One has to give it to the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, for he has a way of throwing a cat among pigeons.
Opinion by Tabani Moyo
His bluff call for elections by the dissolution of parliament next month has led to his opponents roving all over the political map in attempts to checkmate the early holding of the polls.
So immense are the implications of this bluff to the extent that the investment and business environment is now characterised by anxiety and uncertainty as the veteran leader continues politcking about elections dates.
Despite concerted efforts by Mugabe and Zanu PF to claim they are ready for elections around June 29, he in fact does not want to go for the polls by that much-hyped date.
In unpacking the circumstances that show how Mugabe is not prepared to proclaim June 29 as the date for the next general elections, I shall expand on the following points:
Elections will be held after the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly scheduled for August this year.
The holding of primary elections and its domino effects.
Sadc and its quest for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.
Since 2000, Mugabe and his Zanu PF party have been fighting to undo the albatross of legitimacy around their necks regarding the outcome of disputed election results, human rights violations, endemic corruption and the authorship of the man-made crisis in Zimbabwe.
The legitimacy crisis has been mitigated by the sharing of political power through the Global Political Agreement signed in September 2008. For the first time since 2000, the feuding parties in Zimbabwe were in agreement that the head of state in Zimbabwe is Mugabe.
This acknowledgement comes with the full knowledge the president would not squander more years battling with a legitimacy crisis given the fact that he no longer has the energy, good health or endurance to absorb international pressure being exerted on him.
Having noted the foregoing, one has to appreciate that the impending UNWTO conference marks an intersection of orbits between Mugabe’s quest to show the entire world that he is the legitimate president of the country and the need for the UN to hold its conference in a peaceful environment, a feat to be shared by his political contestants, the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) and the general populace.
It would therefore be foolhardy for anyone to waste such a prime opportunity to be the “president of the world”, so to speak, by going for the gamble in which one is not sure whether he will emerge as president or general citizen.
We must equally understand that the president no longer has the amount of time that those still younger have to undo his mistakes. Hence, for the head of state, it’s a high-stakes game where political decisions he makes will define his legacy.
It’s a life time opportunity for Mugabe that has knocked on his door at the sunset of his political career.
Above all, since the conference is a tourism sector-related activity, it is sensitive to processes like elections. Given a choice, which he has, Mugabe would not trade the conference for elections that can retire him “untimely”.
Suffice to say if elections are held before the tourism indaba and disputes arise, there is risk that the UN will move the conference to another country.
On the other hand, Zanu PF is in flames as party stalwarts continue fighting to succeed the 89-year-old leader. The party is struggling put out the raging fires in some provinces with the party’s commissariat, administration and office of the chairperson hoping from one region to the other in desperate attempts to seal the widening factional divisions.
When you have a party whose intestines are increasingly being corroded ahead of make-or-break elections, there is a big chance unity of purpose will be lost and the biggest causalty would be its head. What seems to be cell or ward, district or provincial attritions will have ripple effects that will rest on the leader’s doorstep.
It has never been this brazen, to read of factionalism openly unfolding at politburo level in the presence of Mugabe himself — times are truly changing and for the worst. The president knows better that when you are in such a dog-eat-dog situation you don’t expose yourself to gruesome competition. If he stands to live his bluff, then the end is nigh.
I have no doubt Mugabe understands these dynamics, hence for him to buy time he will continue calling the polls bluff so that the other parties are caught up in the chaos of thinking that the election season is now with us. That is why the other parties are also struggling to hold their own primary elections. Forget about the legal interpretations of how impossible it is to hold elections by June, Mugabe is taking his party on a garden stroll he himself will not take.
If he is clear that his party is ready for elections, why dare all and sundry that he intends to proclaim the date for the polls? It’s only logical that those who are ready for it would move tactfully and rope in key individuals in the process and proclaim the date. But Mugabe is aware that by the succession politics now playing out in the public domain will likely repeat the 2008 bhora musango (sabotage).
It makes sense to note that he will not call for elections next month because he would not be done with extinguishing the inferno in his backyard.
The situation is made worse by the fact that the region is becoming hostile to MDC parties. They love to be crybabies and forget Sadc leaders also have the burden of running their own countries. In the process, Zimbabwe is portrayed as a country on auto-pilot.
However, after everything has been said and done, the region will remain the guarantor of the government of national unity in Zimbabwe, therefore will play a significant role in local processes like elections. The region will not accept June 29 as an election date. Period!
We, as Zimbabweans, are not interested in dates of events, but in the transformation that national processes should usher in. It is therefore critical that we depart from the mindset of doing things for the sake of doing it to fulfill fixtures without paying attention to the realities on the ground.
If it is a strategy of intimidating opponents — it is not working. It has only succeeded in creating confusion in commerce and industry. Business has literally been grounded and investment is being scared away. This has a lasting negative effect on our livelihoods.
There is a political answer to the holding of the next general elections and our leadership must show clarity of thought to mitigate both the known and the unknown consequences of their actions. The next elections must be held in an environment that enables the country to start rebuilding and moving forward.
Moyo can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org