the end of last week, Mugabe remained what he had been before: the ruler of rural Zimbabwe where voters, in the absence of independent newspapers and alternative voices on the radio, were denied their right to make an informed choice.

This is hardly the unambiguous declaration of support he said was necessary to confront Tony Blair and George Bush. They will have seen a failed autocrat unable to carry his message to Zimbabwe’s teeming towns and cities. They will have seen the scepticism of a younger generation who know perfectly well who is responsible for their unemployment and growing poverty.

Mugabe’s electoral deceit worked only where there was nobody to expose it. Similarly, his racist pursuit of a handful of whites left in the country failed to do the trick in Harare North or Bulawayo South.

Trudy Stevenson and David Coltart were retained with large majorities. Even in the ruling party’s rural heartland, seats such as Chinhoyi, Kariba, Makoni East, Manyame, Bikita East, Gutu South, and Zhombe showed significant support for the MDC. So did large parts of Manicaland while the MDC held on to eight of its Matabeleland constituencies in situations where voters were susceptible to threats to their food supplies.
The MDC won back Lupane which had been lost to Zanu PF in a by-election and which we were told at the time had been restored to its “natural” allegiance!

Far from being the “flash in the pan” of Zanu PF’s propaganda, the “fluke” winner of 57 seats in 2000, the MDC has emerged from this battle intact and with its core support base in good order. Zanu PF’s fiction that 2000 represented some aberration has been exposed for the lie it is. Zanu PF is the aberration, an anachronism in modern Africa still clinging to the mantras of the liberation war.

Meanwhile, Mugabe will have difficulty selling himself as the unchallenged voice of Zimbabwe. He does not speak for the cities, for the youths, or for commerce and industry. And when the blatant cheating is taken into account, there are many rural people he manifestly doesn’t speak for.

Mugabe’s legitimacy remains in doubt so long as the many discrepancies in the final figures are open to challenge. How does the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission explain the huge gap between its totals for those voting and the votes won by the individual candidates?

Apart from these anomalies, the institutional framework remains defective. Military and intelligence officers continue to serve on the Electoral Supervisory Commission which is appointed by and answerable to Mugabe. The National Command Centre is a gaping black hole. And the ZEC is anyway fatally compromised. It appears not to have found a single problem in last week’s poll!

The state media, while allowing the occasional appearance of MDC spokesmen in the final weeks of campaigning, churned out a diet of Zanu PF propaganda and hate speech — not to mention transparent lies — directed at the opposition.

Zimbabwe does not have a democratic system that permits voters access to differing views. It remains essentially a dictatorship manipulating the levers of state power. Perhaps the worst dimension of this is a suborned judiciary unwilling to uphold rights enshrined in the constitution.

The fact that MDC court applications against violence and fraud in 2000 remain outstanding underlines this point.

At the end of the day the country remains as divided as ever between those struggling for freedom because it can improve their lives and the rest who have no idea what it means and for whom hunger is the price of political demagoguery.

Mugabe is either unwilling or unable to bridge this chasm. Nothing will change until he goes. That much must be obvious to even his closest associates who thought, until recently, their loyalty to tyranny was a ladder to power.
What do they say now?

Meanwhile, the MDC should stop licking its wounds and instead congratulate the hundreds of thousands of voters who successfully defended its turf against a predatory ruling party which, as this election has proved, is incapable of winning a free and fair poll and long ago lost its national mandate.

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