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Some Reflections on Student activism and the Pitfalls of Celebrity politics in Zimbabwe

By Blessing Vava ''Student activism is a highly conflict-filled terrain with very passionate individuals and groups involved&...

Thursday, 8 August 2013

14 Years of Catastrophic Leadership




By Blessing Vava

Robert Mugabe... legacy restored
Zimbabwe finally conducted its 7th general election on the 31st of July 2013, however with an outcome that left both the winners and losers in shock. As we approached the polling day, there were notions thrown all over on the lack of preparedness, lack of funding and some citing the inadequacy of key reforms  for the conduct of a credible poll. Many will recall that as early as 2010 ZANU PF was already calling for elections despite the fact the fulfillment of the Global Political Agreement was yet to be realised. ZANU PF was determined to have elections at whatever cost. Even their 2010 conference resolutions at Marymount Teachers held on from the 15-19th of December, the party insisted. ‘’The party resolves that at the expiry of the term of the Global Political Agreement with the two MDC formations on the 15th of September 2008, and the inclusive government born from there from on 13 February 2009, the country must hold harmonised elections..’ read their conference resolutions. Every conference held December yearly would come with the same resolutions that elections must be held in March of the following year. The Bulawayo 2011 conference carried the same message the Gweru conference re-affirmed in 2012. And it was the completion of the constitution making process that gave ZANU PF the salvo to insist on an early poll, also mindful of the reality that the parliament was expiring on the 29th of June.

And all these years this party (ZANU PF) was putting its machinery in-order in preparation for the elections, they never rested. However, as for the MDC-T the massive defeat shocked them because they never expected such a drabbing. It came to them like a veld fire, and as usual they were caught napping with no clue, no strategy or plan and one wonders why they hadn’t learnt from the experiences of the previous elections since 2000. One would have thought and expected that the 2008 poll experience was sufficient a learning curve for the MDC-T

Of Empty Promises

Despite childish and kindergarten threats by the party’s youth leadership, who, during their rallies, got excited and  declared that they were ready to defend the vote in the event of an unfavourable outcome they seemed to have prophesied. With the shocking unfavourable outcome, the MDC youth assembly top-brass have now resorted again to making empty threats on Facebook, venting their anger and plastic bravery to defend what they term a ‘stolen’ vote. Funny, how a spineless lot make such noise. My brother in-arms Job Sikhala dismissed them as cowards who cannot even mobilise a fly. Many will recall the noise they made when some of their party activists were arrested in Glen View, two years ago and there was the youth assembly threatening to floods the streets demanding the release of the jailed activists.   The MDC youth leadership need to come to terms with reality and admit that they are a spineless lot who are good at making empty threats when excited by a crowd during campaigns. What this lot fails to realise is that their supporters had trust in them that they would protect their vote. The same can be said of its mainstream leadership especially the party’s president Tsvangirai who at Chibuku Stadium declared “Let me tell you now, no-one will stand in the way to block your aspirations. This vote will count. Just get out in your numbers and cast your vote. With your help, I will defend the vote,” What is important here is to note the absence and backtracking on these promises at a time MDC-T supporters are over and about yearning for a sterner leadership and direction.
MDCT's Last Maengahama..no single protest demanding his release

 Like in all the elections they participated (MDC), routinely, it has become a habit to dispute the results, rush to the courts to challenge the outcome but experience should have taught them by now that it’s merely a waste of time.  Zimbabwe’s electoral environment has still not changed, and the MDC was very much aware of the state of the media, the absence of the voters roll to mention a few, but foolishly they still participated expecting to win. People recall that in 2008 MDC-T had cited irregularities with the voters roll yet they spent 5years in government paying little if any attention to its redress with the exception of course of lip-service at rallies. What is striking is their audacity to enter an election without a voters roll and come out crying. Hope is an integral part for human survival and movement building but when hope is based on fictitious imaginations it becomes foolishness. Clearly the party is lacking a critical and robust leadership, they based their strategy on disillusioned prophecy, that, Mugabe is too old and will die and they will take over. What nonsense!! The dictates of realpolitik clearly state that the essence of a political party is to assume power based on a grand strategy and not these prophetic hallucinations of a promised land on a silver platter.  They never thought Mugabe would spearhead his campaign. He seemed even more organised than Tsvangirai, whose campaign was void of clear policies rather than insults even to the people he was seeking votes from. The dramatisation of Mugabe’s age in this election was equally striking it became the MDC-T anthem yet the electoral process had a more important aspect which was the electoral playing field.

