THE odds look stacked against MDCâ€™s presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai. All the resources of the state are mounted against him.
Losing the presidential run-off to President Robert Mugabe would probably rule out any chance of him occupying the highest office in the near future.
Victory will prove elusive unless he does more to galvanise his campaign than he has done to date.
The police have played their part by refusing to authorise rallies despite the assurances made in the inter-party talks and the subsequent amendment of Posa.
Mugabe garnered 43,2% of the vote compared to 47,9% won by Tsvangirai in the first round ballot on March 29.
But last weekâ€™s shrill declaration by Mugabeâ€™s wife, Grace, confirmed the fears that every Zimbabwean now holds.
“Even if people vote for the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai will never step foot inside State House,” she declared in Shamva last week.
“He will only get to hear about what it looks like inside State House from people who have been there. Even if Baba (Mugabe) loses, he will only leave State House to make way for someone from Zanu PF.”
There have been conflicting statements from Mugabeâ€™s government over whether he would willingly give up power in the event of defeat next month.
Addressing journalists in Kwekwe last month, Mnangagwa said Mugabe would respect the will of voters if they end his 28-year rule in the run-off.
“If the president loses, he will be the first one to go on national television to acknowledge the result to the people,” Mnangagwa said, although he added that the 84-year-old leader and Zanu PF were confident they would win the second round of voting.
“We are very, very confident we will win this election,” Mnangagwa said.
“We have lost before. In February 2000, we lost and accepted defeat. If the President loses, we will be the first to accept the verdict of the people. He is a very principled hero.”
Mnangagwa added: “You can see how mature we are. Once ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) announces the result and the President has lost, I am the chief election agent, I will go to him and say, â€˜Mr President you have lostâ€™, straight. We brought democracy. We must defend it.”
Besides Graceâ€™s pronouncement, Army Chief of Staff Major General Martin Chedondo at the weekend called on soldiers to rally behind Mugabe during the run-off.
“The constitution says the country should be protected by voting and in the June 27 presidential election run-off pitting our defence chief Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC-T, we should, therefore, stand behind our commander-in-chief.
“Soldiers are not apolitical. Only mercenaries are apolitical. We have signed and agreed to fight and protect the ruling partyâ€™s principles of defending the revolution. If you have other thoughts, then you should remove that uniform.”
Chedondo said the run-off presented Zimbabweans with a chance to either protect the countryâ€™s revolution and heritage or sell out to the British and the American imperialists by voting for Tsvangirai.
Political analysts said Grace and Chedondoâ€™s statements were testimony that Mugabe would not accept defeat and the army may use extra-judicial means to guarantee the octogenarian leaderâ€™s continued stay in power.
The analysts said the failure by Mugabe and his cabinet to censure service chiefs who have vowed that they would not salute Tsvangirai if he wins indicated that the Zanu PF leader and his government supported their stance.
Zimbabwe Defence Forces chief General Constantine Chiwenga, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, Prisons Commissioner retired Major-General Paradzayi Zimondi, Chedondo and Brigadier-General David Sigauke have said they would not accept Tsvangirai if he wins.
Under the Police Act, Defence Act and the Prisons Act, police officers, soldiers and wardens must be apolitical, but the government is yet to take disciplinary measures against the service chiefs who have made public their allegiance to Mugabe and Zanu PF.
That the army should be apolitical was confirmed to the Zimbabwe Independent last month by Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) spokesperson Major Alphios Makotore.
Makotore said: “As clearly spelt out in the Defence Act, the ZNA is an apolitical army which should never be used to further political aspirations of any individual political party.”
National Constitutional Assembly chairperson Lovemore Madhuku said Mugabe would not accept defeat and was likely to hold on to the results or force the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to do so.
Madhuku argued that such a declaration would be followed by a hastily arranged inauguration, enabling Mugabe to crack down on the opposition and other dissenting voices.
“It is very unlikely that he will accept defeat,” Madhuku said recently at an event to mark Africa Day. “June 27 might actually be the beginning of a long struggle, it will be difficult for the regime to accept defeat.”
Political scientist Michael Mhike said Graceâ€™s utterances revealed that Mugabe could cling to power even if he loses heavily to Tsvangirai.
“I donâ€™t see how Mugabe will leave office if you go by Graceâ€™s pronouncement,” Mhike said. “Grace simply said her husband will remain in power by hook or by crook. How Mugabe will do it is up to the hardliners in Zanu PF and the government.”
Last month, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said there were fears of a coup in Zimbabwe because senior military commanders have been instrumental in preventing a democratic transition following the March 29 elections.
“There is growing risk of a coup either before a run-off (in a pre-emptive move to deny Tsvangirai victory) or after a Tsvangirai win,” the ICG said.
“Indeed, this is one reason why priority should be given to a negotiated settlement ahead of a run-off. The mediation must accordingly address the loyalty of the security services as a priority, including the handover of military power in a transitional government arrangement.”
Bulawayo Agenda executive director Gordon Moyo said Mugabe and Zanu PF were now addicted to power and would hold on despite the outcome of the run-off.
“I am very cautious about whether they will let it go and hand over power,” Moyo said. “They will not allow the process of democracy to go through . . . there is a team of people at the top that has benefited from the system and cannot give up.”
The coup theory gathered momentum in Zimbabwe after it was reported that the army was running the government soon after the March 29 elections, but the government dismissed it.
Information and Publicity minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said the army would not fight against Zimbabweans because it was established to protect them”.
“I believe everyone in the country is aware that there is no military junta. The soldiers are in the barracks where they belong because the country does not fully require their services in such a peaceful environment,” Ndlovu said.
By Constantine Chimakure