A few days after the elections I spoke to an in-law who is a committed communal farmer in Eastern Zimbabwe. Like so many others she carries a Zanu membership card although she is an MDC supporter. Like many she was stunned by Zanu’s “victory”.
When asked why people were still supporting MDC, she answered: “People really hate Mugabe. We all know that Morgan Tsvangirai (the Prime Minister since 2009) is friends with the Americans and they can help us. Mugabe is with the Chinese and these people are very cruel; they also did not re-open the companies that were closed.
We also want the British to come back, not as rulers, but they do work hard. Many people who got plots of land are not working them, what can you do if you only have a hoe?
They could assist there. Maybe they can open businesses again; we want our children to get employment. In the olden days life was hard but it was cheaper too. I was not afraid to vote the way I wanted. You are alone in the ballot box so why should I be afraid? ”
Of course, one person is not representative of the whole population. But even this short conversation shows that people’s voting behaviour is largely directed by one main concern, their wish to improve their lives: more income, lower prices, employment, support services, and safety.
Post-election discussions have focused predominantly on voter registration, rigging and the late release of the voters roll. However, immediately after the 2008 election disaster Zanu started to make double sure that this would never, ever happen again. The first stage was the reorganisation of the constituencies.
Towards the end of 2009 MDC and Zanu (PF) clashed over the delimitation process, in which the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission demarcated new boundaries for the various constituencies to increase their number from 120 to 210. MDC alleged that they had been short-changed as traditional MDC strongholds in the cities gained only 28 extra constituencies while 62 had been taken up by the three rural Mashonaland provinces – the core of Zanu power.
In addition MDC cried foul over the registration of 800,000 new voters, allegedly mostly the elderly, while youngsters were told that their chance to register would come later. In July 2013 the UK Telegraph reported that only a quarter of the youth aged between 18 and 25 – who are expected to be more likely to support Morgan Tsvangirai, President of the MDC-T – had been registered.
Add to this the continued exclusion of maybe more than 2 million voters (almost a quarter of the electorate!) living outside Zimbabwe and the open threats from army and police bigwigs that they would never accept Tsvangirai as president and it becomes clear that the stage for the elections had been set much earlier. MDC had been doing too little too late to try to balance the scales.
The tragedy is that Zimbabweans have jumped from the frying pan into the fire. They might have “elected” to denounce exploitation by an MDC elite mainly driven by self-interest and foreign influence, but instead will be further manipulated by a vengeful and unscrupulous Zanu-dictatorship that, under the guise of nationalist and pseudo progressive rhetoric, will continue enriching itself and its cronies. –
The way forward
Zimbabweans are therefore in for the long haul in their pursuit of freedom and prosperity for the masses. Two main questions immediately emerge here, one of content and one of strategy: What should a future Zimbabwe look like and how and with whom can such a vision be pursued?
On both matters, many ideas and opinions exist.
Some can of course be found in the election manifestos of the various political parties that contested the elections. NGO’s, from human rights organisations to the industry, will undoubtedly also have been conferencing about “after the elections” scenarios. One of the most detailed economic development options has been formulated in recent years under auspices of the ZCTU and laid down in an extensive document “Beyond the Enclave”.
After having been translated into an abridged and simplified version, it is being popularised in a nationwide campaign from union branches, NGO’s and churches to the media, relevant Ministries and Parliamentary Portfolio Committees. More radical views also exist, for example those held by Zanu (PF)’s, although as shown above, one should question how genuine their rhetoric is. There are also “true” radicals like international socialist and former MDC-MP, Munyaradzi Gwisai, who is very explicit about what he wants (political democracy, nationalisation and international socialism) and sees no salvation in striving to achieve this with either Zanu (PF) or MDC .
Clearly, Zanu (PF) has once more gained the upper hand, not to say absolute control and a lot of soul-searching will have to be done by individuals, political parties, unions, churches, social movements and other civic society organisations to analyse and admit their shortcomings and learn from them. A first step might be for small groups or pockets of genuinely concerned, like-minded people to come together in frank conversation to explore a way forward based on thorough analysis of events over the past years and the role each played.
Such people do not necessarily have to be from within the same party or grouping; they could collaborate across borders, from within or outside the various political parties, or from society at large. The next step could be that some of these pockets reach out to each other, agree on basic principles and combine forces in a probing search towards a common goal.
It will however take a long time for a broad movement to be built from below by radical yet truly genuine ordinary people, activists, community leaders and aspiring party politicians who, with common vision and shared strategy, could mount a fourth Chimurenga. – Martens is an activist who has lived and worked in Zimbabwe and the SADC region since 1984. He is presently employed by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, Southern Africa Regional Office in Johannesburg.Post published in: Analysis