Zimbabwe elections: flogging a dead horse

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Original caption: President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe listens as Prof. Alpha Oumar Konare, chairman of the Commission of the African Union, addresses attendees at the opening ceremony of the 10th Ordinary Session of the Assembly during the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have lost count of the times I have been asked when Zimbabwe will hold its next election and each time I religiously reply “only God knows”.

The story of the next elections is a tired one, but let me flog this dead horse one more time.

I say its a tired story because for the past two years President Robert Mugabe has been threatening to call for elections but this has come to nought, but instead of the other parties calling his bluff, their reaction has been knee-jerk at best.

I doubt Mugabe wanted or wants elections anytime soon, but his political foes are always caught in sixes and sevens each time he makes such declarations on elections. And being the wily, calculating politician he is, he uses elections to confuse his enemies, who remain debating the issue long after he is silent about it.

But if, God forbid, Mugabe unilaterally calls for elections lo and behold, I fear for my country. While focus has been on the last election, which was violent, I dare anyone to show me any election in Zimbabwe that was peaceful.

All our elections from 1980 save for one or two where Mugabe was the only candidate, have been bloody and violent.

For some strange reason all elections here are violent and if we don’t have a cultural change, then we are doomed.

Mugabe has been blamed for violence, but his party does not have a monopoly on violence and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC is not without blame, their own internal elections were also been violent.

I am not saying there should not be elections, but rather we should change our attitude to politics, that winning should not be viewed as the be-all and end-all. As long as attitude of the politicians doesn’t change, then prepare for a blood spill.

While it is important that we have elections, it will be foolhardy to approach them with the mentality we have. Elections should not just be held for the sake of elections, we are likely to have another disputed outcome.

Instead of our leaders working to find common ground during their time in the coalition government, positions have been hardened, daily we are becoming more polarised and distant from each other, and all these conditions are creating a perfect storm that will blow up in our faces, when we go for elections.

Instead of using the coalition government to develop the country, there’s has been too much political positioning and politicking and in such an environment elections are a powder keg.

The present unity government saved Mugabe from political oblivion and more than anyone else he is grateful for it and I doubt he would want to end it. It has been his saving grace. But MDC doesn’t seem to see that and instead each time Mugabe makes a statement on elections, they are left scrounging for responses.

For example, Morgan Tsvangirai announced that he thought elections would be held next March, but when Mugabe said the same thing the MDC ran around accusing Mugabe of setting a date unilaterally and the same chorus accusing the president of unilateralism, that has been ringing for the last two years, reached a crescendo.

I don’t think Mugabe wants to call for elections because his party is fractured, he performed badly in the last one and ultimately he is no spring chicken.

If Mugabe really wanted elections, he would have called for them in August, the Supreme Court recently gave him an opportunity to do so, but instead he came up with several excuses to delay the polls, which we are made to believe he badly wants.

Also, nothing has changed on the ground to suggest he will perform any better in the next elections held, so calls for elections are nothing but acts of bravado and gamesmanship.

On the other hand Mugabe’s opponents aren’t performing too well either. Some in MDC, which poses the strongest threat to Mugabe’s rule, have enjoyed the trappings of power and lined their pockets corruptly.

Instead of the party concentrating on governance, it has of late been spending most of its energies on fire fighting, with corruption cases popping up daily. The party has fired scores of its councilors, who are accused of corruption, but not much is done to stop graft in the party.

MDC ministers are also accused of joining the gravy train and all of a sudden are living luxurious lives, while most of the party’s members can barely afford two meals a day.

Tsvangirai’s private life has also not been exemplary, while that might not dent his political image significantly, questions are being asked about his lack of judgement. No doubt, he remains Mugabe’s most formidable opponent, despite his shenanigans and poor judgement.

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