Reason Wafawarova on Monday
Nelson Chamisa vowed from day one of his campaign that “no one” was going to vote for the Zanu-PF candidate President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
At a later stage when addressing an excited small crowd in the United Kingdom, Chamisa bet and said he would “give away in marriage his 18-year-old sister if President Mnangagwa managed 5 percent of the vote”.
Let us leave the subsequent backlash out of it.
Throughout the campaign, Chamisa vowed that he would not accept or recognise any election result other than one where he was declared the winner.
Tendai Biti stammered and faltered after being asked by one of the Motlanthe commissioners how this utterance was different from the late General Vitalis Zvinavashe’s alleged 2008 utterance that the ZDF would not recognise any election result whose winner was someone without liberation war credentials.
Chamisa addressed 87 rallies across the country over a period of three months, and his Zanu-PF opponent did a four-week campaign mainly targeting star rallies in each of the 10 provinces of the country.
The campaign itself was taintless and peaceful, and so was the voting process.
Day one of counting went on peacefully and so did day two. By day two it was clear that Zanu-PF had secured more than two thirds of the 210 parliamentary seats on offer.
There was evident agitation among MDC Alliance supporters and their leaders as the nation waited for the announcement of the result for the presidential race.
Chamisa and Biti held press conferences urging their followers to be ready to “defend our vote”.
Both made declarations that Chamisa had won the presidential race. Biti alleged ZEC was “interfering with the people’s will”, and vowed the country would “plunge into chaos” if a result other than Chamisa’s victory were to be announced.
On August 1, 2018, the third day of counting, rowdy youths stormed the streets of Harare in the name of “defending our stolen vote”. They burnt cars, destroyed property, terrorised people who were going about their business, particularly commuter omnibus operators and vendors.
They also overpowered some of the riot police squads deployed, prompting a call by the police authorities for reinforcement from the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
Gunshots were heard, as soldiers and their counterparts from the police force fired volleys of warning shots into the air, and there were running battles between the protesters and the law enforcement agents.
Tragically, the end of this violent protest came with the announcement that six people had died of suspected gunshots during the protest.
It is not clear whether the six people died in one spot or at the same time, or whether they died in various places around the city and at various times, and of various causes.
The Commission of Inquiry subsequently set up by President Mnangagwa is hopefully going to provide answers to some of these questions.
Former South African president Kaglema Motlanthe chairs the Commission, and it has since concluded its public hearings.
One would want to think the key issues to be inquired on are who took what part in events leading to the tragedy of this protest, what was the motivation, what was the reaction of the State, was it reasonable, and could certain or all of the actions taken be avoided, and so on and so forth.
Of course, the Commission of Inquiry has terms of reference, which largely cover these pertinent questions.
Let us take a look at a summary view of some of the positions taken by representatives of institutions deemed involved in this sad saga, or shall we call them interested parties?
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba essentially argued that ZEC worked under undue pressure and intimidation from Chamisa and his MDC Alliance.
She pointed out that from before the announcement of the election date, Chamisa had already started issuing threats and ultimatums to ZEC, and had already predetermined himself the winner of the election, whenever it was going to be, and whoever he was going to be contesting.
She pointed out that herself and one ZEC Commissioner were targets of incessant ridicule and vilification by the MDC Alliance and its leadership, and by some media houses sympathetic to the opposition outfit.
She also pointed out that ZEC offices were constantly bombarded by marauding MDC Alliance supporters, most of whom slandered, ridiculed and insulted ZEC officials. The harassment was before, during, and after the election process.
Justice Chigumba argued that the MDC Alliance should bear responsibility for organising the August 1 violent protest that led to the death of six people. The deaths are regrettable in every way, but the MDC Alliance and its leaders cannot disown the proceedings that led to this tragedy, so she argued.
Justice Chigumba maintained that the election itself was free, fair and credible; and that all election results were legitimate and a true reflection of the will of the people of Zimbabwe.
Second to come to the hearing were Zanu-PF representatives. They basically told the inquiry that on August 1, they were victims of a very violent and intolerant opposition party.
They produced evidence of damage to their properties, and these included vehicles and office buildings housing both their head office and regional office in Harare.
They argued that the party was already leading in the parliamentary race by more than two-thirds majority, and the opposition had already conceded defeat.
Given this prevailing reality, it did not make sense for Zanu-PF to contemplate engaging in any form of protest or violence.
They argued that the party’s celebration preparations were derailed by the MDC Alliance, which vowed “to pour sand in the food”.
Zanu-PF accused the MDC Alliance’s Vanguard militia for being behind the deadly violence that led to the tragedy of August 1.
