FOR a long time, outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC leader Welshman Ncube and to some extent outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, were adamant they would not participate in elections without reforms.
And for a long time, the MDC formations succeeded in stopping President-elect Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF from stampeding the country into elections without reforms until the Constitutional Court intervened.
Zanu PF wanted elections as early as in 2011 and tried to use every trick in the book, including falsely claiming that the inclusive government’s tenure was expiring in 2011, but the MDCs took advantage of support from Sadc leaders, particularly the regional bloc’s appointed facilitator South African President Jacob Zuma and chairperson of the Sadc troika on politics, defence and security Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, to block the move.
While the MDC formations had a good start, stating from the onset that they would only participate in polls after the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), forcing Sadc to drag Mugabe and his party onto the negotiating table to craft an election roadmap, the parties somehow lost the plot along the way, allowing Zanu PF to finally get its way, albeit through the backdoor via the Constitutional Court.
To begin with, the MDC formations lost it when they focused on trivial issues, while Zanu PF regrouped and revamped its moribund structures, including its rigging machinery, to ensure it wins the polls when they were eventually held.
Air Vice Marshal Henry Muchena and former Central Intelligence Organisation director-internal, Sydney Nyanhongo were deployed to work full time for the Zanu PF commissariat department.
By contrast, the MDC formations expended a lot of energy fighting each other. First was the bruising battle between Ncube and Mutambara for the leadership of the smaller MDC formation.
Despite losing the presidency at the party’s congress in 2011, Mutambara clung onto the position with the apparent support of Mugabe and Tsvangirai, resulting in relations between the leaders of the MDC formations plummeting to an all-time low.
By choosing to side with Mugabe and Mutambara, probably as a means to settle personal vendattas, Tsvangirai lacked strategic thinking as Ncube would have been more useful to him in dealing with Mugabe, who had no intention of fully implementing the GPA.
The MDCs also spent a lot of time quarrelling with Zanu PF over petty issues ahead of crucial elections.
A lot of time was spent squabbling over the appointments of provincial governors, the appointments of Gideon Gono as Reserve Bank governor and Attorney-General Johannes Tomana, who are of little consequence as far as the electoral process was concerned.
The MDCs also got caught up in the trappings of power, concentrating on self-aggrandisement as some of the leaders began conducting shady deals with Zanu PF while ensuring they acquire top-of-the-range vehicles as well as big houses and stands in leafy suburbs.
Meanwhile, Mugabe was plotting and he wormed his way through to gain the trust of Tsvangirai and made him believe he was a changed man, who would honour the GPA, and not call for elections without consulting him.
On many occasions, Tsvangirai defended Mugabe in public, and was rewarded with being made spokesperson for the principals and “in charge” of the election process.
In that capacity, Tsvangirai defended the appointment of Justice Rita Makarau as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson before shocking his party members by publicly defending the Zec secretariat, which is full of state security agents responsible for holding onto the results of the 2008 first round of the presidential election before conducting a sham presidential run-off that was condemned worldwide.
Added to this, Tsvangirai’s personal indiscretions, particularly his multiple relationships with a harem of women, only served as fodder for Zanu PF to exploit.
Credit should however be given to the MDCs for fighting hard for security sector reforms, given the crucial roll Zimbabwe’s securocrats have played in past elections.
More effort should however been put on the role of Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede, who supervises registration of voters with Zec.
In the run-up to the elections, voter registration became a standing agenda item at cabinet level, after thousands of people failed to register and despite several directives being issued to smoothen the process, thousands of people still failed to register.
The large number of people who failed to register made Mudede and his staff game changers in the election.
In addition, there are strong allegations that the RG’s office doctored the voters’ roll with assistance from an Israeli company Nikuv accused of rigging elections. The MDCs and other parties who participated in the polls were only given hard copies of the shambolic voters’ roll on the eve of the election.
With allegations that there was massive rigging, it has become apparent that the MDCs should have fought tooth and nail to ensure changes at the RG’s office and at Zec.
Crucially though, Tsvangirai and company should have stuck to their guns and refused to contest elections without reforms that ultimately proved to be their downfall.