By Ian Scoones
I haven’t got round to doing a normal Zimbabweland this week. These are not normal times, and I have spent too much time following events on Twitter this last tumultuous week. So, again, I will offer some links to things I have found useful, even if I didn’t agree with everything in each article. I have also included some older links from Zimbabweland that relate directly to the dilemmas now faced.
Last Monday’s election produced a significant win for Zanu-PF in the parliamentary poll, largely due to the rural voters continuing to back the party, and the opposition splitting its vote, especially in Matabeleland.
Overall Zanu-PF gained 144 seats and the MDC-Alliance 64. However, this represents a large swing to the opposition since 2013, but not enough to undo Zanu-PF’s grip on power. There were a couple of independent candidates who won, and some upsets for some big party beasts (Christopher Mutsvangwa and Patrick Chinamasa being two), but also some disappointments for some progressive and inspiring candidates such as Fadzayi Mahere in Harare.
In the local council elections the #This Flag leader Pastor Evan Mawarire lost in his attempt to gain a local political hold.
Despite this being billed as the social media election, this may reflect more the “Twitter tyranny” of the urban elites and others (including myself) who get a distorted picture. This is a theme developed by Hopewell Chin’ono. The rural masses who voted for Zanu-PF by and large do not follow Twitter debates, nor read blogs (although sometimes I am surprised). As discussed before, so-called hashtag activism is significant, but only among certain groups. Instead, they look to their local candidates, and who they think can deliver.
Most eyes were focused on the presidential race between Emmerson Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa. Here there was a much tighter race. Chamisa and the MDC-Alliance announced even before the election that they had won, and continued to do so afterwards, fomenting fears of a stolen vote. Some perceived delays in announcing the results and on-going accusations of rigging of the elections in turn prompted riots on the streets by opposition supporters. The disastrous and disproportionate intervention of the military resulted in the killing of six, and further clamp downs on opposition support. David Moore gives an overview of the results and their aftermath.
While offering many cautions, the teams of international observers regarded the election as adequate, if not ideal. Yes, of course, it was an uneven playing field with the incumbent making the running; yes the state media supported one party, while the private media largely supported the opposition; yes state resources were used to bolster the incumbent’s position and help with electioneering; and yes irregularities and delays were there. But, overall, nothing has been uncovered yet (and this may of course change) to dismiss these elections in the way some have been. Indeed, most expected Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF to win handsomely, despite the energetic campaign of Chamisa and the alliance, with their (not always welcome) backing from the expelled G-40 faction of Zanu-PF, most notably Jonathan Moyo via Twitter and latterly through Robert Mugabe (with his wife Grace close by) at the bizarre pre-election Press conference.
Zimbabwe today is a deeply divided country. Between rural and urban, between the educated social media connected elites and the rest, between different groups within the security forces and the police and between different vying factions within all main parties.
Mnangagwa has a big job on his hands to create unity. Whether the indiscriminate killing of opposition supporters (and other passers-by) in Harare after the elections was ordered or was directed by an independent rogue group of securocrats is not known. Recent events suggest that the ongoing divisions within Zanu-PF and within the security forces (with the police often being sidelined in favour of a violent military support) are a real threat to economic and political stability that so many yearn. These are themes that were raised around the events in November, and again have been put into sharp focus. In different ways, both Miles Tendi and Alex Magaisa pick up the dangerous role of the “shadow” military state in their thoughtful articles, with a follow-up BSR today from Magaisa arguing that the brutal events of this past week have tarnished the reputation of Mnangagwa irretrievably, unless he can regain control.
What this reconfiguration of power means for the politics of land and agriculture is not yet clear. The political elites of both Zanu-PF and the MDC-Alliance professed a commitment to modernising agriculture and increasing production, and much of this could be read as support for a new capitalist class of farmers, largely on the A2 farms. How the military elite, also invested in land including on the A2 farms, see the future is not articulated, but probably not very different.
Who are their advocates? With a lack of coherence in rural policies (as seen in the manifestos) and relatively few of the high profile politicians of either main political formation really having a deep commitment to rural development (beyond the usual rhetoric), the voters will have to hold their MPs and the government more generally to account. Patterns of rural (and urban) differentiation result in different political alliances, and the failure of any party — and perhaps particularly the MDC as a movement with urban labour origins — to ignore rural issues is fatal. How class dynamics and rural politics will pan out in the future will surely be a focus for discussions on this blog into the future.
Earlier this year, I did a series of articles for The Conversation on what next for the post-Mugabe era on land and agriculture, focusing on the issue of compensation for expropriated land, the need for an effective land administration system and ten priorities for agriculture.
These issues all remain crucial, and we look forward to a new Government with a wide range of talents, and perhaps including others from other parties, so that an inclusive, progressive commitment can be sustained. Certainly, Zimbabwe urgently needs a period of investment, peace and stability, but the big question remains, given the divisions, can Mnangagwa’s Zanu-PF deliver?
This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland.