AT 89 years, President Robert Mugabe would be one of the world’s oldest Presidential candidates when he squares off against his arch-rival, Morgan Tsvangirai for the keys to the State House in the coming elections.
REPORT BY NDAMU SANDU
It will be a gruelling battle which is set to end the life of the inclusive government formed in 2009, a coalition credited with stabilising the economic environment after years of hyper-inflation.
Zanu PF has been pulling out all stops for an early election, insisting that the inclusive government is unworkable due to ideological differences among the three parties.
The recent Constitutional Court ruling, mandating Mugabe to have an election by July 31, has worked into Zanu PF’s grand scheme of early polls.
Mugabe recently proclaimed July 31 as an election date using presidential powers, at a time amendments to the Electoral Act were set to be debated in Parliament.
This angered the two MDC formations who said the move is an infringement on the Constitution.
There are indications pointing to an electoral pact between the MDC formations, to end Zanu PF’s 33 years in power.
If Mugabe is voted into office, he will complete his first term, under the new Constitution, at a ripe 94 years of age. The new Constitution allows him to contest again in 2018 and that would be his final term.
Age is catching up with Mugabe, who has made several trips to Asia for medical check ups in the past few years.
According to United States whistle-blower website, Wikileaks, a senior government official reportedly told the then US ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee in 2008, that Mugabe had prostate cancer and his health would deteriorate in three to five years.
The official told McGee that a doctor had advised Mugabe to cut back on business.
Fielding an 89-year-old candidate has raised questions whether Zanu PF is fast-tracking the election process to suit a short campaign period, with Mugabe in mind.
Political analyst Dumisani Nkomo of Habakkuk Trust said the proclamation of the election date and ignoring the reforms currently underway, fits into Zanu PF’s strategy of catching the system aimed at ensuring credible polls, off-guard.
“The systems that should ensure there is a credible election won’t be in place. Foreign and local observers won’t be in place, there would be manipulation in terms of special ballots,” Nkomo said.
Zanu PF has been hitting its election drums louder saying it is ready for the polls. It postponed the holding of its primary elections to Wednesday, as in-fighting over the selection of candidates intensifies. The primary elections were supposed to be held tomorrow (Monday).
Zanu PF banking on State bureaucracy
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC), director McDonald Lewanika said Zanu PF was not banking on the readiness of the party, but on the preparedness of the State bureaucracy, which they intend to use as part of their rigging strategy.
“It doesn’t make sense with an 89-year-old candidate, to think that in a short space of time that candidate can traverse the length and breadth of the country.
For Zanu PF if the state machinery is ready, they are ready, because they don’t intend to win this election on the ground,” Lewanika said.
Oxford University lecturer, Phillan Zamchiya said Zimbabwe is a party-State, where state institutions and Zanu PF programmes are conflated.
“So if you say Zanu PF is ready, then you must be confident that the military is ready to campaign. For example, during the primary elections, Zanu PF will be using the state designed polling stations and so forth,” Zamchiya said. He said without district coordinating committees, Zanu PF will use soldiers, commonly referred to as “Boys on Leave”. Zanu PF’s confidence of winning is coming from its ability to manipulate electoral processes using more subtle techniques, such as vote padding and intimidation among others.
“They know that in a free and fair election they stand no chance. It is the art of manipulation that gives them confidence first and foremost. Then of course they might be buoyed by the recent surveys that show a dip in MDC support,” Zamchiya he said.
Zanu PF’s campaign trump card, indigenisation, is tainted as the term sheets signed between government and mining companies for the transfer of shareholding to locals have been criticised by some government officials.
Lewanika said for Zanu PF, it’s not about convincing the electorate, but the “sophistry of inflation and deflation of figures and manipulation”.
Unlike in 2008, Tsvangirai is weakened, tainted by love scandals after aborted marriage attempts. Corruption allegations against MDC-T councillors in local authorities have also weighed down his chances.
Opinion polls have also projected a Zanu PF victory, putting a dent on Tsvangirai’s image. But Lewanika said Mugabe is dirtier than Tsvangirai and has had worse scandals than anyone but is considered a viable candidate. “Morally who is better, a guy who had multiple girlfriends while single or the guy who took someone else’s wife?” Lewanika queried.
In a recent interview with a South African broadcaster, Mugabe defended his relationship with his then secretary, now his wife Grace Mugabe, saying she was divorced. “Who is better the guy whose party has intermittent episodes of violence or the guy whose party has a history of killing, maiming and abducting opponents? In the final analysis people will choose the lesser of two evils,” Lewanika said. He said the two MDC formations need to observe and monitor the electoral process at each turn, starting with the voter registration process and the voters’ roll, to results tallying and transmission.
Nkomo forecast the two MDCs forming an electoral pact, as it was “the most logical pragmatic thing to do”.
Zamchiya said it was now up to the pro-democracy family to check-mate Zanu PF. “Once the value chain of election manipulation is brought under the microscope, Zanu PF is out,” he said.