PRESIDENT Robert Mugabeâ€™s chances of winning the presidential run-off against the MDCâ€™s Morgan Tsvangirai are so slim that even a donkey would have better prospects of victory over the octogenarian leader, a former close advisor says.
Political analysts said Mugabeâ€™s chances were next to zero owing to the countryâ€™s flagging economic fortunes and the slump in the living standards of the majority of Zimbabweans.
Former Information minister Professor Jonathan Moyo recently said in an article the mind of the electorate was now fixed against Mugabe.
“If he was to contest against a donkey in the run-off, the donkey would win by a landslide, not because anyone would vote for it, but simply because people would vote against Mugabe and thus benefit the donkey.”
The ex-Mugabe propagandist said Tsvangirai and the MDC fit the bill.
“Mugabe has become widely and deeply unpopular with a majority of voters who see him not just as too old to remain in office after 28 years of his failed rule, but who also see him as the personification of the biting economic crisis about which he clearly has no solution,” Moyo said.
“The feeling now among voters is no longer about electing the right person or the right party with the right policy, but about choosing a different person and different party with a different policy.”
The analysts argued that nowhere in the world had a sitting president won an election when inflation is above 355 000%, skyrocketing prices of basic commodities, plus 80% unemployment rate, over 70% of the population wallowing in poverty and industrial production down to 15% of capacity.
Moreover, the country faces a critical shortage of foreign currency, a ballooning domestic debt and no meaningful direct foreign investment in the past 10 years.
The analysts said the social, political and economic crisis would result in the electorate voting for Tsvangirai, not because he can extricate the country from the current problems, but they just needed change for the sake of it.
The electorate see Mugabe as the personification of their misery.
Mugabe, the analysts argued, would face electoral defeat as they expected opposition forces to unite and dislodge the old-guard leader who has been at the helm for the past 28 years.
Despite the deployment of soldiers, war veterans and youth militia in rural areas to coerce the electorate to vote for Mugabe, the analysts said, Tsvangirai will triumph.
“If Tsvangirai and other democratic forces come together, they will defeat Mugabe,” political scientist Michael Mhike said.
“The people of Zimbabwe are determined to see the back of Mugabe. Violence and rigging will not work. This time around, the electorate throughout the country has rejected Mugabe and the same will apply in the run-off.”
According to the result of the March 29 presidential election, Tsvangirai could have won an overwhelming majority if all voters who backed independent presidential candidates Simba Makoni and Langton Towungana in the first round poll had voted for the MDC leader.
According to the ZEC results, Tsvangirai polled 1 195 562 votes or 47,9% of total valid votes cast to defeat Mugabe who garnered 1 079 730 ballots or 43,2% of the votes.
Makoni came a distant third with 207 470 votes or 8,3%, while Towungana got a paltry 14 503 votes or 0,6% of the total ballots cast in the election.
The presidential result shows that if Makoniâ€™s movement and the MDC had agreed to field Tsvangirai as the sole opposition candidate, the former trade unionist would have won the poll by 1 403 032 votes or 56,2% and the run-off would have been unnecessary.
Moyo argued that what makes Mugabeâ€™s task to win the run-off more impossible, was that Zanu PF would enter the race divided.
He said Zanu PF was now split down the middle, with one camp led by retired General Solomon Mujuru against Mugabeâ€™s continued stay in power and reportedly ready to work with the opposition.
The other faction reportedly supports Mugabe during the day only to spend the “night scheming ways about how to replace” him.
“The results of the March 29 election clearly show that the biggest loser was Mugabe as he lost big not only to Tsvangirai, but also to the MDC and Zanu PF,” argued Moyo.
“Therefore, there is no doubt that Tsvangirai would win the run-off as he would be supported by a de facto united front of opposition and ruling party forces. Mugabe would be haunted by the very problem that he sought to avoid by having “harmonised” elections: namely that his party would play “bhora musango (de-campaign)” against him.”
But a political scientist who requested anonymity said while indicators point to a Tsvangirai victory, Zanu PF could pull a surprise and win the election given that the MDC went to sleep soon after the March 29 polls.
“The resolve by Zanu PF to go for the run-off instead of a negotiated settlement reveals that the party has something up its sleeve giving them confidence that they can overturn Tsvangiraiâ€™s victory,” the analyst said.
“After the harmonised elections, the MDC disappeared from the political radar. They should have continued campaigning for the party.”
Addressing his Central Committee in Harare last Friday, Mugabe conceded that he lost dismally to Tsvangirai, but blamed the defeat on lethargic party structures and vowed that he would win the run-off.
“They (structures) were passive; they were lethargic, ponderous, diverted, disinterested, demobilised or simply non-existent,” Mugabe said.
“It was terrible to see the structures of so embattled a ruling party so enervated.”
The veteran leader blamed the defeat on an ineffective leadership from the national level down to the branch.
“We played truant; we did not lead, we misled; we did not encourage, rather we discouraged; we did not mobilise, we demobilised. Hence the dismal result we are landed with,” Mugabe said.
He added that the party had failed to mobilise adequate resources to fight an opposition “backed by a hostile axis of foreign governments with the strongest economies in the world”.
But the MDC said the run-off would be the final nail in the Zanu PF coffin after its defeat in the harmonised elections.
“President Tsvangirai convincingly trounced Robert Mugabe and other presidential aspirants on 29 March 2008,” party spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said.
“The March 29 poll signified the death of Zanu PF and the presidential run off will be the burial of a party that has brought starvation and poverty to the country.”
In the unlikely event that Mugabe wins, University of Zimbabwe economist Professor Tony Hawkins said his victory would prolong economic ills, currently characterised by hyperinflation, negative real interest rates, an overvalued exchange rate and a very high budget deficit. Hawkins said inflation was likely to reach 500 000% by June adding that history has shown clearly that Mugabe is not capable of reviving the economy which has slumped by 60% over the past decade.
“If he wins, the economy will be in deeper trouble than it is now. An international rescue package will be required and those offering it will not negotiate with him. The price of such a rescue package is his leaving.”
By Constantine Chimakure