THIS Sunday when President Robert Mugabe unveils his desperate “100% total empowerment” reelection manifesto for the presidential runoff election that has been delayed to June 27 by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, he will effectively launch a rather sad farewell to his 28-year controversial rule given that he faces an irresolvable electoral quandary.
It is twofold. On the one hand Mugabe is now unelectable and is therefore unwanted while on the other hand his unwanted candidacy is being controversially sponsored by a party – Zanu PF – that has become unpopular mainly due to its failure to use its nationalist background and deep roots in the liberation struggle to reinvent itself beyond the self-serving trappings of its unwanted leader.
Regarding the latter, Mugabe’s prospects in the June 27 runoff are blighted by the fact that Zanu PF was defeated by opposition forces in the parliamentary election on March 29, principally because it no longer has a relevant manifesto to inspire the nation in ways that are reminiscent of selected periods in the past.
The instructive audit of the collapse of Zanu PF and how that accounted for the party’s trouncing on March 29 was given by Mugabe himself in his keynote address to the Zanu PF central committee on Friday last week when he said:
“Fundamentally, we went to the elections completely unprepared, unorganised, and this against an election-weary voter. Our structures went to sleep, were in deep slumber in circumstances of an all-out war. They were passive; they were lethargic, ponderous, divided, diverted, disinterested, demobilised or simply non-existent. It was terrible to see the structures of so embattled a ruling Party so enervated.
As leaders, we all share the blame: from the national level to that of the branch chairman. We played truant; we did not lead, we misled; we did not encourage, rather we discouraged; we did not unite, we divided; we did not inspire, we dispirited; we did not mobilise, we demobilised. Hence the dismal result we are landed with.”
If this damning audit of Zanu PF’s dismal performance at the polls on March 29 had come from the party’s detractors, Zanu PF mouthpieces would be protesting madly but these were Mugabe’s own words. It is interesting to note that the damning audit does not blame Zanu PF’s electoral defeat on sanctions that have ravaged Zimbabwe’s economy but puts the blame squarely on the leaders of Zanu PF from the branch chairman to the national level including Mugabe himself whom it says “misled”, “discouraged”, “dispirited” “demobilised”, and “divided” the nation.
Against this backdrop, Mugabe has every reason to be very worried because he cannot believe that things have now changed for the better in Zanu PF since March 29. He needs to understand that he has no chance of winning the runoff on June 27 because his candidacy is sponsored by an unorganised ruling party whose structures are non-existent.
The latest example of how Zanu PF no longer has any shame about misleading, dispiriting, discouraging, dividing and demobilising the nation is the ongoing “100% Empowerment and Total Independence” media blitz which the party’s clueless propagandists are using as part of Mugabe’s doomed runoff campaign.
It is misleading and dispiriting for Zanu PF to peddle a runoff manifesto proclaiming 100% total empowerment and total independence when the true position on the ground is of zero percent production and zero percent development in a battered economy in which basic goods and commodities are either unavailable or unaffordable with inflation hovering above 1 000 000%. This hopeless scenario becomes worse when its illogical import is extended to suggest that Zimbabweans can best asset their 100% independence or claim their 100% empowerment by voting for Mugabe in the runoff.
It is bad enough for Mugabe that Zanu PF does not and cannot have an inspiring electoral message to inspire an actionable manifesto in support of his runoff campaign but what is worse is the fact that he has become permanently unelectable. There is nothing anyone anywhere can do to make Mugabe electable.
While this is a self-evident truth, the tragedy is that Mugabe and his surrogates do not understand it as they still believe that he must cling onto power for life via elections. The clearest evidence in this regard came last Friday at the Zanu PF central committee meeting when Mugabe made this shocking statement about his succession during his keynote address: “Succession is a fact of biology, of life. No one individual lives forever. No one individual governs forever. I have to be succeeded”.
The meaning is clear: if Mugabe’s succession is a fact of biology or of life and if for that reason he will not live or govern forever, then he can only be succeeded after his death!
This is why Mugabe has no chance in the June 27 runoff. Zimbabweans, especially those in Zanu PF, have understood him only too well that he wants to rule for life because he views his succession in biological terms when the matter should be political.
If Mugabe had a political view of his succession, he would not have sought reelection. Instead, he would have appreciated that, because he now personifies it, the Zimbabwean political crisis and economic meltdown cannot and will not be resolved with him as the president of the country. Indeed, Zimbabweans across the political divide now understand that, with an unlikely Mugabe runoff victory, the country’s economic meltdown and political malaise would get worse, not least because the economic sanctions, which Zanu PF disingenuously says are the cause of its defeat on March 29, would be entrenched rather than removed as Mugabe has no response at all to deal with those sanctions.
All this means Morgan Tsvangirai stands to benefit in the runoff from Mugabe’s irretrievable unpopularity. While many in the opposition are celebrating this and even becoming needlessly arrogant about it, there are others who are genuinely worried that Tsvangirai and his MDC have done between little and nothing to assure the nation that they understand what is going on and that they have the capacity to deal with it in a responsible manner that would not disturb the soul and legacies of the nation.
The challenge now for the MDC is not whether Tsvangirai will win the runoff because thatÂ is a virtual certainty. The issue is whether the MDC will rise to the occasion and henceforth proceed from a patriotic and nationalist platform shaped by Zimbabweans to give comfort and confidence to everyone across the political divide, especially among Zanu PF ranks and other neutrals, that an MDC government would indeed be a Zimbabwean government which would be sensitive to our national history, heritage and aspirations and that it would not be beholden to or driven by any individual, sectional or foreign interests.
Instead of continuing to dream about a Mugabe runoff victory, that would not come even with the sick use of violence and other scorched earth campaign tactics, progressive elements in Zanu PF and others in our midst would do well for the sake of a peaceful, democratic and sustainable transition to help Tsvangirai and his MDC to understand what is really at stake here, how it has come about, and what needs to be done to keep Zimbabwe together by respecting and deepening, as opposed to threatening, the legacy and gains of our national liberation struggle.
By Prof Jonathan Moyo: Independent MP for Tsholotsho North.