Elections create strong emotions, but Zimbabwe must move on
Dr Masimba Mavaza
Soon after elections, people are engulfed in different flames of emotions. Some are carried high in happiness and extraordinary happiness and others are consumed in the spirit of sadness evoked by the loss.
Why do elections create such strong emotions? This is the nature of any competition. Those who lose sit down and take solace in licking their wounds, it is not a good experience.
In any election, both sides invest a lot of passion, energy and time in their point of view.
For many reasons humans take not getting their point of view validated as a menace and a threat to their well-being.
When we have to co-exist with someone who has a different point and their point of view is victorious, it is hard.
It is quite challenging to be in a world where one’s strongly held views are repudiated.
Our minds wrap around the rightness of our view and the need to have other people share those views to feel that there is order and safety.
If you find out the other side has won, it is a loss which needs to be grieved and it creates vulnerability.
In some cases, not all the anger that people feel after their candidate loses is unhealthy.
One has to recognise that the feeling of being on the wrong side of any election is not just a result of not having your way, but of the intensity that you place on your point of view triumphing.
When we lose it feels wrong, our sense of control unravels and that is when grieving begins.
Grieving and anger are what is supposed to happen with loss and unwanted change.
What is not healthy is to hold on to anger about something that cannot change and is in the past.
That is when bitterness and hostility can become habits and limit our moving on and enjoying life.
Forgiveness should be on the menu while you admit that you are unhappy.
One should acknowledge that his or her candidate did not win and understand that the well-being does not depend on the side winning.
The August 23 harmonised elections are recent, people need to acknowledge their feelings.
The country has to have a leader. Power must never exist in a vacuum. So we all must enter into an election expecting two results which are to win or to lose.
The most terrible attitude is to enter into the arena telling yourself that it is going to be a win or nothing. This is the origin of all violence. Violence after an election is as a result of refusal to accept defeat.
The major strength of the Zimbabwean political system is that business continues while disputes are being resolved.
Our political system works well when we agree to accept defeat regardless of how bitter it is.
By its nature, defeat is bitter and in democracy we must learn to accept defeat.
It is mostly an accepted practice to accept defeat and move on. Time does not stop when you lose, there will always be life beyond your loss. There will be people waiting to be governed after elections, including those who have lost.
The winner becomes the President of every citizen.
What political forgiveness does is to say, “Ok, I am making peace with reality. I wanted this election to go one way and it did not.”
It does not condone bad behaviour. Forgiveness emerges when you realise there are always going to be people who disagree with you.
What forgiveness adds is a peaceful acceptance that things do not always work out and you do not have to sacrifice your happiness because of it.
The length of healing on how personally affected someone is, how much they personally suffered and how deeply invested they were in a certain outcome.
Living in bitterness destroys the country, it sets hope and future in flames. It stalls progress.
Politics is a highly emotional business and many people feel a personal stake in the outcomes of elections. So, dealing with a loss at the polls can be a serious event for voters and candidates alike. But we all have to lose gracefully.
The opposition are more focused on fighting each other than on solving problems.
Government on the other hand is spearheading several projects addressing challenges faced by people.
Thus people will end up seeing the truth, the ones who really deserve to win. Those who work hard to ensure the nation progresses will always win and Zanu PF won resoundingly during the August 23 harmonised elections.
When dealing with a loss after an election, voters and candidates may want to initially use emotional-focused coping methods such as exercise and social support.
Dealing with an election loss in a healthy way is not just important for individuals, it is important for the entire country and community.
Holding on to resentment or anger over a loss at the polls could damage your health and ability to constructively contribute to society; it could also reinforce a divisive political environment – making the next election even more difficult.
Zimbabwe cannot survive with grumpy bad losers who hang on to their bitterness.
So, win or lose, we all have a stake in making sure the defeated heal quickly and are still heard after the election.
While everyone will experience political loss differently and will respond differently to various coping methods, a general approach of moving from self-care to political empowerment may be a potent strategy for those who truly want to transform.
Elections are just the start of what is a complex policy-making process. Participating is empowering and can help alleviate psychological distress.
Being on the losing side of an election may create distrust in the system and dissatisfaction with democracy.
But instead of letting hurt sideline you from politics, use it to fuel the passion you felt before the election.
Many people invest time, energy, money and general support into campaigns.
Voters can often feel frustrated by “the system” after an election loss and candidates may feel as if they let supporters down. The circumstances surrounding an election, however, can be far too complex to be under anyone or anything’s control.
Before taking a closer look at how to cope, voters and candidates should keep in mind that losing can actually be an empowering experience.
In fact, losing a national election can open other opportunities such as a larger desire among voters to be engaged in local-level politics.
Candidates and organisers may find opportunities in issue-based advocacy. The important thing is to maintain a grounded perspective that politics and elections tend to be cyclical.
Zimbabwe will develop if we all come together and work together. After elections, we are all Zimbabweans. Zimbabwe is the only country we can call ours.
We must not let bitterness destroy our motherland.