Zimbabwe 2018 Elections: Power versus Popularity

 

As we approach the July 2018 elections, I have been hearing more and more debate among Zimbabweans about which presidential candidate is better than the other, or which political party is best for the country.

 

There are quite a few arguments circulating particularly on social media. I will highlight a few here.

 

The first is that President Emmerson Mnangagwa and ZANU-PF do not have what it takes to win the election. That is a misconception and I will attempt to show why in this article.

 

The second is that Nelson Chamisa has a real chance of attaining presidential power in 2018.

 

This too is a commonly held misconception, and in this article I will attempt to demonstrate how the field we commonly refer to as politics is a field that focuses more on attaining and retaining of power, than it does on popularity.

 

Essentially, if politics was about popularity, perhaps Hillary Clinton would have been the American president today.

 

ZANU-PF the Power Broker

 

“And here comes in the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.” Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527).  The Prince.

 

When I was younger, I used to think that politics was about good debate at the dinner table, loud arguments, stubbornness, and popularity.

 

Now, after years under the mentorship of my father and other national leaders, I have realized that politics is more about what is unsaid than what is said, more about the covert than the overt, and more about power than popularity.

 

When I consider ZANU-PF and its brand of politics, the Zimbabwean 1980 general election comes to mind.

 

After a protracted bush war that lasted almost 15 years, by the time that the Lancaster House conference began in 1979, it was clear to all and sundry that the Patriotic Front guerrillas had effectively captured most of the rural hearts and minds.

 

While some historians have argued that the pre-Lancaster, “internal settlement” showed that Muzorewa was somewhat popular (with an estimated national support of between 50 and 63 percent of the population), the relentless guerilla power of the Patriotic Front overwhelmed Muzorewa’s assumed popularity.

 

As a result, Ian Smith and Bishop Muzorewa had no choice but to invite ZAPU and ZANU to the negotiating table.

 

Come 1980, two critical factors played a part in ensuring that ZANU won the election by an outright majority.

 

The first was that ZANLA guerrillas remained armed and in the bush during elections having declared that they would continue fighting if at all ZANU PF did not win the election.

 

Secondly, given that ZANLA forces had captured the hearts and minds of the rural populace, by the time that elections arrived ZANLA commissars had adequately conscientized the rural populace using a mixture of the Machiavellian “fear and love” principle.

 

In the end ZANU-PF emerged as the outright winner of the 1980 elections, perhaps because of its popularity, but more so because of its power.

 

You see, since the guerilla days, ZANU-PF has positioned itself as the main power-broker in Zimbabwe.

 

In fact ZANU-PF’s role as key power broker in the country was demonstrated again by events in November 2017.

 

While the late Dr Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T had gallantly fought for leadership renewal in Zimbabwe for the best part of seventeen years, he never actually managed to achieve that end.

 

It took events encircled around Operation Restore Legacy to achieve what the late Dr Tsvangirai had attempted for nearly twenty years, despite his popularity.

 

In essence, it took ZANU-PF in its role as national power broker to introspect and achieve leadership renewal in Zimbabwe, and not the popularity of opposition politicians.

 

How did they do it? They used hard and soft power simultaneously.

 

Again, I assert: politics is about power, not popularity.

 

Why ZANU-PF will win in 2018

 

In real terms, the position of ZANU-PF as power broker in Zimbabwe’s political economy remains and it is inconceivable that will change in the short term.

 

While the Machiavellian principle that “it is better to be feared than loved” still applies, the consistency of the ZANU-PF’s benevolence will also play a role in its 2018 electoral victory.

 

For instance the ZANU-PF government has consistently  distributed inputs to the rural populace under the Presidential Inputs Scheme.

 

Furthermore, the ZANU-PF government’s assistance of farmers through command agriculture also demonstrates that the governing party has a benevolent side, and this will play a significant role in winning votes for ZANU-PF in 2018.

 

Recent assistance forwarded to doctors, nurses and teachers in the form of pay increases also demonstrates ZANU-PF’s benevolence, and this too will play a role in winning votes for the party.

 

However, more importantly than anything else, ZANU-PF will win in 2018 because the main opposition in the form of the MDC-Alliance is relying solely on its self-assuming popularity as adequate political capital to win the elections and take power. This is a misconception.

 

In fact, that’s the same misconception that was held by Bishop Muzorewa in 1980, Dr Tsvangirai in 2013 and now Nelson Chamisa in 2018.

 

In simple terms, politics is about power, much more than popularity.

 

Conclusion

 

While in the UK, it is reported that Nelson Chamisa had this to say: “We expect Britain and the EU to speak for free and fair elections. There’s a very disturbing trend in the context of the British government in Zimbabwe.

 

“We have seen that there has been a bit of a shift on the part of the British government in terms of focusing more on political stability and trade and commerce at the expense of democracy…We’re seeing the inclination to align with one political party against another. That is disturbing, particularly in terms of the issue of just setting the basic standard for free and fair elections.”

 

That statement summarizes the political difference between the MDC- T and ZANU-PF.

 

Clearly, the MDC-T has always relied on western empathy and sanctions to achieve its political ends. In the above statement Nelson Chamisa again shows that he is maintaining his predecessor’s politics.

 

However, what Mr. Chamisa doesn’t seem to understand is that Britain is reeling from Brexit, and is consequently looking for partners globally that will boost trade.

 

In summary, the British political-economy as a whole is much more important to Britain than the narrow political interests of the MDC-T.

 

Furthermore, it is now clear that Nelson Chamisa does not have the courage to attempt to boycott the 2018 elections, as this will cause a split in the MDC-T similar to the split that occurred in 2005.

 

Also, neither Nelson Chamisa, The MDC-Alliance nor anyone else in Zimbabwe’s opposition has the power to cause the so-called “national shutdown” that they are threatening post-elections.

 

The fact is that if  Chamisa’s calls for a nationwide strike after elections are ignored, it will not only show that he is not as popular as he thinks he is, but also that he is powerless.

 

Ultimately, the principle remains, politics is not about popularity, politics is about power.

 

Tau Tawengwa

 

Executive Director

 

Email

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The Politics of the MDC-T

 

The former Prime Minster and long-time leader of the MDC-T opposition party has been laid to rest after an arduous battle with cancer.

 

 

Indeed he fought a good political fight in his time and will certainly be remembered in the history of Zimbabwe as one of the country’s leading lights, particularly in the post-independence and post land-reform phases of our history.

 

 

However, his greatest shortfall (as with most African leaders) is that he failed to resolve the succession issue in his party timeously.

 

 

Put plainly he did not have in place a succession plan by the time of his departure.

 

 

I have argued before, and I will state again here that clear succession plans should be explicitly put in place in every institution, especially if the institution intends to ensure that there is continuity after its leader departs.

 

 

This is true in families, family businesses, corporates, political parties, and any other form of organization.

 

 

Every institution must have a clear and explicit formal succession plan.

 

 

Having said that, recent events in the MDC-T serve as examples of how things go terribly bad when succession is not handled well in politics.

 

 

Zeal without Knowledge

 

 

Proverbs 19:12 reads “desire without knowledge is not good how much more will hasty feet miss the way!”

 

 

Like many Zimbabweans, I marvelled at the haste with which Nelson Chamisa and his faction anointed themselves as heirs to Dr. Tsvangirai’s throne almost immediately after Morgan Tsvangirai’s death was announced.

 

 

In fact before the late opposition party leader’s body had arrived at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International airport, Chamisa and crew had already called for a National Council meeting which hastily elevated Chamisa to the position of acting President for a 12 month period.

 

 

Immediately after that National Council meeting, pastor Chamisa addressed a song-and dance rally outside of Harvest House during which he declared himself leader to the unsuspecting and impressionable crowds of the MDC-T political laity who were innocently waiting to hear about Dr Tsvangirai’s funeral arrangements.

 

 

Instead, they were mischievously misled into believing that Nelson Chamisa was their new leader.

 

 

Yet, by calling for the 14 February 2018 meeting at Harvest House, and furthermore by addressing his self-anointing rally on the same day, Nelson Chamisa showed the world his unbridled desire to be president of the MDC-T, and his willingness to exercise haste in order to achieve those ends, yet foolishly so.

 

 

If Nelson Chamisa is as popular as he assumes he is, then why couldn’t he wait a few days for Dr. Tsvangirai to be buried before engaging in his succession politics?

 

 

It is my view that the rally held by Nelson Chamisa’s faction on February 14 outside of Harvest House was the major cause for the violent episodes that we saw during Dr. Tsvangirai’s funeral.

