The election season is once again upon us, follow citizens, albeit without the two main traditional contenders, Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai. Robert Mugabe, who had dominated Zimbabwe’s political scene since 1980 as the president fell on his own sword in November last year when his politicised army overthrew him in a famous coup which has been given a lot of names ranging from “not-a-coup-coup”, “bond coup” and “coup lite”.
Almost three months later, Morgan Tsvangirai was to be eliminated by death, an unfortunate loss to the battle against cancer which plunged the nation into mourning. The former was succeeded by his former deputy-turned-number-one-enemy, Emerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, or ED as his supporters like to call him while the latter was succeeded by Nelson Chamisa, his trusted deputy who fend off competition from two other co-vice presidents to claim the throne.
There’s no doubt that Mugabe and Tsvangirai were larger than life political giants and their departure from the political turf will likely lead to some tsunami of sorts, if what has happened is not enough. For the first time in almost two decades, the two men’s name will not appear on the ballot paper. Part of what this means for Zimbabwe is the focus of this article.
“Never gonna happen”
While being interviewed by a Panorama Media House journalist shortly before the 1980 elections, a young Robert Mugabe was questioned if he would accept the result in case of an Abel Muzorewa victory. A defiant Robert replies, “If Bishop Abel Muzorewa wins this election, the Devil might as well win elections in heaven. There’s no way Muzorewa will win this election. It’s never going to happen.”
Refusing to let go, the journalist pushes Mugabe to a corner, telling Mugabe that the election was not a one-horse race and that chances of a Muzorewa victory, though slim were there and Mugabe ought to say his position. Mugabe then reluctantly replies, “Since you have gone hypothetical, let’s suppose Muzorewa wins, obviously if that turns out to be the case, I will have to accept the will of the people”.
Nelson Chamisa has been asked almost the same question, and his answer has been the same to Mugabe’s, “There’s no way ZANU PF will win this election. They are in the minority and it is impossible that the minority can win against the majority. There’s only one outcome in this election and the outcome is a victory for the MDC.” We all know who went on to win in 1980 and in seven more elections after and so there might be no need for revisitation.
Our focus should therefore be on this coming election whose result we do not know yet. I have argued elsewhere that chances of an ED victory are low but hey this is it, we should always expect two or more scenarios. My grandfather always warned me that the greatest shock absorber of life is to always budget for the negative. Allow me to be in Robert Mugabe’s words hypothetical and explore the likely consequences of an ED victory on Zimbabwe.
For the avoidance of doubt, I’m not in any way advocating for a Mnangagwa victory, neither am I prophesying the same. I just thought I should clear the air before I proceed. And thank you for your understanding. I know I know.
The first few hours to days, weeks or even months are going to be characterised by indifference. The generality of opposition party supporters might be in serious need of psychological therapy. They are simply going to take the route of denial. They will pretend to be dreaming, that elections never happened and that Ngwena never won.
They are going to keep thinking and hoping that they will wake up from this cruel dream and they are going to discover that it is their preferred candidate who has actually won. However this won’t be a dream. It will be a reality. They will punch themselves endlessly, hoping to wake up. But no, this right before them would be a reality. Nationally, the silence that characterised the period just after the announcement of the 2013 election results is likely to be on replay.
Except for a few ED supporters playing Kutonga Kwaro and hooting, the majority of the country will be in dead silence. People worried to death about the reality of a possible five years of no change and a likelihood of dying before seeing a non-ZANU PF government. Opposition politicians, chief among them Nelson Chamisa will likely call for press conferences to dismiss the election results as a “monumental blunder”.
Election observers will likely go the same route with that of 2013 where they refer to the elections as “fair but not credible”. There will be a difference however, provided that these elections will be observed by by Western countries. These, together with the majority of local observers will likely dismiss the results as not representing the will of the Zimbabwean people. Whether that will be of any impact is not known at this juncture. The USA shall however be particularly very critical of such an election result. Very critical.
