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Candid Comment: Ominous Sign On The Horizon

AS Zimbabwe charts the rough political seas in the aftermath of elections which left President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF vanquished, there is an ominous sign on the horizon: danger ahead.

 

Mugabe and his ever-shrinking clique of militant Zanu PF diehards, after recovering from the electoral shock, are now in a renewed fighting mood.

Their public statements, menacing rhetoric, threats and, of course, state- sponsored violence paint a gloomy picture of the situation.

With reports of a nationwide campaign of violence becoming all the time more undeniable, the country is going through not just a touch-and-go period, but a dangerously rough patch.

The last time it happened was in 2002. Prior to that there was the reign of terror in the western region soon after Independence.

In both those situations thousands of innocent civilians died at the hands of what are supposed to be their liberators and leaders.

That makes the situation such a sad tale.

Joshua Nkomo warned in the 1980s that the culture of violence Zanu PF had brought into Zimbabwe would not end.

If he was alive today he would be feeling vindicated. It’s a disgrace most Zimbabweans are only starting to complain now about this regime when others saw the problem way back.

Although Mugabe’s government achieved a lot in the past, it has succeeded in undermining its own legacy through Stone Age politics and monumental leadership and policy failures.

It is very difficult to find parallels of such magnitude of failure in the region.

If only Zimbabweans had rejected violence at the beginning this may not be happening now. But the idea is not to look back but forward.

However, looking into the future without a historical perspective produces distorted images and results in fatal denialism.

Being in denial is Zanu PF’s stock-in-trade. Anyone who read Emmerson Mnangagwa’s statement on elections last Saturday would know what I’m talking about.

According to Mnangagwa, who featured prominently during the 1980s low intensity civil war in the western region, Mugabe and his party lost because of a flawed electoral process, disenfranchisement of voters, the bribery of electoral officials by the MDC, and huge sponsorship of the opposition by Britain, the United States and Australia.

In other words, Mugabe and Zanu PF’s defeat had nothing to do with the material social and economic conditions of the voters, according to Mnangagwa.

Their defeat has no link with the chronic shortages of food, fuel, foreign currency, drugs, electricity, water and basic goods.

It has no connection at all with high employment, poverty and suffering. It’s all the fault of electoral flaws, bribery, “hostile” media and western detractors.

But it is these objective conditions on the ground which Mnangagwa is airbrushing, combined with the self-evident fact that Mugabe and Zanu PF are now unelectable, that will bury the incumbent regime.

There is no regime in recent history that has survived elections in such economic conditions.

Zanu PF also denies there is state-sponsored violence. They denied this in the 1980s, 2000 and 2005. But their crass denials are no longer taken seriously.

That’s why a South African investigation team is currently in the country to probe the issue. The African Union sent an envoy to Harare this week to raise the issue of violence, among a wide-range of others concerning the electoral crisis rocking the country.

A Sadc delegation also flew in this week as the flurry of diplomatic activity intensifies. South African President Thabo Mbeki is also coming today to Harare for the same reason.

The United Nations is almost on full alert over Zimbabwe. African and World leaders now keep Zimbabwe firmly on the radar.

Their interests are varied and competing but the current crisis is the entry point.

The elections crisis is set to deepen as the presidential poll run-off is now unlikely to occur within the scheduled three weeks.

This will paralyse the already troubled country.

The realignment elections have been going on since January, a new record for Zimbabwe.

In the meantime, political violence will escalate. Unless the international community intervenes there will be heavy casualties in the process. The warning signs are there.

ZEC last week finally announced presidential election results more than a month after voting, declaring no outright winner, which thus necessitates a runoff between Tsvangirai and Mugabe.

Mugabe wasted no time in saying he would contest the runoff — his last and only chance of political survival after being defeated by Tsvangirai in the first round of voting.

It is incongruous that Mugabe anxiously wants to contest a runoff he is almost certain to lose, while Tsvangirai wants to avoid the poll he is all but assured of winning if the election is free and fair.

This sounds illogical, but there is method in their madness.

For Mugabe, this is the only chance he has to survive, but Tsvangirai can afford to think twice about it. After all, he triumphed in the first round by a credible margin and can vacillate while shuffling a deck or spinning a wheel.

Mugabe is damaged goods — he can’t win a free and fair election.

But if Mugabe does succeed this time, he should get an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for stolen elections, much like controversial Canadian politician John Turmel, who made history for contesting and losing the most polls — 66 by October 2007.

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