VICTORY by President Robert Mugabe in the presidential election run-off is something the majority of Zimbabweans find “too ghastly to contemplate”.
Not that Mugabe is without support. He has his own fair share of support but judging from the last election the MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai is far ahead.
However, the situation on the ground shows that a Mugabe victory is still possible despite his plummeting popularity.
Mugabe and Zanu PF are already doing everything in their power to win the run-off. His security chiefs have already said they will not allow Tsvangirai to rule Zimbabwe prompting speculation of a military coup in the event of the MDC leader’s victory.
The question that lingers on the minds of everyone is what Tsvangirai and the MDC will be able to do about it and whether they have a strategy in place to deal with this worst-case scenario.
It has now become clear that the octogenarian leader has never had any intention of giving up power, whatever the electorate decide.
The alleged killing and assault of opposition members and recent remarks by Zanu PF hawks have been ample testimony to this.
The MDC alleged this week that Zanu PF’s warlike campaign has claimed 66 lives, 200 people unaccounted for, 3 000 in hospitals, and over 25 000 internally displaced.
The party said it had also witnessed a continuing trend of targeted attacks on its candidates in the harmonised elections, party leadership, and members. It further claimed that its structures were being decimated with its polling agents remaining prime targets.
A Zimbabwean lawyer based in the UK, Alex Magaisa, said, given the political tension in the country, the run-off may produce two worst-case scenarios which the MDC should prepare for before the poll.
The first scenario, Magaisa argued, would see Tsvangirai being declared the winner of the run-off, but the victory rejected by Zanu PF.
“There is a real possibility that elements in Zanu PF will carry out their threat to thwart his bid even if he wins,” he said. “The elaborate machinations following the March 29 election are indicative of their intentions. Zanu PF is unlikely to change this stance.”
But since Mugabe wants to be portrayed as a law-abiding leader, Magaisa argued, a coup against Tsvangirai would be embarrassing to him, hence the veteran leader would not allow such a scenario to happen.
“The second and more likely scenario is that Mugabe will be swiftly declared the winner of the June 27 election,” Magaisa argued. “Delaying the result is unlikely as it has been seen to be counter-productive… This time it will be a short, sharp and very swift execution conferring the presidency to Mugabe.”
He averred that such an announcement would provide the cover of legality for Mugabe’s presidency and places Tsvangirai and the MDC on the back foot, making them the challengers to the process.
“This scenario will shift the balance of advantage from Tsvangirai and the MDC to Mugabe and Zanu PF. It will be the MDC and Tsvangirai operating from a position of weakness, being the ‘losing’ party,” Magaisa said. “It is quite likely that in that situation, Zanu PF will be more open to the idea of a government of national unity…They would rather do it as a senior partner than the junior guest invited to the MDC banquet.”
He said at this stage the MDC would be faced with very hard choices, which could be eased by forward planning.
The MDC, Magaisa advised, should be planning and strategising on how to deal with the run-off defeat.
The lack of forward planning by the MDC and the consequences thereof have been evident from the June 2000 parliamentary elections, the March 2002 presidential elections, the March 2005 House of Assembly elections and the November 2005 Senate elections.
The MDC has been caught in the unenviable position of being the losing candidate even where there was reason to believe otherwise.
Soon after the June 2000 parliamentary elections, the MDC – beaten by a very slim five-seat margin by Zanu PF – vigorously contested the results of 17 constituencies in court.
A stalemate working in Zanu PF’s favour ensued and persisted until 2005 when several judgments, most in favour of the MDC, were delivered.
They were of no consequence as parliament had already been dissolved and the MDC was left the sore loser desperately seeking legitimacy, a situation which could have been averted had there been forward planning.
In March 2002, Mugabe was a few days after the announcement of the presidential election inaugurated as president.
This made it rather difficult for Tsvangirai to contest the outcome of the poll and the electoral crisis and controversy that surrounded the election.
As the MDC sought talks to resolve the crisis, Mugabe placed a condition that was contrary to the objective of the talks. He demanded the MDC recognise him as the legitimate president before inter-party talks could commence.
This week Tsvangirai said he would win the elections even without campaigning.
With the current statistics of dead, displaced, injured and missing people, part of Zanu PF’s strategy is now clear — to prevent these people from voting for Tsvangirai and do sizeable damage to his previously unassailable lead.
Tsvangirai’s lead over Mugabe in the March 29 elections was not as big as he had hoped for. He led the 84-year-old crafty president by only 115 832 votes — hardly a margin big enough to warrant uncapped optimism in his circumstances, analysts said.
The analysts pointed out that as a result of violence, voter apathy was likely to increase on June 27.
By Constantine Chimakure