Zimbabwe is in an election mode – and lots of evidence abound. The mere mention of the year 2018 gets many Zimbabweans thinking immediately of national elections that constitutionally must come in that year. It is the year that Russia will host the Fifa Soccer World Cup, but does that matter?
Zimbabwe’s own World Cup are elections that we hold with clock regularity and that is an event that has all the passions plus blood and thunder – well, in the symbolic sense and hopefully not real blood which has but chanced to spill at one importune moment or another.
The country’s eyes are mostly trained towards 2018 and it will be such a huge surprise if any other country has as keen an eye on the year.
Granted, Russia itself has presidential elections in 2018, as will Cuba, while polls will take place elsewhere from Cambodia and Mexico to Italy.
But elections in Zimbabwe prove to be a global spectacle for the obvious reason that the country has been in the limelight since it decided to upset Britain and its allies by redistributing land from white scions to poor black peasants.
Zimbabwe, most unknowingly, shot itself to global fame – or notoriety depending on whose side the ox is gored.
The stakes are high.
They will be higher in 2018, as we shall demonstrate.
What is interesting is that Zimbabwe has been perpetually in the election mode since at least in 2008 and through the inclusive Government up to this day.
Elections were held in 2013 but they did not blunt politicians’ desire for another battle and this can be explained in two parts: (a) the opposition, although vanquished after losing by a margin of more than two-thirds in Parliament, has not quite given up and have seen five years as a short time, which it is turning out to be, and so they are holding on; (b) the ruling party, which made a comfortable victory has not been able to settle because of ambition that has driven some of its top members which has led President Mugabe to note with concern about some quarters seeking to see his back even before he has finished his mandatory term as President of the Republic and as leader chosen by the last congress of his party.
First, it was Joice Mujuru and her cabal and today accusing fingers have been pointed at Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who, having himself not publicly stated, has a clique that has not made secret of their lobbying for him to be the country’s next leader.
In fact, this makes the main point of this piece.
It is not a secret that what has been happening in the ruling party over the past months has revolved around the issue of succession and the perception that President Mugabe had anointed a successor.
And when it became apparent that President Mugabe had not – and made it clear in word and deed – a silent rebellion broke from within the ranks of the party.
This was the genesis of the factional fighting that has lately taken place in the ruling party.
Last week, President Mugabe located the problem when he said that some quarters had harboured the idea that he had overstayed and needed to leave office.
He questioned why he should be pushed out midway through his term and without having gone for congress.
And to illustrate the gravity of the matter he said some party cadres were even engaging countries such as China and telling them about the President being no longer desirable.
In the past few months and weeks many people have feared for the very life of the ruling party.
The party seemed on the very brink and a lot of hostile quarters were smelling blood.
The ruckus on February 18 when war veterans were dispersed by police for holding an unsanctioned rally seemed just to be the tipping point and it was a matter of course that President Mugabe addressed the nation on the issue.
There tension was palpable and many stories and conspiracies were being spun. Some even speculated on the possibility of a bloody coup.
Yet President Mugabe was able to steer the party and country from the apparent precipice, beginning with that State of the Nation Address.
And in many ways than one, the post-Mujuru factionalism could just be the biggest blessing in disguise that Zanu-PF has bumped into.
Facing what appeared to be a dangerous split, the party has suddenly been jerked into the realisation of how easily it could have landed itself in trouble and President Mugabe has moved to rescue and remedy the situation.
Apart from planning to meet restive war veterans President Mugabe announced on Friday that he will be embarking on a countrywide tour meeting people and visiting rural irrigation schemes.
It is now clear that President Mugabe is not only intent on uniting the party but will be active in meeting the people in the grassroots and this is going to be decisive.
And this, more than anything, illustrates how factionalism has been a blessing in disguise.
Zanu-PF risked being complacent even in its weakness occasioned by factionalism.
The party would hobble and limp towards 2018, buoyed by a false sense of invincibility then it would be given a hiding, which is not unprecedented.
Ten years prior of 2018 saw something similar.
The entry of Joice Mujuru and her People First party has just added some flavour to the political mix in the country.
She has just been holding rallies since she announced her formal throwing of the hat into the ring.
Morgan Tsvangirai has also been holding rallies since, well, as far as we can remember.
This all points to a magnetic political air over Zimbabwe where the grassroots will matter and various activities will make or break parties and their prospects in 2018.
That President Mugabe will be embarking on rallies and activities across the country means he will have a chance to help the cause of his party in numbers.
It is a good guess that this may not have happened had a real threat to the party, internally or otherwise, not been discerned.
If it is a mere coincidence, it is an interesting one.