The 2000 parliamentary and municipal elections were marred by widespread violence, intimidation and allegations of vote rigging. The controversy surrounding the conditions and conduct of the elections put a big smudge on the outcome of the poll. There was a strong feeling that Mugabe could have steered the process in a much better direction.
A rogue politician
The presidential election in 2002, and the subsequent parliamentary and municipal polls in 2005, were dogged by the same dispute. But it was the June 2008 presidential re-run that enhanced his image as a rogue politician. It would be extremely difficult to convince people that he was powerless to stop the murders, maiming and displacement of innocent civilians that took place then.
He was eerily silent when the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission withheld the results of the first round of the presidential poll held in March of the same year.
The conclusion that many local, regional and international observers made was that the commission, perceived to be partisan, did this in order to doctor the results.
Mugabe, like it or not, is now seen as a legally legitimate leader.He was a fearless fighter for the liberation of this country from colonial rule and a strong advocate of real social empowerment, particularly in the early years of independence. It is therefore sad that he has allowed his political CV to be grievously harmed. It is also tragic that, in spite of a popular position to defer the next general elections to a time when adequate reforms have been put in place, Mugabe, apparently at the behest of a militant coterie in Zanu (PF), still insists that they should be held this year.
I share the sentiment by the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay, that doing so would have disastrous consequences for the country.Hurried elections will not solve anything, whether that relates to Zanu (PF) internal politics or the national wellbeing. They will definitely offset more controversy and renew our isolation as a country. In short, they will take us back to the pre-GNU era.
Above all, they will seal Mugabe’s fate as an unpopular leader. I doubt that this is a bit that he would enjoy. He would never have another chance to salvage his image again, considering that he is inevitably running his last, and short, political lap.
If it is defeat that he is afraid of, then he should think again. There is honour in defeat too. Kenneth Kaunda is a good encyclopedia on that. He could have chosen to cling to power when it had become so clear that the Zambians had become tired of him, but he chose otherwise. Today, Kaunda stands tall and gets standing ovations wherever he goes. So, the ball is in Mugabe’s court. Either he remains stubborn and preoccupied with the vain attempt to show his capacity to retain power or lets up and demonstrates that he is capable of honouring the people’s wishes.
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