The Southern African Development Community (SADC) thought it was too early, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, agreed, but Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF were not prepared to postpone the elections, not even by a few minutes.
In less than 24 hours after the last vote was cast, Tsvangirai announced at a media briefing that the elections were a fraudulent sham and farce and were, therefore, null and void. According to Tsvangirai, Mugabe and Zanu-PF rigged the elections. Predictably, the US and the UK sided with the MDC and the African Union (AU) and the SADC were not unambiguous in their endorsement of the elections.
Since every cause, including the pro- democracy variant, has its tyrants, all I will say is that Tsvangirai and the MDC, through their ineptitude, aided and abetted the rigging. The alternative is to argue that what happened in this election cannot be reduced to allegations of rigging and risk being lynched, hopefully only in figurative terms, by those who have cast themselves in the role of democrats.
In my attempt to placate the democrats, I will not say that, in their intolerance for views that do not coincide with theirs, they and supporters of Zanu-PF are two sides of the same tyrannical coin. Since I am not prepared to say such an unsavoury thing, I should instead try to make sense of what happened in these elections.
To understand what happened, we need to analyse the 2013 elections in terms of the period between the 2000 Constitutional referendum and the period leading up to last month’s elections.
In 2008, Zanu-PF undermined the MDC and forgot the lessons of the 2000 Constitu- tional referendum. It is after Zanu-PF was beaten by opposition or pro-democracy forces in the referendum that the crisis of the past 13 years started peaking. The outcome of the referendum was an indication of the extent to which a social distance had developed between Zanu-PF and the people of Zimbabwe. The land invasions by ‘war veterans’ and the 2002 elections were an opportunity for the ruling party to reconnect with its rural base, given the fact that urban support had started drifting towards the MDC.
The undemocratic means by which Zanu-PF reconnected with its support base was the main cause of the political and economic crisis, especially during the period between the 2002 and 2008 elections. But it is the outcome of the 2008 elections which should help in attempts to understand the outcome of the 2013 elections.
After the 2008 elections, I co-authored an article which appeared in a special Centre for Policy Studies publication on Zimbabwe. The article highlighted the following:
• Since the MDC had succeeded in penetrating the rural stronghold of Zanu-PF and had managed to hold onto its urban support base, the first order of business for Zanu-PF was to re-establish the link with its rural supporters.
• Zanu-PF would adopt a campaign to demobilise the MDC at ground level.
But a third strategy was still to unfold and this pertains to the fact that Mugabe and Zanu-PF used the Global Political Agreement as a spider’s web in which it ensnared the leaders of the MDC, thus alienating them from MDC processes and structures, on whose functionality mounting an effective challenge to Mugabe depended. By the time of the July elections, Mugabe and Zanu-PF had regrouped sufficiently to hold the polls under conditions of their own choosing and advantage. Put differently, the MDC fell victim to an old guerrilla tactic – since you cannot win during a process of negotiation what you could not win in battle, negotiation must be treated as a period for regrouping.
In this, Zanu-PF was assisted by an inept and unstrategic Tsvangirai. The reason the MDC did not boycott the election is simple. Tsvangirai and the MDC rely too much on external opinion and they forget that Zanu-PF and Mugabe are imper- vious to external opinion. They should ask Lindiwe Zulu, President Jacob Zuma and the SADC.
In the end, no amount of pious indignation by external forces can be a substitute for what Zimbabweans, with the help of the world, must do themselves. For now, what lies ahead is absolute power for Zanu-PF and Mugabe. The possibility is that the MDC will split again and Tsvangirai will not be an MDC Presidential candidate in the next elections. If effective realignment of opposition forces does not happen, Zanu-PF will go through an internal realignment process, implement a succession plan and rule for much longer than the MDC and many former Rhodesians desire. As for the AU and the SADC, they need a heavy dose of political Viagra.