November 8, 2013 Shingirai Huni Opinion & Analysis
COMMENT - Former South African President Thabo Mbeki: He said: “I get very, very agitated about Zimbabwe, because it’s very, very clear that the offensive against Zimbabwe is an offensive against the rest of the continent . . . Of course that offensive is not in the first instance about Zimbabwe, it’s about the future of our continent. So the Zimbabweans have been in the frontline in terms of defending our right as Africans to determine our future, and they are paying a price for that. I think it is our responsibility as African intellectuals to join them, the Zimbabweans, to say No!” - MrK
THREE months after Zimbabwe’s July 31 2013 general elections, Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T party have still not come round to officially accept defeat, even though he has officially formed and announced a shadow cabinet to “shadow” the Zanu-PF cabinet announced by President Robert Mugabe on August 30.
In mathematics, that amounts to an official acceptance of defeat, doesn’t it? But don’t tell Tsvangirai, he and his party top brass might not have done mathematics at school.
In those days we called it arithmetic, and though MDC-T is a party of lawyers, and in fact it is full of some of the sharpest lawyers in Zimbabwe, they don’t always know the right court to go to seek relief for their electoral grievances.
Can you believe it? Some of the sharpest lawyers in Zimbabwe do not know the right court to go for seeking which relief? And you are talking about mathematics?
It will be way above their heads! But never mind, let’s get on with the job in hand.
For those readers in the four corners of the world who were not in Zimbabwe to see how the 2013 elections unfolded, let me say this: I arrived in Zimbabwe in mid-April 2013 and stayed all the way up to the July 31 elections — and I am writing this piece from Harare almost three months after the elections.
So I can say, with some authority, that I saw the three-month pre-election period, I saw Election Day itself, and I saw (and continue to see) the post-election period.
And I shake my bald head with disbelief, sincerely, when Tsvangirai and his MDC-T party behave as if they were the only strangers in Jerusalem, pretending not to have seen the huge writing on the wall, of the defeat that faced them at the elections.
But they saw it, and knew it was coming! That is why they didn’t want the elections on July 31. Remember, no one runs away from an election they know they will win.
When they failed to stop the elections from being held on July 31, a date which had first been ordered by the Constitutional Court and then only confirmed by President Mugabe in obedience to the Court order, they moved to their Plan B, even though minutes of that Plan B had leaked to the press and been published five weeks previously.
And the Plan B was simple:
(a) Discredit the elections even before they are held.
(b) Contest the elections — if we win fine; if we don’t win, insist that the results have been rigged and therefore the elections are not free, fair and credible.
(c) Get Western countries (the MDC-T’s traditional allies) not to lift the economic sanctions that Prof Arthur Mutambara, the ex-leader of the smaller MDC splinter party, said in 2009 were imposed to help him and Tsvangirai to win power.
This is why, despite the best efforts and reports of all the most credible election observer teams which observed and monitored the elections (African, local, and global), who say categorically that the elections were free, fair and credible, Tsvangirai and his MDC-T, backed by their Western allies (Britain, USA, Canada, Australia and the EU) still say the elections were not free, fair and credible.
But there is something here we must all know. On August 23 2013, the ex-South African President Thabo Mbeki put the position taken by the MDC-T’s Western allies in context, profoundly, in a lecture he gave at the University of South Africa (Unisa).
He said: “I get very, very agitated about Zimbabwe, because it’s very, very clear that the offensive against Zimbabwe is an offensive against the rest of the continent . . . Of course that offensive is not in the first instance about Zimbabwe, it’s about the future of our continent. So the Zimbabweans have been in the frontline in terms of defending our right as Africans to determine our future, and they are paying a price for that. I think it is our responsibility as African intellectuals to join them, the Zimbabweans, to say No!”
Are you listening Africa?
Coming from Mbeki, we must take it seriously.
This is why I also get worried when all of a sudden Tsvangirai and MDC-T try to create an artificial political crisis around the election.
Yet until the election date was announced in June, Tsvangirai appeared to have no problem with President Mugabe or anything else.
In fact, from his body language, he now saw Mugabe as a father figure, a superior politician and leader to himself.
This was so evident on May 22 2013 when Mugabe signed Zimbabwe’s new Constitution into law at a ceremony at State House. Tsvangirai was in his element that day, cracking jokes and laughing heartily with the President.
He even went as far as asking Mugabe to give him the pen he used to sign the Constitution to keep as a souvenir.
And the president obliged.
It was that day that Tsvangirai did the unthinkable, the Zanu-PF clenched-fist salute and “Pamberi” slogan, and then said in his speech afterwards: “I am humbled by this occasion. We want to congratulate the President for performing this historic and significant event. When you signed the Lancaster Constitution [in 1979], you said you signed it with a heavy heart. I hope in signing this Constitution, you will go down [in history] a very satisfied man.”
An equally happy Mugabe responded by turning to Tsvangirai and saying in Shona, to loud applause: “We used to say this demon [pointing to Tsvangirai]. And he also used to say this old man has his many issues. We then exorcised the demons from each other.’’
Tsvangirai loved it and laughed heartily. Looking at Tsvangirai’s body language on that day sitting beside Mugabe, clapping from time to time when Mugabe said something that delighted him, one could easily tell the transformation in the man who was once deemed as Mugabe’s mortal enemy.
Yet all hell broke loose two weeks later when Mugabe confirmed the election date as ordered by the Constitutional Court. Tsvangirai and his MDC-T colleagues, knowing they were going to lose, now resorted to subterfuge.
Their fear had been fuelled by several opinion polls and reports published in 2012 and early 2013 by Western-based pollsters, institutions, and newspapers predicting a big victory for Mugabe and Zanu-PF.
True to the opinion polls, when the election campaign started in earnest, Mugabe consistently pulled between 20 000 and 40 000 enthusiastic supporters to his star rallies in the 10 provincial capitals of the country.
I know because I attended some of the rallies, and the energy that oozed from the crowd surprised even Mugabe himself.
It was genuine enthusiasm for the 89-year-old freedom fighter who fought for land reform for his people and was still fighting to indigenise the ownership of Zimbabwe’s manifold resources for the people.
In contrast, apart from the MDC-T’s manifesto-launching rally at Marondera and its very last star rally in Harare, Tsvangirai struggled throughout the campaign to pull any crowds at all.
And he appeared not to have any serious policies to sell, beyond saying “we see jobs” and “we have rich powerful friends who can help us transform the economy”.
When Mugabe and Zanu-PF were talking about empowering Zimbabweans to take control of their country and economy via their indigenisation and economic empowerment policy, Tsvangirai was talking about “rich and powerful friends” from the West who would come and transform the economy.
It was a mismatch really.
I kept e-mailing friends outside Zimbabwe, telling them that if the crowds that Mugabe was pulling to his rallies could be translated into votes, he and Zanu-PF would beat Tsvangirai and MDC-T out of sight.
And that is exactly what happened.
Nobody needed to rig these elections to beat Tsvangirai.
The voters simply did not buy his message, they had now known him in the five years of the inclusive Government as an emperor without clothes, and they simply turned their backs on him.
As Paul Themba Nyathi, an MP and senior official of the smaller MDC party, who lost his seat in the Gwanda North constituency in Matabeleland, put it tellingly: “There is something that made people to fall in love with Zanu-PF again, and it’s not intimidation. I got a feeling [during the campaign] that Gwanda North was unwinnable. People who used to come to our rallies and support us suddenly could not look me in the eye. They started vacillating.
“We had a free and fair contest, everyone was free to canvass, and the vote was peaceful in Gwanda North. Hand on heart, I think Zanu-PF beat us fair and square.” — New African magazine.