 

 

The fact is that the crowds that he addressed on 14 February consisted of youths, undoubtedly inflamed on chibuku, bronco and cheap liquor, who then took pastor Chamisa’s populism as gospel and that is where the danger began.

 

 

 

That was his first mistake.

 

 

Violence is Inexcusable

 

 

We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from violence and fear.Nelson Mandela

 

 

In 2014, the then MDC-T deputy treasury-general, Elton Mangoma and secretary-general, Tendai Biti were assaulted by a group of party youths for allegedly calling for leadership renewal in the party.

 

 

At the time they said they were attacked by “a drunken mob” and it was alleged that Nelson Chamisa was not far from the violence when Mangoma et al got thumped.

 

 

You see the reason why nobody believes Nelson Chamisa’s statements attempting to distance himself from the violent episodes at Dr. Tsvangirai’s funeral, is because he has been suspected of instigating violence before.

 

 

In fact a 2014 report of the Elton Mangoma related mayhem stated that “a four-minute, six seconds security video taken during the melee… saw Mangoma beaten up with punches and slaps all over his body by party youths, places Chamisa smack dab in the center of the incensed crowd, a few minutes before the assault.

 

 

“Standing amongst the crowd, which was singing and chanting, baying for Mangoma’s blood, snapshots from the video show Chamisa relating to some of the gathered youths.”

 

 

You see, given his reported participation in Mangoma’s 2014 attack, it is difficult to believe that Chamisa was not involved in the violence at Dr. Tsvangirai’s funeral, or in Dr. Khupe’s 2017 attack for that matter.

 

 

It is also therefore difficult to believe his statements distancing himself from the recent drama.

 

 

Given the intra-party violence that has occurred in the MDC-T in recent times at the alleged instigation of Chamisa, firstly against Mangoma and Biti and later against Khupe, one could be forgiven for thinking that pastor Chamisa is thuggish.

 

 

 

Apparently they charged “Chamisa, Chamisa” as they charged at a retreating Dr. Khupe.

 

 

All this unethical tomfoolery brings to mind the saying “You can take the homeboy out of Kuwadzana East, but you can’t take Kuwadzana East out of the homeboy.”

 

 

For a long time the nation has given Nelson Chamisa the benefit of the doubt, saying he’s youthful and educated.

 

 

However based upon recent events, it would seem he’s also power-hungry and violent.

 

 

His haste and desire for power have made him miss the way. That’s unbecoming of the political pastor.

 

 

My own view is that Nelson Chamisa is politically immature, and cannot capably fit the shoes of the late Dr. Morgan Tsvangirai. First it was his Trump and 15billion debacle and now this.

 

 

I think it is safe to say that Nelson Chamisa a local leader that should be confined to Kuwadzana East. He is not a national leader and in fact he has a lot of growing up to do politically.

 

 

Furthermore, my perception is that the constitutional leader of the MDC-T is Dr. Khupe, and she should be in charge of the party until the next congress.

 

 

Also, it would seem that Nelson Chamisa’s shenanigans have discredited him as a potential leader of the MDC-Alliance, and it is probable that Dr. Joice Mujuru will soon become the new face of the coalition.

 

Tau Tawengwa

 

Executive Director

 

 

Email

zimrays@gmail.com

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The Politics of Elections

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With the hangover of the Zimbabwean July 31 2013 harmonized elections still taking its toll, it has been interesting to observe the various commentaries and analyses surrounding the poll result. For instance, there have been recurring allegations of excess ballot papers and fake voter registration slips that were allegedly used to rig the poll. Even Tendai Biti through his make-believe ‘Wanachi’ posts has made allegations that irregularities in Harare East almost lost him the constituency. However, it should be understood that the politics surrounding elections and voter behavior is complex, and therefore, that a national election result cannot be dismissed as ‘farce’ on the sole basis of irregularities.

Firstly, let’s speak of legitimacy. Legitimacy is the generally held belief that a particular social institution (in this case government) is justified and valid. So, for instance, after the Zimbabwean 2008 disputed run-off poll, the MDC’s agreement to enter into a coalition government with ZANU-PF gave that very government its legitimacy. Conversely, currently in Egypt, the legitimate election of a Morsi government has been sidelined by the imposition of an illegitimate government by way of a military coup.

