Many people in and outside Zanu PF are repulsed by the fact that Mugabe is now an old man who might not have the vigour to lead the country out of the quagmire it finds itself in.
At 88 next year, many would have expected the party to choose a younger leader. Mugabe is also said to be not in the pink of health; another reason why his detractors say he should make way for a younger leader.
But the fact that his party still sees value in him is good enough to justify their choice. It is, as stated above, their democratic right. But Zanu PF must surely have something up its sleeve! Analysts and observers are scratching their heads as to why the party has taken the risk of putting forward Mugabe as their candidate of choice when the odds are so ominously staked against him.
He was outvoted in the presidential election of March 2008 and the ensuing years have not shown any promise that his fortunes may have changed. Instead, his health seems to have deteriorated if his trips to Asia are anything to go by.
Zanu PF might be banking on the concurrently deteriorating fortunes of his main rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, whose reputation could have been mortally wounded by his chaotic private life. The performance of his MDC party in government has also left many wondering whether they are a viable alternative to Zanu PF.
Be that as it may, the gamble Zanu PF has taken is huge and it must surely be premised on some mischief. But what could this mischief be?
Zanu PF might want to pull out of the government of national unity (GNU) and force an election before a new constitution is enacted. Indeed these are the vibes we got from the conference that ended in Bulawayo yesterday.
President Mugabe, addressing delegates to the conference last week said: “The GNU has become a drag on our nation. It must give way to an elected administration that is free to govern unhindered, free to pursue definite policies for the betterment of our people.
“It (the conference) must also make it very clear that Zanu PF reserves the right to dissociate itself from a draft constitution which seeks to undermine the cardinal goals of our national liberation struggle and our national culture and values.”
But going to an election without a new charter would be to take us back to the election scenarios of the past decade where intimidation, vote rigging and the use of state apparatus to prop up the incumbent party were the order of the day. A new constitution is meant to restore the people’s basic freedoms whittled away in the three decades Zanu PF has been in power.
The Zanu PF game plan is becoming clearer by the day: close the democratic space and deny the people their right to freely choose those they want to govern them.
This is what they have been doing all along; see how the party has refused to open up the airwaves, one of the prerequisites of the new dispensation the global political agreement (GPA) sought to put in place. The recent awarding of radio licences to two pro-Zanu PF establishments was the clearest sign that the party wishes to subvert the cornerstones of the new constitution.
There are other GPA cornerstones that Zanu PF wishes to sabotage which include a non-partisan election monitoring body. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, as it is constituted today, remains in the suffocating grip of Zanu PF. Likewise, the Registrar-General’s office, which should provide an accurate voters’ role, remains in the hands of Zanu PF party operatives who have ensured that it remains as shambolic as ever, to enable vote manipulation.
The security services sector remains unreformed; we have seen how this sector has played an integral role in safeguarding Zanu PF’s hold on power against the will of the people. Reports indicate that the army was at the forefront of the electoral violence of June 2008, the police have been openly partisan applying the law selectively in favour of the former ruling party.
Zanu PF has also chosen who observes the elections so the world doesn’t see the charade which our elections have become. But most importantly, people have not been given their right to vote in secrecy; often people have been told to show their ballots to electoral officials before casting them.
This has influenced the way vulnerable people, particularly in rural and farming communities, have voted. Many people have been made to believe Big Brother watches how they vote.
If elections come next year, as Mugabe and some in his party wish, this is the same atmosphere in which they will be held. Zanu PF is prepared to damn the world as it has done before. It has ruled without legitimacy in the past and it is ready to do so again.
The guarantors of the GPA, the Southern African Development Community and the African Union, as usual, will be impotent in the face of this. The two organisations never speak with one voice as demonstrated recently in the Libyan uprising.
Although they professed to be seeking an African solution to the crisis some countries were actively supporting the rebels; North Sudan provided the National Transition Council with guns when the continental stance was that there should be a negotiated settlement.
Zimbabweans should refuse to be herded like sheep into an election without a new constitution. Any election that will be held without a new charter will be a subversion of the will of the people as it will be violent, opaque and manipulated.
Whoever leads Zanu PF into the next presidential election is not the issue; the crux of the matter is that people are allowed to vote freely and in secrecy for whomever they wish to be ruled by.
This cannot come to pass when the playing field has not been levelled and still works in favour of a certain team. When the field has been levelled and, if people vote for Zanu PF that’s fine, it’s their democratic right.
BY NEVANJI MADANHIRE