WHILE we all have little faith in messengers in our benighted country, it is sometimes wise to listen to the message and not the messenger. Certainly in the aftermath of the Zanu PF conference, the launch of the National Convergence Platform and the release of Jonathan Moyo’s book — Excelgate: How Zimbabwe’s 2018 presidential election was Stolen published by Sapes Books — citizens need to think more clearly than ever.
This is particularly in light of the events that accompanied the attempt to launch the book. Following recent events at Sapes to shut down open discussion by young hooligans, who unashamedly express their support from the state, the launch had to be abandoned.
Both were meant to deny the freedoms guaranteed by the constitution, adding yet more evidence to the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association. So what is there to fear from the launch of Jonathan Moyo’s book on the 2018 elections?
The first clue comes in the foreword from Ibbo Mandaza, and the issues around legality and illegitimacy. States, like Zimbabwe, since 1999 (and maybe earlier) can be illegitimate because they have lost the trust of the citizens: if the state cannot deliver the kinds of public goods and services that the citizens need, lose the trust of the citizens, and respond through using coercion to remain in power, that state will be illegitimate. This is not a problem that can be easily solved through rhetoric and promise.
Legality is altogether a different problem, and this is where Exelgate is such a threat. It is why there is an attempt to shut down both the message and the messenger.
The big question raised by Excelgate is the second problem, the problem of legality. This, quite simply, is the crux of the book. In a detailed analysis of the ways in which multiple actors collaborated to violate both the constitution and the law, Moyo concludes that the 2018 election was so flawed that the entire election, its results and the Constitutional Court decision needs to be rejected.
This is not the self-serving view of a man forced into exile, but the conclusion of in-depth analysis with access to information not available to anyone previously examining Zimbabwean elections since 2000 (and even before).
The argument in Excelgate is complex and comprehensive, starting actually with the premise that those who undertake coups do not normally allow elections that might remove them from power, with possible accountability for unconstitutional acts. This is dealt with in an analysis of Justice George Chiweshe’s judgment on the coup, and the subsequent litigation brought before the Chief Justice (Luke Malaba), dealt with in chambers (and not in court proper).
The substance of Excelgate, however, while dealing with the long history of rigging (and who does it), as well as the violence after the election (and why it was necessarily planned), is to do with the violation of the procedures that are necessary to accepting an election as valid. This is the core argument: the procedures — legal, constitutional and administrative — were so comprehensively violated that the election can only be seen as null and void.
There can be no winners or losers if the game is so comprehensively defective. Understanding this is critical to where the country goes from here.
Undoubtedly, Excelgate is a very complex argument, not easily summarised, but, in 12 chapters, Moyo traces the history of the 2018 elections from the coup through to the ConCourt judgment, and even the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)’s own report on the elections. Of crucial importance are the chapters on the many issues raised by the MDC Alliance ahead of the court challenge, the issues raised in court itself, and the failure of the court to require rebuttal of the issues raised by the MDC challenge by the President and Zec.
The issues around the existence of the server, the procedures required of the compilation and transmission of the various V forms, and the final construction of the results at the National Command Centre, are argued to demonstrate the election had become “disharmonised”, and this was the extremely serious problem that was never addressed in the election petition.
Moyo is scathing about the MDC Alliance’s inability to understand the problems in Zimbabwean elections. Pointing out that all rigging involves both “anticipatory” and constructive methods — the former aimed at affecting the vote, with coercion violence as well-known methods, while the latter deals with the results — he comments that the MDC Alliance has failed to learn the lessons of previous elections, which is almost irresponsible in light of all the previous elections.
They have relied on evidence of “anticipatory” rigging, but not developed any strategy for dealing with “constructive” rigging. In fairness, he also points out that the game was so comprehensively unfair that the party could did not have a chance. Some, in the aftermath of the November 2017 overthrow of former president Robert Mugabe, might argue that this was inevitable.
If Excelgate is an accurate analysis of what transpired in 2018, and, if it demonstrates that both legitimacy and legality cannot be ascribed to the current government, what can be the way forward? This is not a trivial question when seven million people are at risk of extreme hunger and starvation; when the health service is in chaos and near collapse, and when basic daily living for the vast majority has become arduous, to put it mildly. The solution may lie in the hands of the ordinary people, and here the churches have posed a way forward.
The suggestion for a Sabbath might not have struck many as sensible initially, but, in the aftermath of the launch of the National Convergence Platform last Friday, there are the glimmerings of another way. Excelgate, too, poses the question of the need for citizens to take charge of their own fate, as required by the constitution, as well as the need for an international commission to examine the 2018 elections.
This has been a tumultuous two weeks. First, the launch of the National Convergence Platform and the need for national dialogue, based on the initial Sabbath observation that the political parties have failed the people.
Secondly, the launch of Excelgate, with the not-to-be-dismissed argument that the Zimbabwe lives in a state of illegitimacy and illegality. Thirdly, the re-appearance of the (unasked for) mediator in our previous troubles, Thabo Mbeki: this is the mediator that denies and covers up evidence of serious gross human rights violations — the “anticipatory rigging” — and publicly believes that elite pacts and governments of national unity are a panacea for all state ills.
This Christmas break will therefore be a time for very serious reflection for the citizens. Of critical importance will be the need to not shoot messengers, whether they are those that want a Sabbath or a National Convergence Platform, or those that demonstrate that the state has neither legality or legitimacy.
Tony Reeler is a Co-Convenor of the Platform for Concerned Citizens.