Now, Jorge Aragón, from Saint Louis University in the USA has a work entitled:  Political Legitimacy and Democracy. In this work, he writes that “political legitimacy can be described as [the] people’s recognition and acceptance of the validity of the rules of their entire political system and the decisions of their rulers.” Simply put: when the main political players in a given system accept the rules of the system, they accordingly award the system its political legitimacy.

For instance, in the 2000 United States presidential elections, Democratic Party supporters (whose presidential candidate was Al Gore) made public accusations that the Republican presidential candidate George W Bush had ‘stolen’ the elections. However, because Al Gore had already entered into the presidential race and had thus given the process political legitimacy, his only option was to make a court application seeking an order to conduct a manual recount of the Florida vote. Although Gore was granted the order, it was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, making George W Bush the legitimate winner of that election.

Now, the vote-rigging accusations made by the Democrats in 2000 included allegations that “some 36,000 newly registered voters were turned away because their names had never been added to the voter rolls by Florida’s secretary of state Kathleen Harris,” and that “four to six million votes were left uncounted in the 2000 election” (New York Times, 15 September 2002).

Coming back to the Zimbabwean situation, the 2000 presidential vote in the United States demonstrates that the politics surrounding elections are far from perfect even in the most advanced democracies in the world. Secondly, the fact that Al Gore (as the candidate of the Democratic Party) approached the courts to seek remedy for what he perceived to be ‘irregularities’ speaks to his political maturity and to his understanding that the moment he entered into the presidential race he gave the electoral process  its political legitimacy. You see, he didn’t unilaterally declare the process ‘null and void,’ neither did his lieutenants call for some kind of ‘revolution’ or ‘passive resistance.’ The fact is that when a contestant enters into a race and competes, the contestant tacitly accepts the rules and fairness of the very race consequently making the race legitimate, even if he thinks that the odds are stacked against him.

Finally, when the U.S Supreme court made its ruling, Al Gore, in a nationally broadcast speech announced that he accepted George W Bush as the 43rd president. Maybe certain parties in Zimbabwe should consider following suit.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director

Zimbabwe Elections 2013- Why they won’t form a coalition

zimraysProfessor Welshman Ncube, the presidential candidate and the leader of the smaller MDC party in Zimbabwe has launched his election manifesto and has unveiled a policy document entitled “Actions for Devolution.”

 
Simply put, devolution of power refers to the transfer of power from a central government to local units.

 
In the Zimbabwean electoral context, Professor Welshman Ncube’s MDC party is campaigning for the decentralization of power and consequently, for the opportunity to give all the regions in Zimbabwe the self-determining authority to make developmental decisions.

 
Now, with the national harmonized election days away, a key question is whether or not Professor Welshman Ncube’s MDC will form a last-minute grand coalition with Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T.

 
Although many opinions have been put forward concerning this issue, political analysts and commentators have however failed to recognize that this proposed coalition is a doubled-edged sword for both Tsvangirai and Ncube. As a result let me take the opportunity to unequivocally observe that this coalition will not be formed, for the following reasons:

 
•    Firstly, according to the MDC-T’s election manifesto the MDC-T
“is a social democratic party committed to serving all citizens….”
Conversely, the MDC led by professor Welshman Ncube has centered its campaign on the theme of devolution of power which, unlike the MDC-T’s position to serve “all” citizens, does not apply to citizens as a cohesive collective, but rather as separate groups. Furthermore, devolution of power as a political theme has internationally proven to be disorderly, divisive and in some instances deadly; the 27 year-long civil war in Sri Lanka is an example. Ultimately, there is a fundamental ideological rift between the two parties.

 
•    Now, bearing in mind that MDC-N is a party that principally draws legitimacy from the Bulawayo and Matabeleland provinces (provinces that largely feel as though they have been historically sidelined by the state in terms of infrastructure development and industrialization), if Professor Welshman Ncube forms a coalition with the MDC-T, his support base will perceive this as desertion and consequently the MDC-N will lose their supporters in the Bulawayo and Matabeleland regions.

 
•    Finally, the MDC-T seems to be desirous of this coalition on the maudlin basis that a united front with the MDC-N will dislodge ZANU-PF from power. Nevertheless, there is no guarantee that this coalition will see to the end of ZANU-PF. In fact most research studies suggest that ZANU-PF will convincingly win the harmonized election, with or without the MDC coalition. It is therefore clear that for the MDC-N to sacrifice its political relevance in favor of a political union with a party that is ideologically distant, and on a basis that is not empirically justified, it would result in nothing short of political suicide.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director