IT has been yet another turbulent year, with triumphs and follies in Zimbabwe’s political scene. The year was dominated by drama, fights among the then Government of National Unity (GNU) partners, intra-party squabbles, constitution making, as well as shock court rulings and election results which all but ended the political careers of some party leaders.
BY PATRICE MAKOVA
Indeed the year 2013 lived up to its billing. It was touted as a watershed year, and proved to be politically consequential.
At the centre of this year’s political events, were the July elections.
The year 2013 started with the two main political parties in the country, Zanu PF and the MDC-T almost level, with opinion polls showing the election could go either way.
The MDC-T and many civil society organisations wrote-off President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF. The opposition party was optimistic of winning and refused to entertain possibilities of losing.
But the July 31 elections produced a disappointing outcome for the MDC-T and its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. Against the odds, Zanu PF secured a two thirds majority, while Mugabe won 61% of the Presidential vote, with Tsvangirai garnering a paltry 33%.
Analysts said it was clear that Zanu PF regrouped, as MDC-T snoozed. They said while Mugabe reinvented his image, portraying himself as a peaceful politician, the MDC-T was riddled in sex scandals involving top officials.
The party also became complacent, arrogant and took voters for granted.
As expected, the MDC-T contested the electoral outcome, alleging massive vote rigging and intimidation, including the bussing of voters. The party produced “dossiers” which it said contained evidence of electoral fraud.
But Sadc and the African Union (AU) declared the elections free and credible. Several world leaders, particularly those from Africa, rushed to congratulate Mugabe for romping to victory.
The Constitutional Court, led by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, also endorsed Mugabe’s win, while dismissing a petition by Tsvangirai.
It was also the Constitutional Court which had ordered Mugabe to hold the elections by July 31 after a successful application by a Zaka voter, Jealous Mawarire, who argued that elections should be held by June 29, the expiry date of the 7th Parliament.
The MDC-T and the MDC led by Welshman Ncube had argued for the postponement at Sadc level, saying conditions were not yet conducive for a free and fair election. They said an agreed electoral roadmap which guarantees electoral, media and security sector reforms had not been met.
Zanu PF’s win effectively ended the fractious four-year GNU.
Mugabe was inaugurated for the seventh time on August 22. The two MDCs are now battling to survive and remain relevant amid serious internal squabbles which have further divided the parties.
A faction in the MDC-T is now openly calling for leadership renewal blaming Tsvangirai and other top officials for the massive loss to Zanu PF.
The opposition party also faced rebellion with councillors in different cities and towns it won, defying a directive to elect certain officials as mayors and deputy -mayors.
On the other hand, the Ncube-led MDC, which did not win a single contested seat, has been abandoned by a number of top officials. Some of the officials protested the imposition of the party’s Harare-based secretary-general Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga as national assembly member for Matabeleland South, under the women’s quota.
Ncube, who before the elections, promised to cause an upset, has since disappeared from the public radar and gone into “hibernation”.
Tough tasks however, lie ahead for the new government. Zanu PF was hoping the economy would start to surge out of the doldrums. But it appears that while defeating the MDC-T by hook or by crook may have been easy, the economy is now a headache. There is now a massive weight of expectation.
The government is struggling to provide basic services such as health, education, water and electricity, while more industries are closing down due to viability problems.
Another historical happening, was the passing of a new Constitution after four years of haggling and quarrelling among the GNU partners.
The Constitution was overwhelmingly endorsed in a referendum in March. Parliament approved the new charter in May before Mugabe subsequently signed it into law days later, replacing the 1979 British Lancaster House Constitution.
The new Constitution among other things introduced proportional representation for the first time as a permanent feature of Zimbabwe’s electoral system and a maximum of two terms for the president. The new charter allocates 60 “affirmative action” seats for women for the first two terms, creates a Constitutional Court, a National Peace and Reconciliation Commission and a Gender Commission, while people with disabilities are also officially represented in government.
The year saw the MDC-T losing some of its key allies in civil society.
Sixteen years after its formation, the Professor Lovemore Madhuku-led National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) transformed itself into a fully-fledged political party. Madhuku accused the MDC-T of being selfish and betraying the people by agreeing to a new constitution which was not people-driven and lacked key democratic tenets.
The NCA co-founded the MDC in 1999.
Zanu PF’s fights for the succession of 89-year-old Mugabe were another major highlight during the year, notably after the July elections. There was a fierce contestation of party provincial elections.
There was open defiance and public spats between Mugabe’s top lieutenants. Chaos, protests and administrative hiccups marred the provincial elections despite a heavy presence of security forces helping voters cast their ballots and controlling queues. The elections were marred by allegations of vote-buying and rigging.
A faction linked to Vice-President, Joice Mujuru swept most of the polls, beating the one said to be loyal to Justice minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Both Mujuru and Mnangagwa have repeatedly disowned claims they are leading factions, or harbouring presidential ambitions.
The succession fights also saw the emergence of a new faction believed to be fronted by Zimbabwe Defence Force commander, Constantine Chiwenga and calling itself Mugabe Five Year Team.
It wants to see Mugabe completing his current term of office. Mugabe at the 14th Zanu PF National People’s Conference held in Chinhoyi, warned that factionalism threatened to destroy the party, vowing his successor would directly come from the people.
The year also saw the European Union easing sanctions against Zimbabwe in reward for the reforms implemented this year.
Only 10 officials, including Mugabe, now remain on the EU sanctions list out of the original 97. Only one company remains on the sanctions list and the diamonds from Marange are no longer subject to the measures.