Given the people’s horrendous experiences during previous election periods, it stands to reason that people would not want a repeat of the past. Elections in Zimbabwe are now synonymous with political instability and characterised by harassment, intimidation, violence and murder. This is what polls in this country since 1980 have been about. Brutality and killings underlay elections from 1980 up to 2008.
For that reason, if no other, people are always anxious about the coming on of elections. That is precisely why well-meaning and fair-minded Zimbabweans would tell you that they don’t want a repeat of 2008, or for those old enough; 1985 or 1990.
There is a clique straddling Zanu PF structures and state security institutions which is desperately working day and night to railroad the country into early elections without necessary conditions for free and fair polls.
Myths have now been created to justify this mad rush towards elections which cannot be different from the previous ones given that conditions have remained the same. The outcome would also inevitably be disputed and therefore the current political stalemate would remain. The situation could possibly get worse.
That is why all those with the national interest at heart and want to see this country progress are saying we need institutional and electoral reforms before elections. This is specifically the reason why after June 2008, Zanu PF and the two MDC formations entered into the Global Political Agreement (GPA). The agreement was designed to give the country a reprieve after the June 2008 bloodbath and create an environment for credible elections.
However, Zanu PF, which entered the GPA and signed it willingly, now wants to wriggle out of an agreement which saved this country from possible mayhem. They are using all sorts of pretexts to stampede the nation towards elections. To justify its position, Zanu PF, which actually ruined the country and reduced people to paupers, now claims without any sense of irony the inclusive government is dysfunctional –– a wholly self-serving assertion.
Myths are then created to support and sustain this travesty. The first one is that the unity government is completely paralysed and can no longer function. Thus they infer that if we have Zanu PF in power, alone after elections, things would be better.
The second one is that elections must be held quickly so that this paralysis can be resolved by President Robert Mugabe and his cronies. The other one is that Mugabe is not supposed to consult anyone before calling for elections.
Needless to say all these weird claims have no basis in reality. The inclusive government may have problems but its function as a transitional arrangement is mainly to create conditions for free and fair elections and it is capable of doing that if the GPA is implemented or if Zanu PF fulfills its side of the bargain.
The insinuation that Mugabe and Zanu PF would do better than the current coalition government is simply unfounded given the scope and scale of their failure before 2009. And of course, the contention that Mugabe can call for unilateral elections without pulling out of the GPA, which he said last week he does not intend to do, is baseless. If Zanu PF wants unilateral elections it must first withdraw from the GPA.
But the reasons why all this premeditated confusion and uncertainty are contrived are clear. The Zanu PF clique behind all this knows only too well that there is no way Mugabe and his party would win credible elections conducted in a peaceful environment. It is evidently clear the group calling for early polls without reforms is the same coterie which ran a bloody presidential election run-off in June 2008 and ultimately staged a smash-and-grab to put Mugabe back in power without a legitimate mandate.
This group is currently rehashing the same sinister plot to cause chaos and suffering to ensure Mugabe and Zanu PF avoid defeat in the next elections. During the March 2008 and the subsequent bloody presidential poll run-off, the majority of Zanu PF MPs had literally abandoned Mugabe (and he remains very bitter about that) after realising he had become a hard sell to the electorate.
Although the full story of what actually happened between March and June 2008 is yet to be fully told, it is fairly clear Mugabe was about to give up but was managed and psyched up to fight back by the securocrats that surround him. Most of these elements in the securocracy felt that if Mugabe were to throw in the towel, they would be left exposed and held to account for gross human rights abuses, including Gukurahundi, and looting state coffers. This group has accumulated wealth which it cannot legitimately account for and will fight to the bitter end, particularly now that there is the exclusive Marange diamonds feeding trough.
It is important to always remember some of the current state security service chiefs were directly involved in the Gukurahundi massacres, Murambatsvina and the 2008 killings, hence their determination to hang onto power at all costs.
The same clique calling for elections without reforms is the one that literally imposed Mugabe as the president in June 2008 to protect its own interests, while it regrouped and reorganised during the GPA intervening period.
However, Zanu PF has not yet fully recovered from the shock 2008 defeat and resultant paralysis. So in reality Mugabe and Zanu PF are not ready for elections. Apart from trying to scare away opponents, Mugabe’s body language and speeches show he is not ready for polls. He is only putting on a brave face to sustain the false claim that other parties are opposed to elections.
Realising that Mugabe is now old and frail, the group behind early elections is looking beyond him and hopes that if he wins, he would not finish his term and it would then replace him with a leader of its choice. It’s a succession issue. Indigenisation, like land reform, is the rallying call for this group.
From nowhere, this group has emerged from the woods armed with a scandalous argument that reforms must come or always come after elections, not the other way round. But this argument, even given an intellectual veneer, is unfounded and tenuous.
The GPA was created to introduce reforms, mainly electoral ones, so as to create an environment for credible elections. So all serious and well-meaning Zimbabweans, supported by Sadc and AU the guarantors of the GPA, must insist on reforms before elections.
Never again should the people of this nation, who have suffered all sorts of horrific abuses under Mugabe’s disastrous rule, allow evil to triumph over good.
Moyo is the National Organising Secretary of the MDC led by Professor Welshman Ncube. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org