Come July 30 2018, the harmonised elections shall be won and lost.
There shall be celebrations and anger, laughter and crying, joy and sorrow, vindication and vilification. On that day, a destination for Zimbabwe shall be set. The country shall break with past ways of doing things, but not its glorious achievements. Zimbabwe shall be born anew.
This piece focuses mainly on the main opposition under the brand of MDC-Alliance, in particular its leader Nelson Chamisa. It seeks to expose the burden he carries on his young shoulders, a burden imposed on him by his big ambition.
Ambition promises glory, but can be cruel to one so young. Especially if they try to falsify or misread history or certain historical occurrences.
Allow us a little illustrative digression. It is one stain which refuses to leave the MDC alone. It has become its birthmark — the stigma which comes with being fathered by the white world when one, or a party, has to constantly and consistently, refer to the same father for validation of our African processes — from the rightness and desirability of the land reform programme to the validity and legitimacy of our national elections.
Yesterday, the DailyNews carried in its inside pages a story from Bloomberg. It drew attention to itself by its bold headline: “Western monitors’ return kindles hope for free Zim vote.” The other article on the same page was from the Washington Post headlined: “Politics of fear in new Zimbabwe”.
The Washington Post article talks especially about what it calls “subtle violence”, said to be deep-seated among the electorate, which President Mnangagwa is expected to exorcise if the elections are to be deemed free and fair. The writer, one Professor Nic Cheeseman, says only the “US monitoring mission has already recognised this (violence)” and is making the appropriate demands for reforms. He wants other Western nations to follow the US example, never mind that the US is still haunted by the stain of its 2016 presidential elections, but has moved on.
At the heart of the argument one gets the feeling that whatever the Government does, Zimbabwe’s election should never get the pass mark. It is a justification for continuation of US sanctions on Zimbabwe, Mugabe or no Mugabe, so long as the liberation movement which took back land from whites remains in power. Until Zimbabweans renounce and repudiate Zanu-PF and its nationalist politics, the subliminal argument goes, there can be no free and fair election. In the circumstances, a victory for the opposition would despite, not because, there was no violence against its supporters.
It’s a tall order. And Africans are not seen up to this lofty cerebral task. It’s a job for Westerners.
Give us Westerners monitors
Which is where the Bloomberg article kicks in. We are told against past elections which were marred by vote-rigging, overt violence and intimidation, President Mnangagwa “has welcomed the return of monitors from Western nations whose governments were more critical of Mugabe than teams from African countries”. (We are not sure whether it’s deliberate or common ignorance that both articles suggest that Westerners are ‘monitors’ rather than mere ‘observers’. Note also the subtle condescension in Mnangagwa ‘welcoming the return’ of Western ‘monitors’ when the reality is that he chose to invite them because, to quote him, “we have nothing to hide”.)
The article tells us the European Union, along with Canada, Switzerland and Norway, is sending 140 “observers”, the Washington-based International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute 30 “monitors”, and the African Union 54 “observers”.
Even then, ED’s sincerity must always be under scrutiny. He can’t be trusted, yet the article acknowledges that for the first time since formation in 1999, the MDC is campaigning freely in rural areas and drawing huge crowds. We are told the party remains suspicious about Government’s commitment “to a free vote and Western monitors’ ability to guarantee one”. Just this week MDC chairman Morgen Komichi confirmed to the private media that they were campaigning freely in rural areas — a godsend for the opposition.
MDC must lie on its bed
It was left to David Coltart to make the last appeal to fellow whites to make a free election possible in an African country which has refused to remain a colony. “The international community needs to understand how difficult it will be for political parties without State resources to monitor 10 985 polling stations,” wailed Coltart in an apparent appeal for funding, itself a form of interference in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs, and an illegality which has been perpetrated and condoned for a long time, in fact since the MDC was formed. Let’s not forget that the MDC demanded the ward-based polling system, which has yielded so many polling stations for a population of just 15 million, saying it wanted to thwart Zanu-PF from moving its voters around constituencies on polling day. Let them lie on their bed.
History and context
It is possible to forgive David Coltart. He is white and forever a Rhodie. So for him the struggle continues until Smith rises from the dead. There is a possibility of resurrecting Rhodesia too. So he lies easily and exaggerate the state of political violence in the country. After all the violence never touches him physically, he suffers vicariously for the majority of opposition supporters defending his white man’s cause over land.
Not so Nelson Chamisa. Every inch a Zimbabwean. David Coltart is a colonial master who lost Rhodesia and its white privileges. Chamisa should know better; that there were two episodes of unusual violence this country has experienced since 1980, which can be clearly delineated. In the early 1980s, Mugabe wanted to neutralise Zapu and Joshua Nkomo to establish a one-party State in Zimbabwe, something which was prevalent in newly-independent African and Latin American states.
The second episode followed
the failure of the 1998 Land Donors’ conference and Clare Short’s fateful letter renouncing Britain’s obligations over land reform. White commercial farmers then realised that their noise against land appropriation could be amplified by bringing blacks into their cause. That is how the MDC was born; it was a political tool to stop land reform.
There were no property or human rights to defend for blacks, most of whom had been rendered jobs and homeless by Esap starting from 1991.
This little historical background is big if we want to expose the lies and propaganda about political violence as a gratuitous dish of one man who wanted to retain power. Zimbabweans went to war in their thousands because they wanted their land back. Traditional leaders played a critical role in this, because they had been dispossessed. The one man, one vote thing was a neoliberal concept which came at a later stage to obviate the need for the gun determining which race rules the country.
Mbuya Nehanda and Lobengula and the Maponderas and Chingairas were fighting for their land, not the one man, one vote thing now being propagated by the opposition as the reason for the liberation war, to justify why Coltart and his white cousins should have retained the best farm land after independence. Chamisa should know this by now.
True, Mugabe may have loved power for its own sake to some extent, but once he staked that on the cause of the people’s popular liberation struggle, the MDC found itself exposed, fighting in the white man’s corner against what people had sacrificed their lives for. That is why to the majority the timing of the land reform doesn’t matter at the end of the day. It had to be.
Here is the source of all the political violence in Zimbabwe: once white commercial farmers decided to go political to keep the land, and sought to use blacks to bolster their minority population, it was back to war. Violence became inevitable in getting the land back after the willing seller, willing buyer model failed. It’s still failing in neighbouring South Africa.
In Zimbabwe that war is virtually over. White farmers who lost out have largely given up, hence talk now is more about compensation. The Constitution guarantees that the land reform is irreversible. It means that’s a closed chapter.
Violence was bound to die a natural death. When ED says we don’t need violence; we want free and fair elections he is restating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We have our land; now we can enjoy the one man, one vote; we can debate democracy and other neoliberal pursuits, but standing firmly on our land.
It is therefore irresponsible to treat Zimbabwe as if it enjoys violence for its own sake and that it needs former white enslavers and colonisers to teach Africans about human rights. Instead, Zimbabweans deserve their space in the sun, not the further yoke of Western sanctions.
That is why progressively in the second republic Zanu-PF and MDC policies will broadly become indistinguishable. We are about to find each other again. We are all Zimbabwean. We share a destiny. The MDC-Alliance and Chamisa are trying to overdramatise the dichotomies.