Tomorrow’s election is a watershed election because for the first time since independence in 1980, Zimbabwens are going to the polls without Robert Mugabe on the ballot. Mugabe’s former right-hand man, the current President, Emmerson D Mnangagwa, will be on the ballot seeking to legitimise the power he took when he toppled Mugabe in a “soft coup” in November 2017.
It is also a watershed election because the stakes are high for everybody. Zimbabweans are yearning for real change that allows them to be masters and mistresses of their own destinies and not rely on government for selective handouts when it is convenient.
May the best party for Zimbabwe win
On the eve of the 2018 elections, it is my wish that the best party wins. May the losing party accept the results of the election graciously. Should there be a run-off, may there be peace and calm during the run-off. If we end up with a coalition government, something I believe is desirable for Zimbabwe right now, may that unity government be made up of the best Zimbabwe has to offer and not on the basis of cronyism and patronage.
As I reflect on how far we have come on the eve of the watershed 2018 elections, it becomes apparent that although we must remember who and what failed us in the past and how that history must inform our choices today, there were valuable lessons learned which should help us make informed decisions about the two main contesting parties, Zanu PF and MDC.
There are lessons learned from the two main contenders
In Zanu PF we learnt tenacity, endurance and determination to stay in power, at all costs, linked to a sense of entitlement that says, without struggle credentials, you cannot be fit for office. We also witnessed ruthlessness and diabolical deeds and must wonder now, if this old dog — Zanu PF — can be taught new tricks.
In MDC we learnt determination, perseverance and razor-sharp focus to get the crown, even if at times the crown was stolen right from under its eyes. The enduring face of the late Morgan Tsvangirai will be remembered most for being the unwavering and steadfast face of Zimbabwe’s weighed-down and tyrannised opposition, courageously and dauntlessly challenging the former president Mugabe and almost dislodging him in the 2008 elections after MDC polled more votes than Zanu PF.
As a party, the MDC will go down in history as the only opposition party which had the courage and audacity to take on Mugabe. MDC was a transformational change agent in that they got Zimbabweans thinking about the possibility of change. On that aspect, MDC will forever be a fearless political change pathfinder in Zimbabwean politics. Change agents are brave people, always. As the leader of MDC, Tsvangirai was the first opposition politician to whet the appetite of down-trodden Zimbabweans on the prospect of change.
For Zanu PF as a party, we grasped in their early years of rule that unity is power, even if that unity was being mobilised for ideals at cross-purposes with your own, the individual. In Zanu PF we observed their great capacity to stay and hold onto power in the face of a failing economy, rampant corruption within their ranks and poor service delivery. We also watched in awe over the last six months how ZanuPF, having been in power for 38 years, still wants to be given more time to deliver that which they failed to deliver in almost four decades.
Zanu PF not astute in laying bare its accomplishments
Zanu PF has delivered many tangibles and intangibles to Zimbabweans but as a party, they have failed to document their achievements and communicate them accordingly to the voting public. They have over-emphasised their freedom fighter credentials. War veterans will always be a national asset in Zimbabwe. But someone had to free the country. A certain generation, by virtue of it having been present at that time, had to execute the “liberation project”. But that is not a sufficient condition to hold future generations to ransom. They were not there and therefore could not have undertaken the liberation project.
Our youths today are stuck in their parents’ homes with no hope of achieving personal financial and social freedom. They want tangible solutions. On July 5, 2018 Mnangagwa launched a Youth Empowerment Bank (YEB) capitalised to the tune of $12 million. The government ought to have put its thinking cap on, for $12 million is a pittance and the disbursement of $12 million to the youths, does not require the setting-up of banking infrastructure.
The existing banks and their branch networks could have been mobilised for disbursement and monitoring. It has been done in the past. Government could have used the same approach by utilising the $12 million to guarantee funds disbursed by the banking sector to the youth. Zimbabwe has a history of failed banks and it would be regrettable to see the YEB headed the same direction.
Can the crocodile be trusted?
President Mnangagwa, nicknamed “Crocodile”, was Mugabe’s right-hand man for decades. The two were together when Zimbabwe was transformed from being a breadbasket to a basket case. Some will say how can the Crocodile promise us honey and manna today when on his watch the country and people were reduced to penury? But others will point out that Mugabe used to call the shots and the men around him had no say as they were just mere figureheads meant to give the impression that decisions were made by the collective.
The Crocodile, by his own admission, says he is different from Mugabe and will chart a new path that will leapfrog this country forward on a path of prosperity and progress. Like Paul on the road to Damascus, he saw the light and is now a different man. Can the man be trusted? That is a decision that every voter will have to make tomorrow, on election day.
On the eve of the watershed elections of 2018, I wonder at those from among us, the armchair politicians, at home and abroad, who could be successful politicians, but chose to remain on the fringes. When those with the competencies to serve and change lives shy away, those with nothing but courage enter the fray and we inevitably, always, without a doubt, end up with the politicians we do not want. And it is those in the running that get elected.
Flawed presidential candidates
The two main contenders for the presidential slot are flawed in ways so extreme one wonders if it is a fair choice for voters, but then again, they are the ones with the viable constituencies. The other plausible presidential candidates with untainted histories and messages resonating more to the centre such as Nkosana Moyo and Noah Manyika unfortunately do not have significant followings. Like Moyo and Manyika, there are many individuals contesting at different levels as independents and one can only imagine what a collective of independents would achieve should they win.
It is incumbent upon all patriotic Zimbabweans to go out in their numbers to choose the future leadership of the country. Let the people analyse their circumstances carefully and then put their “X” where they think their future will be secured. For us in Zimbabwe, the right to exercise the ballot did not come cheap. A lot of blood was shed to secure the right to vote. Let no man waste this opportunity to decide the future and destiny of our country.
Peaceful transfer of power is yet to be tested
But voting has never been our problem. Even counting the votes has not been a challenge. The one thing that has never been tested in Zimbabwe is peaceful transfer of power from Zanu PF to another opposition party. Should the MDC achieve an overwhelming majority in the vote, the best thing that can happen in Zimbabwe is for President Mnangagwa together with the security establishment to allow the will of the people to prevail. Should Zanu PF win, may the MDC accept the results, as well.
l Gloria Ndoro-Mkombachoto is an entrepreneur and regional enterprise development consultant. Her experience spans a period of over 25 years. She can be contacted at [email protected]