July 31 robbery, blow to democracy

THERE is general consensus that July 31 election, held in Zimbabwe, was irretrievably manipulated, and that the result cannot be said to be truly reflective of the will of the people.

McDonald Lewanika

The question that a lot of us are failing to answer is: how?

This failure to clearly articulate how is not unique to Zimbabweans alone. Any expectation for them to explain immediately and provide incontrovertible evidence of how the theft occurred, while understandable, is a bit unfair, especially at this early stage.

This is normal in any theft, even petty theft, let alone a heist of the nature that has just occurred in Zimbabwe.

Robberies take place and people invest in deep and detailed process that includes all manner of things, from hunches to collection of physical, gathering witnesses and forensic evidence.

Sometimes the hunches are correct, but without physical evidence, or witnesses to corroborate, those who commit the crimes often go scot-free, at least for a while.

If at this stage the people of Zimbabwe were in possession of clear answers a few days after the full announcement of results, it would be possible that they had these facts prior to the election, which would have naturally suggested that they could have stopped it. So bar the elaborate political analysis around this and that, bar the “insightful” exposés on Zanu PF’s amasing organising and organisational strengths and perceptions of MDC’s ignorance, arrogance and poor organisational and organisation skills.

The truth is no one except those that carried out this electoral robbery know exactly what happened and I am certain that they will not be volunteering evidence or delivering a confession any time soon.

Zanu PF has achieved its goal of reclaiming the State, in the process, those who do not really care for the truth or indeed the supremacy of the peoples’ will, will congratulate them.

They have also in the same breath, carried out this crime in such a manner that instead of all faculties being invested in trying to understand how they did it, and try to arrest them or make them account for this daring crime, the opposition movement is busy finding fault with itself and each other, which basically means that they will learn nothing from this encounter and are likely to emerge weaker with a high probability of falling victim to a similar trick in the future.

A lot of us are left to ponder the future under five more years of an unrepentant Zanu PF regime and what this means for our lives, our country and our future.
There are already doomsday scenarios that are being cast around the collapse of the economy and breakdown of the country.

These may well come to pass, but at the moment they are just wishful thinking, based on the hope that nature will create opportunities that man has failed to create for him/herself.

These scenarios are predicated on a notion that Zanu PF has not learnt anything and will revert back to 2007 and behave as if everything that happened in the intervening seven years did not happen.

So in spite of history and what I know to be likely, I want to expect greater care from Zanu PF over the five years they have been given by hook and crook.
But this would represent some form of historical absolution, which is divorced from reality.

The reality is that Zanu PF governs poorly, is corrupt and believes that Zanu PF is the country and the country is Zanu PF.

The vote has lost a significant amount of appeal for many Zimbabweans who believe they had gone to the polls to choose who governs them.

The election rather than prove Zanu PF’s supremacy and popularity, has just proved to most Zimbabweans that voting counts for nothing.

Back home, it has proved what Webster Shamu repeated in the run-up to the election that you cannot take through the pen what Zanu PF won through the barrel of the gun.
And therein lies our deepest tragedy.
While Zanu PF has made a giant leap forward in terms of the capture and retention of the State, they have done so through closing out any legitimate, peaceful and democratic way of making them account as a political authority.

They have closed out the one avenue that would have guaranteed a peaceful way in which accountability at the State level can take place. I am certain that this is done in the false belief that Zimbabweans are a risk averse people and will not do anything dramatic or illegal.

It forces people seeking change in Zimbabwe to begin to think outside the electoral box, because it is clear that it won’t deliver.

It is true that Zimbabwe is not Egypt and that it is unlikely that Egypt-style protests will erupt in the aftermath of this electoral theft.

But it is also true that when the people of Egypt found the electoral route to regime change closed, they found alternatives on the street.

Let us not forget that the last election Hosni Mubarak held in 2005, he emerged with a majority and electoral mandate (88,5%) more crashing than Mugabe’s 61%. Up until February of 2011 (an election year according to the electoral calendar), the Egyptians had not been known for their uprisings.

Mubarak had ruled for 30 years. In neighbouring Tunisia, which set off the Arab Spring, they had been under Ben Ali’s rule for 23 years.

So the reality of the matter is that the analysis that is true today may not hold true tomorrow.

Besides it is not political crisis through theft of elections that sets people against the rulers.

It is social and economic degradation, poor living standards, high unemployment, failure to put food on the table and a blurred future that does that.

Zanu PF with its newly-found two-thirds majority in Parliament and exclusive province over the Executive would be advised to steer away from the conditions mentioned above, lest they want to find themselves shocked by a population that knows it can’t vote them out, but has to get rid of them somehow and at any cost.

In the final analysis, it is clear, at least to me, that a people who have set themselves up as a peaceful movement bent on peaceful and constitutional ways of engaging with what has already been qualified as dictatorship, are at this point in time having their faith shaken.

One hopes that they continue to believe. I know I will, because of a simplistic belief that you do not fight a monster by becoming another monster; that evil is fought with good; silver bullets, holy water and a silver cross kill vampires not other blood-sucking creatures. It is simplistic, but it is my belief and what guides me in my struggle.

My fear is that while my faith has been shaken but remains there in terms of the above, I don’t think that many of my fellow citizens are that resolved, and I do not have the tools beyond a moral argument, nor the energy to convince them that this is the right path.

So let Zanu PF celebrate the giant step that they have made, and the push-back on democratisation and democratic forces that they have achieved, but let them be warned that if they do not use their stolen mandate wisely, it may be the simplest things, something less sophisticated than politics that will put them on their deathbed.
 Lewanika can be contacted at mlewanika@gmail.com

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