30 days after victory
By now the reality has sunk in the people’s heads. It’s clear that Mnangagwa has won and that ZANU PF is still in power. But people are still very worried. Mnangagwa is awaiting inauguration for a proper five-year term and he’s busy trying to make a government, behind the scenes. He’s trying to pick up a list that shows he means serious business but is facing serious resistance from the old guard who are keen to see a return to cabinet once more.
ED is seriously interested in forming a unity government but will he be able to beat the resistance? Nelson Chamisa on the other hand is contemplating serious nationwide demonstrations to force the regime to the negotiation table. A demo or two has already been done in Harare and the response was overwhelming. Nelson Chamisa has also written to SADC, AU and the UN calling them to dismiss the election and order a unity arrangement at the very least. It’s chaos.
The coin scenario
From here our analysis has entered a head/tail scenario. The head on the coin represents a unity government while a tail represents a pure ZANU PF government.
i. The head
ED and reformists in ZANU PF, aided by the pressure being exerted by the opposition have succeeded in having a unity government comprising of the parties in parliament. These are likely to be ZANU PF, the MDC Alliance and Joice Mujuru’s NPP. The executive is likely to have ED as the president, Joice Mujuru and General Constantino Chiwenga as Vice-Presidents with Nelson Chamisa as Prime Minister.
In the event that Thokozani Khupe’s MDC pulls a shocker and wins a couple parliamentary seats, Thokozani herself will likely deputise Chamisa as Deputy-PM. If she doesn’t, the post will most likely go to Welshman Ncube. The process of forming the unity government has not been easy, as there has been a lot of bickering from both sides, starting with some opposition parties refusing to join completely before somewhat reluctantly agreeing.
Economic ministries will once again find themselves in the hands of the MDC and Tendai Biti is most likely going to rebounce as finance minister. GNU 2.
ii. The tail
In this scenario, ZANU PF is stubborn and proceeds to form a government on it’s own. A lot of familiar faces will re-emerge with the executive remaining the same. Ministers such as Patrick Chinamasa, Obert Mpofu and Oppah Muchinguri are likely to return, albeit with different portfolios. Chris Mutsvangwa is no longer an advisor to the president, he is now a full minister in government and so are a few technocrats. Boom, it’s ZANU PF all the way!
A year+ after victory
Whether things will change, much or little will depend on the route chosen by Mnangagwa. Whether he chooses to unite with others for a GNU 2 or to go it alone. Provided he chooses the former scenario, a year after election will be characterised by robust development and hope. Real mega deals are being signed and companies are opening daily.
Salaries are improving and infrastructure is being developed. Jobs jobs jobs. Well, the jobs are here. ED himself is now a god of sorts and his supporters are literally worshipping him. That, to some extent, is the case with Chamisa. But the people are happy. The international community on the other hand, including the usually cautious USA has embraced the new dispensation and the talk of removing totally all sanctions is seriously re-emerging. Happy happy!
But there’s the other side of the coin, an entirely ZANU PF government. On the political front, the crisis of legitimacy persists and there’s no much freedom. The parliament is the new battleground and the cross-political confrontations are fierce. The MDC regularly leads protests but the interest has dwindled.
On the economic front the same gospel of fictious mega deals continues to be spread and by now hundreds of them have been signed, though few tangible results have been seen. Cash crisis persists because there is no trust in the system. The international community led by Britain has reluctantly embraced the new old government but the US remains defiantly uncompromising.
Sanctions are here to stay. Overall however there’s progress, it is the pace that is discouraging. Tortoise pace. Those in the diaspora are saying. “Kumba ngakuuye kuno” (We are not coming back home anytime soon). Oh yes. Meanwhile we are praying for another coup. Real coup this time!!!
Elections are here. The only way of ensuring that your candidate wins is by registering and voting for them. Play your part. My article is just but a possibility, but it may as well become a reality and not many will like it. Register. Vote.
Trust Mugwagwa is a teacher by qualification and a former students leader who writes as a Zimbabwean citizen and a registered voter. He can be contacted on +2740104047, Facebook by his original name and Twitter @HonMugwagwaT.
– Trust Mugwagwa