Zimbabwe’s next elections are set for 2018 and all signs are that the elections will be marred by the usual subtle vote rigging plus the wanton violence. It is sad here is that they could easily have been the country’s first ever free, fair and credible elections.
In the 2008 presidential run-off elections President Mugabe did not pull any punches but let everything fly in his now infamous Operation “Mavhotera papi!” (Whom did you vote for!) The people were subjected to the worst election barbarism as Zanu PF party thugs teamed up with the Army, CIO, Police and war veterans to harass, beat, rape and even murder innocent people to force them to vote for Mugabe. Over 500 innocent people were murdered in the three months leading to the July 2008 vote.
The nation was spared the wanton violence in the July 2013 national elections but only because Zanu PF had a fool-proof and well-funded vote rigging scheme in place. The party deployed security services personal, especially in the rural areas, but not the war veterans, the foot soldiers. The Police continue to harass the opposition by denying them the clearance to hold their rallies and there were a few cases of beatings and rape but no reported deaths. The party was cocksure of its vote rigging scheme delivering victory and it did.
The low-level violence in 2013 was just to remind everyone the party was still capable of stepping up the violence if necessary. Not even one democratic reform has been implemented which means Zanu PF still has total control of Police, Army, ZEC, Public Media and all the other state institution and therefore is free to plan and implement yet another vote rigging scheme. The party continues to enjoy unfettered access to national resources such as Marange and Chiadzwa diamonds it has already amassed a rich war-chest of cash to bankroll its vote rigging schemes. And yet, Zanu PF cannot be certain of electoral victory in 2018 and for good reasons!
In 2014 Zanu PF was slit right down the middle with the firing of the VP Joice Mujuru and many of her senior supporter at provincial chairperson right up to cabinet member level. The fissure did not spread into the security sector, civil service, war veterans, right down to the village level. This was a blessing in that the ensuing animosity would have been hard to contain. It has been a curse too in that there are clearly many Zanu PF card carrying member whose loyalty to the party cannot be trusted.
Joice Mujuru has since formed her own party and will be contesting in the coming elections. The risk of her knowing the details of Zanu PF’s vote rigging schemes is real and so Mugabe will not have as free a hand in rigging this election as he would have wanted.
When President Mugabe rigged the 2013 national elections he was sure that he would go on to rig the economic recovery with his $27 billions ZimAsset plan. He must have been really shocked when he failed to get anyone to bankroll his plan, not even his “all-weather” Chinese friends would give him anything beyond the conditional $ 4 billion cheque. The loan would be activated if he cleared all Zimbabwe’s outstanding loan repayments with China –which he has failed to do.
Zimbabwe has just reintroduced a new local currency, bond note. Mugabe was forced to scrap the Z$ in 2008 when hyperinflation peaked at 500 billion percent at it was impossible to carry out any meaningful economic activity. The bond note is just the Z$ by the back door and it is almost certain inflation will soon retain and with it the economic chaos and hardship of 2008.
Zimbabwe’s economic situation is already unbearable with unemployment at 90%, millions are living in abject poverty, education and health services have all but collapsed, etc. The economic situation is set to get worse not better now that Zanu PF’s ZimAsset plan is dead and egged on by the inflationary pressure on bond notes. By the time of the next elections the economic hardship will have harden the people’s resolve to vote Zanu PF out of office.
So to stay in power Zanu PF in 2018 will have no choice but to resort to the wanton violence of July 2008 – it tried and dependable vote rigging dirty trick. Senior Zanu PF leaders are aware of this need and readily admit on the need to use violence.
“Yes, we can go to war. We can hire our army …. Our soldiers can come in to help us. We will never allow opposition political parties to rule this country. We are going to have President Mugabe as our candidate in 2018 and his predecessors must have war credentials,” Minister Josiah Hungwe told a Zanu PF inter-district meeting in Masvingo.
“Don’t forget what Rugeje did in Masvingo in 2008 … we can call him again in 2018.”
Major General Rugeje was one of the many Army persons and other security personal deployed by Zanu PF to force the electorate to vote for Mugabe in 2018.
There is a by-election in Bikita West, a part of Masvingo Province and the feared Rugeje is there campaigning for the Zanu PF candidate.
“Zanu PF is determined to violate electoral reforms. We will not be intimidated by Rugeje’s presence,” said the Zim PF candidate in the by-election.
It is all very well for the opposition party leaders to down play the real danger to property, limp and life the threat of wanton violence poses; the leaders themselves are very rarely attacked it is the ordinary members and the public at large who face the music, alone. What makes the culture of violence utterly intolerable is that it can be avoided.
If MDC had implemented, during the GNU, the democratic reforms designed to stop Zanu PF abusing the Army and all the other state institutions for its selfish purposes and ensure elections are free, fair and credible then all these threats would be behind us now. The opposition parties could stand firm and refuse to take part in any elections until all the democratic reforms have been implemented. Getting the opposition to stand firm on boycotting elections has proved to be impossible.
Zanu PF has been careful to always throw a few seats at the opposition and it is these that the opposition parties are risking the life and limps of the electorate for! The electorate themselves are so naïve and gullible they never realise that they are just pawns in the political game in much they are the losers no matter what happens.
Yes, Minister Hungwe Zanu PF can use wanton violence to be absolutely sure it wins the next elections but then what? Because if the party cannot rig economic recovery then the electoral victory will be a hollow victory because unless the regime can turn around the economy its hold on power will continue to be tenuous!
Zimbabwe’s present economic situation is socially and politically unsustainable, Zanu PF has been lucky that the country’s opposition parties have not pushed for meaningful change so far because they are corrupt and incompetent. But as the situation gets worse the people themselves will soon be pushing for change. Change is coming whether Zanu PF wants it or not it is coming. Woo to those like Rugeje whose hands will be red with shed innocent blood!