ZANU PF this week put themselves firmly in control of the country’s confused political scenery even after losing the parliamentary election and probably the presidential poll.
There is nothing on the ground at the moment to show that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has a majority in parliament and that the party’s leader Morgan Tsvangirai garnered more votes than Robert Mugabe in the presidential poll last week.
Assertive statements by the MDC last week, declaring that Tsvangirai had won the poll and was now president and that there was no need for a run off were this week eclipsed by a Zanu PF counter-strike of saturation propaganda meant to discredit the electoral process and deflate MDC supporters’
expectation that change had finally come to Zimbabwe.
Zanu PF has poured cold water on the frenzy of MDC supporters to poison the air with nerve-wracking expectation. The electors have been asking the question: Where are the results of the presidential election? There is no answer but there is little doubt that Mugabe has the results. With each passing day he defers releasing the results, he has consolidated his grip on power. He is firmly in charge. He has turned the celebrations into fear for the victors. In the commercial farming and communal areas Zanu PF has launched a systemic campaign of violence and disinformation about the return of white farmers to reclaim lost farms and threats of violence against those who voted for the opposition.
This week the Zanu PF propaganda machinery mobilised and deployed state media to portray the MDC as a party in crisis. There were reports that the MDC had approached Zanu PF with proposals for a government of national unity. Other reports said Tsvangirai was begging to be made vice president in the GNU. There were also reports that the MDC wanted to cede control of the Reserve Bank to the Germans upon assuming power.
One can be forgiven for believing that the MDC despite its win is in crisis. Here, the punch drunk Zanu PF is enjoying the sight of vanquisher struggling to manage the victory. They have become reactive.
The MDC leaders this week were battling to react to the propaganda onslaught by Zanu PF. They had to react to the violence bait and to the information that they were begging Zanu PF for a share of power, and suggestions that they wanted to surrender control of the RBZ to the Germans. Statements issued by the party this week were largely reactive to the Zanu PF cant. This is playing directly into Zanu PF disconcerting deception.
But after declaring that Tsvangirai had won the presidential vote and the MDC having been declared winners in the parliamentary poll, it was important for the party to behave like winners and to display leadership at the crucial stage. One way of doing this would have been for the MDC to plan carefully before making public statements.
There were announcements that Tsvangirai had “won this election… (and) Morgan Richard Tsvangirai is the next president of the Republic of Zimbabwe, without a run-off”. This was followed by: “The state media has already begun to prepare the people for a run-off in 21 days… If that is the position this party will contest the run-off”. Also last week Tsvangirai declined to proclaim himself the winner and said that he was prepared to wait for the commission to make an announcement.
This position is as clear as mud and does little to inform the multitudes who voted for the MDC in the election. Where is Ian Makone, the party’s director of elections in all this? We haven’t heard a squeak from him. He was unforgivably mute when the Command Centre closed down without anybody being told.
The party should focus on providing leadership to the voters. We are keen to know how many public meetings the party has held with its supporters to discuss the developments with regards to the delay in the announcement of the presidential vote and how they intend to break the stalemate. Meetings at Meikles are good for the media, especially the foreign correspondents who appear to be favoured these days. But the electors also have a right to know and be afforded the opportunity to ask questions. Is the party negotiating with Zanu PF for a power sharing deal? If so, does the party have a mandate from its supporters to do so?
The transition of power needs to be managed and this role falls squarely on the MDC. It would be naÃ¯ve for the MDC to think that by virtue of them winning a majority in parliament, Mugabe would just walk out of State House and Tsvangirai would come in and change the curtains. Remember his declaration: “Tsvangirai will never rule this country, never, never, never”. I believe the MDC leadership can do better to prevent Mugabe’s bluster from becoming sad reality in Zimbabwe.