The reality of the matter was that this election was beyond the scope of the voter. All that mattered was the mechanisms that had been put in place ahead of the election; this is where the MDC failed Zimbabweans. The constitution that they helped author backfired barely six months after its adoption. As they celebrated the ‘YES’ vote in a referendum that had a lot of irregularities, they rubber-stamped a ZANU PF victory in the elections. Indeed, it was the cosmetic approach to the so-called reforms that characterised their stay in the inclusive government.

Equally important to note that the MDC was aware of this reality but they put their faith in morality, in essence they failed to safeguard what could have been their edge.  The grand question is how one attaches morality when dealing with a perceived immoral megalomaniac. In all their campaigns they gave false sense of security to the voters only to show their cluelessness at a press conference. Even when Wananchi (Biti) released the money for elections a few days before the polls were held was a clear show of confidence of victory.

Now that the results are out they have so far indicated some of their strategies. They have indicated that they are approaching the courts; however their court appeal is definitely not going to see the light of the day, basing on the nature of our judiciary system, with all the judges being appointees of the President. Also reminding them how the MDCt leadership has been thrashing the courts left right and centre. They surely must not expect a favourable ruling. The same with the SADC/AU appeals, all these bodies had observers on the ground and declared that the elections were free credible, the MDC must expect the same response from them.  The jurisprudential precedence of challenging electoral outcomes on incumbents will surely manifest itself. This is another clear defeat and misplaced case of hope.

 Apart from that, as a strategy also, I’m told that the party had considered absconding parliament in protest of the election results, a move which was likely to be defied by most elected officials. Of course to most of them it was more of the individual interests rather than political. This I say because the MDC is not a vanguard party, but a movement of disgruntled fellows in which anyone can call the shots, unlike ZANU PF.

ZEC Iron Ladies..Rita Makarau and Joyce Kazembe
Morgan Tsvangirai has failed to offer decisive leadership, his cluelessness and pampering of the masses with a prophecy that Mugabe will die in 2months will simply demobilise what could be an agitated electorate. Politics requires an astute leadership that seizes opportunities and redirects them with concise aptitude. Above all he owes Zimbabweans an apology for conniving with ZANU PF in rail-roading them to adopt a constitution that gave too much power to the President (typical of the Zvogbo 1987 creation of the executive presidency). The MDC lied to the masses that the new constitution was a yardstick to a credible election and would ensure ‘democratic consolidation.’ No-one will forget in March this year before the referendum when Tsvangirai and Mutambara were paraded by Mugabe to announce and defend the appointment of Rita Makarau as the ZEC chairperson. To many of us we remained sceptical, but however the former Prime Minister repeatedly assured us that Rita Makarau’s appointment was ‘unanimous’ and ‘progressive.’ And also that he (Tsvangirai) was confident that ZEC will efficiently run the referendum and the elections. Such are the pitfalls of misplaced faith!  We wonder why he is now attacking an institution he set-up?

The Future: Progress vs. Regression

Morgan Tsvangirai..time to handover baton
Reality must also quickly don in his mind that he has failed and its time to give others a chance. It’s good to leave with the little remaining dignity rather than to be embarrassed again in the 2018 elections. You have played your part Morgan, history will record that there was once a courageous  man who led a once vibrant movement, but failed to be the president of the country. The more he will hang on the more disintegrated the MDC will become. Surely it is evident that the centre can no longer hold anymore. Staying longer will just produce the same ZANU PF culture that the people are fighting. Leaders must come and go, pave way for fresh blood with new ideas and strategies

For ZANU PF this election result was a good farewell to Mugabe, his legacy has been restored and indeed the succession headaches in ZANU PF will no-longer trouble him. He will deal with it in his own time and pace, whatever will happen to him between now and 2018, no longer matters, whether he resigns or dies in office during this period a ZANU PF president will take over. WOO, the new constitution scrapped the bi-election for president, Zimbabweans will be governed by a ghost they did not elect. This is why the party was pushing so hard for elections to be held early no matter what circumstances.
 nb: views expressed in this article are personal.

Blessing ‘Vuvuzela’ Vava is a blogger who writes from Chipinge. He can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.cm, twitter @blevava