PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe now seems to be pushing for elections next year. He is in a hurry for the polls to secure another term before his health further falters.
If Mugabe waits until 2013 he would be 89 years old and even his sycophantic loyalists would be unconvinced that he could pull it off at that age. There is no precedent in the democratic world where a candidate has gone to elections at 89 years old!
If Mugabe goes for elections in 2013, as most people in Zanu PF and the two MDC parties want, this means he would end his five-year term in 2018 at the age of 94 and cumulatively after 38 years in power!
Obviously, Mugabe’s advisors, if he has any, can see all this. So it is better for him to force elections next year when the body still permits, not when the spirit is willing but the body weak as would be the case in 2013.
So it is clear that his agitation for elections is entirely a personal agenda as was the case in 2008. In 2008 Mugabe faced an election alone as MPs still had two more years to go, but he dragooned everybody (after his attempt to secure two more years in power through the backdoor was blocked at the Zanu PF Goromonzi conference) into elections and, as we now know, it was a disaster for him and Zanu PF. Elections motivated by personal interests and narrow agendas can easily backfire.
Mugabe is again forcing the nation into elections motivated by his personal interests, which include his well-known but less-talked-about agenda to be life president.
Mugabe’s strategy for these elections is to use the army, police, intelligence and war veterans, alongside churches, musicians and artists, particularly gullible youths failing to make it in the market, and all instruments of coercion to mobilise votes. The public media is the theatre for his propaganda campaign.
There is no doubt anymore that Mugabe wants to die in office for many reasons, but particularly to avoid being held to account for his excesses while in office. Whatever his loyalists and lackeys say, Mugabe’s rule by any measure was a failure.
It was characterised by gross human rights abuses, intolerance, harassment, political arrests and detentions, disappearances and even killings of fellow citizens for merely holding different views and belonging to different parties from his. Mugabe’s rule has also been dogged by impunity, corruption, nepotism and economic ruin. In short, misrule and mismanagement were the hallmarks of his rule.
Granted, Mugabe was part and parcel of the liberation struggle but after that he hounded, arrested and tortured his comrades, including Joshua Nkomo, a pioneer of the struggle. Most of the genuine veterans of the struggle were left to die or languish in poverty. Cronies and opportunists are the ones benefitting from his reign. Mugabe’s education policies and other interventions helped to empower the population, but on balance they pale into insignificance compared with his failures.
That’s why Mugabe would rather die in office.
He wants the elections soonest to guarantee his future. Palpable insecurity and fear of the future are his main worries. So he needs elections — which he calculates to win by hook or by crook — to ensure personal security and whatever remains of his tattered legacy.
To do this he has to extricate himself from the GPA which has restricted his powers and contained him, while making his future uncertain.
That is why Mugabe is not interested in electoral reforms and laying down a roadmap towards free and fair elections. He wants elections on a terrain he understands better; where violence and intimidation would be the main determinants.
While his partners in the inclusive government and Sadc are pushing for the implementation of the GPA, Mugabe is busy getting his political ducks in a row and campaigning. It may not be too obvious that Mugabe is already beating the campaign path, but he is all over the show talking about indigenisation and sanctions. Behind-the-scenes, he is massively mobilising for the “do or die” poll. And for many, sadly, it will be the latter rather than the former.