MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti over the weekend raised a fundamental point regarding President Mugabe’s quest for re-election. At his party’s rally in Mutare on Saturday, Biti pondered whether “Mugabe would do the impossible” and win an election in an environment dominated by hyperinflation and unemployment.
Will Mugabe achieve the impossible?
“There is no government in this world which can win an election when inflation in over 100 000%, 80% unemployment and three millions of its people living abroad,” Biti said. “Mugabe, you cannot and you will not do the impossible. Victory is certain for us.”
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai who spoke more directly to party supporters in the key note address said the election next month was a referendum on Mugabe’s misrule.
One intriguing aspect about President Mugabe’s quest to for re-election is that he expects the electorate to vote him back into office without really promising them anything.
At a time when the country is crying out for prudent leadership to chaperone it out of the current low, President Mugabe and his Zanu PF have mounted a campaign inviting voters to defend their land and sovereignty.
That’s all there is in Mugabe’s project at the moment. He is begging for another term not because he believes he has anything to offer but because he simply wants to spite those he believes want to rob the national purse.
The preoccupation with defending land, independence, sovereignty presupposes that the people are enthralled by being constantly engaged in battles on behalf of Mugabe and are not keen to enjoy the fruits of their toil.
This is the nature of Zanu PF’s project of national impoverishment. The party is seeking popular endorsement of a project designed to render the people dependent on Zanu PF for virtually everything. The message is, without Zanu PF there is no independence, land, food, tractors, ploughs, fertiliser and all the other goodies that come with dictatorial paternity.
The unfortunate issue about our dear leader is that all the goodies he has dished out have no impact in righting the situation here. His latest gifts of tractors and farming implements have done nothing to improve production.
Zimbabwe will be importing grain again this year. He has failed to realise that the country will not be developed on the back of freebies, especially those contained in the pouch tainted with corruption. It is from the same receptacle that he pulled out land, fertiliser, fuel, Aspef funds and so on.
Anyone challenging this embarrassing patronage is considered an enemy of the state and an agent of the West. It was not surprising therefore that President Mugabe’s birthday interview broadcast last week and the speech at the birthday party in Beitbridge over the weekend stakes emphasis on those wanting to take away candy from his mouth.
To fend off the vexation from challengers, Simba Makoni and Morgan Tsvangirai, Mugabe has resorted to berating them using crude language usually consistent with emptiness.
He has likened Makoni to a prostitute and a frog. What does Joyce Kazembe at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, who was recently lecturing the media, say about this crude language? How about his adversaries responding in equal measure? (Crocodile? Dinosaur?)
President Mugabe believes that Zimbabwe’s salvation will come from shouting at the British. He wants the electorate to join him in howling at the moon instead of focusing on the problems. To say the least, Mugabe has ceased to be part of the solution to the national crisis. He is the embodiment of a national tragedy in which he is asking the electorate for another chance to star in the drama of calamity.
This brings me back to the MDC rally over the weekend. Tsvangirai articulated the solutions to our crisis well: international re-engagement, return to the rule of law, restoring productivity on the land, in mines and factories and restoring the dignity of our currency. But will this earn him the popular vote or will it be the cheap rhetoric of insults and innuendo which will win at the end of the day?
Mugabe’s record in between polls has not been good. The Zanu PF government has since the last election in 2005 seen inflation rise from 164% in June 2005 to the current 100 580% and the local currency weakened against the US dollar from US$1:$6 100 (May 2005) to the current rate of US$1:$20 000 000.
Capacity utilisation has dropped from about 50% to less than 15% today. Agricultural production and social services indices – especially in health and social security – have plummeted to life-threatening levels.
That is the Zanu PF record in between polls. But Mugabe still insists that the anti-British theme is key for him in this election. We’ll see.
By Vincent Kahiya