CANDID DATE: The die has been cast

SO the contentious date for Zimbabwe’s landmark elections has been proclaimed by presidential decree!

Candid Date with Masola Wa Dabu Dabu

Once again President Robert Mugabe has applied those overused presidential powers to proclaim July 31 as the date for the next general elections. The alacrity with which he announced the date is naturally worrying if not suspicious. An analysis of the chaotic situation on the ground confirms that it is only

Zanu PF which is happy to declare that everything is normal. There are several theories that may help explain his hurried decision in declaring a date that is so close.

The first reason could be an uninformed quest to show the concerned political parties and Sadc that he is in charge. This theory, dangerous as its implications are, is easy to support. Mugabe has been frustrated by the disempowering interventions or interferences by Sadc at every half-turn.

Mugabe thrives best in situations where he feels his absolute power and unadulterated influence. As a so-called senior statesman, Mugabe feels that Sadc has no business interfering in Zimbabwe’s internal issues. Mugabe would rather be giving advice to Sadc than receiving it. He is not one to be chided by political novices.

In Mugabe’s mind, a senior statesman like him cannot be humiliated in kangaroo courts convened by very junior presidents, the proverbial Johnny-come-lately (omafikizolo). He deems it un-African for the head of the family to be hauled to some hastily constituted court by his juniors. This is how senility and arrogance have combined to make Mugabe so evasive in terms of meeting up with the other Global Political Agreement principals and with Sadc to map out electoral reforms. In other words, Mugabe’s personal pride overrides other considerations!

The other reason for Mugabe’s unilateral declaration could be due to his fear of the unknown. With the immediate future so difficult to foretell, Mugabe may have very little time on his hands to be pondering on a date and to be pandering to what he sees as the immaturity of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, Lindiwe Zulu and company.

The health of an old man is one that cannot be reliably predicted over a long period. At 89, whether he likes it or not, Mugabe is no longer able to guarantee schedules that are more than a month ahead. He is now operating on an ad hoc basis.

If he was a football player, he would be on PAYG (play as you go) and would be getting paid on a game-by-game basis. Mugabe knows that with time, no amount of steroids and hormonal supplements will give him back the zest and stamina required by the gruelling schedules ahead. He is proverbially cutting the hay while the sun is still shining by rushing the elections.

Historically, leaders of Mugabe’s mentality and calibre come and when they go, everything goes with them. Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko went and the USSR varnished from the map. Mugabe’s sixth sense may be constantly reminding him of the grim possibilities. A quick election may save Zanu PF from the effects of an unhealthy and potentially disastrous implosion. Whether we view the snippets from Baba Jukwa as mischief from some agent provocateur or we give them some credit, Zanu PF as a political party has got to a stage where an implosion is inevitable.

The main reason Zanu PF is being sounded for possible implosion is its lack of a clear succession strategy. Everyone in Zanu PF is afraid to declare their ambition to lead the party after Mugabe. One wonders what fear Mugabe sends down the spines of those men and women in Zanu PF for them to fear expressing their ambitions. This is a recipe for an implosion of catastrophic proportions. Mugabe’s physical and mental capabilities are waning. Sadly, the party is ill-prepared for the day or night the inevitable will happen.

Mugabe may be working hard for a soft landing for his successor. No-one within Zanu PF is readily available to assert his or her authority over others after Mugabe. Those with a distant hint of succeeding Mugabe have the perennial ailment that has dogged Zanu PF. They are all sectarian leaders whose power base is at best provincial if not clan-based. One can only imagine how many clans would be at each other’s throat as Zanu PF tries to find a successor to Mugabe. Kaboom!

After Mugabe, the Karanga will be breathing fire wanting a piece of the action. The Manyika will cite the diamonds from Chiadzwa as justification for their claim. Poor Simon Khaya Moyo — he will claim that now its Matabeleland’s time! The Zezuru will definitely stake a historic claim to the throne. Mugabe would want to avoid this at all cost.

In order to prevent the implosion, Mugabe has had to call for a quick election where he will use everything available to him to mistreat the opposition the same way he did in 2008. He does not need any reforms in any sector to do his usual. If he can surprise the opposition and concoct a victory from nothing then he can put succession structures for his party soon after.

The easiest way for him to install a successor is by offering the person an already secured presidential role. This will make sure the successor has enough courage as State President to effectively deal with any infighting.

By unilaterally calling for the elections before anything is in place, Mugabe has inadvertently exposed his selfishness, his ability to plot against the opposition and his uneasiness about the future of his party and his legacy. With cash from diamond sales in his control, Mugabe can salvage his lost pride by buying storm-troopers to work towards a clean sweep of the polls.

Masola wa Dabudabu is a social commentator

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