Then came arguments I will attribute to the Government’s position, and these came from the Police Commissioner and the Commander Defence Forces, among others.
In a nutshell, the law enforcement bosses agreed that the police invited the army to help control the violent protesters on August 1.
They agreed that firearms were used, but only inasfar as warning shots were concerned. There was no order to shoot at civilians given by anyone at any given time.
They also argued that in the absence of solid evidence linking the six dead people to direct shooting from the soldiers or the police, they would want the inquiry to investigate who else could have had the motivation to benefit from the death of these civilians, especially benefiting politically.
General Valerio Sibanda gave the narrative of peace and tranquillity that President ED Mnangagwa had been selling from the onset of the whole electoral process.
This was a narrative well sold to the international community, particularly to traditional hostile Western countries. He argued it would have taken a darn fool to ruin this narrative at such a crucial time like the vote counting process.
The electoral process had been peaceful throughout the campaign period and the voting process, there were scores of international observers everywhere; and the last thing the Government would have wanted at that point was to have the hailed peaceful election narrative ruined.
General Sibanda argued that he would have to be “insane” to send soldiers to kill civilians at a time as crucial as was the counting process.
In any case, the ruling party was comfortably leading, and it is hard to imagine what the motivation for killing of civilians would be.
Only the MDC Alliance did not want the peace and tranquillity narrative, and only that party was interested in discrediting the election as unfree, violent and unfair.
They tried it through the whole election process. This was their last chance to ruin the narrative of a free, fair, credible and peaceful election, and they had to do it.
So, the two security officials argued that the MDC Alliance organised the August 1 violent protests in order to provoke and invite use of force, and to manipulate the law and order process by infiltrating it and killing people so blame could be passed onto Government.
In a nutshell, the Police Commissioner and the CDF implied there was a third force with a sinister motive, and this third force deliberately caused the death of the six people; by whatever means or weapons that could have been used.
While reasonable force was used to control the rowdy protesters, Government refused to take responsibility for the shootings that happened; unless those alleging so can produce evidence linking the deaths to any such shooting by any Government law enforcement agents.
Then came in the MDC Alliance as represented by a number of activists and its top leadership, namely Biti and Chamisa.
Biti’s narration would best sum up the position of the MDC Alliance, although he was primarily defending himself before the Commission.
He gave a historical narrative dating back 110 years where his chosen script was to say Zimbabwe is a society of violence because so many people were killed violently in its history.
Biti argued that because Mbuya Nehanda and Kaguvi were violently killed, and because Herbert Chitepo was violently assassinated, and because Thomas Nhari was killed during the war, and because innocent civilians were bombed at Nyadzonia and Chimoio, and because the post-independence conflict resulted in deaths in the western part of the country, and because there was political violence between 2000 and 2008; this must mean the MDC Alliance were victims on August 1.
So, the argument is that Zanu-PF inherited an appalling history of violence from the Matebele invaders before colonialists, and from the colonialists they subsequently fought and defeated in the war of liberation.
Biti argued that Zanu-PF has a DNA of violence, and only Zanu-PF can reasonably be associated with the violence that happened on August 1.
Chamisa believes, or pretends to believe that the protesters who were on the streets of Harare on August 1 were essentially stupid people who had no idea what they were doing. His argument is that there was no point protesting an election result that had not been announced yet.
If they are not stupid, then they were Zanu-PF supporters masquerading as MDC Alliance in order to incriminate the opposition leadership so President Mnangagwa can easily jail them.
That was the argument from both Biti and Chamisa.
The MDC is a constitutional peace-loving party and no one with a criminal inclination belongs to that party, so went their argument.
We refuse paternity to those who looted and destroyed property on August 1, so argued Biti and Chamisa. They masqueraded as our supporters by wearing our regalia and chanting our slogans, as well as singing songs in support of our president, Biti said.
Will the Commission buy this? It has to be seen with time.
Biti and Chamisa argue that they genuinely believed they had won the election, and when the protests happened they were busy preparing for the inauguration of Chamisa as Head of State.
As such, they were not part of the protest, they did not sanction it, did not support it, and the MDC Alliance leadership was certainly not part of the protest in any way.
Biti also speculated that possibly an enemy of President Mnangagwa was interested in ruining the narrative of a peaceful election; so he staged this protest so innocent people could be killed.
If not he took advantage of the protest itself to taint President Mnangagwa by shooting innocent civilians.
Come 29 November; Chamisa organises yet another protest march, albeit an ill-attended peaceful one; and he comes up with interesting demands.
He wants dialogue with ED, where ED acknowledges he lost or stole the election, after which Chamisa will bring his “many” and ED will bring his “few” people.
At that dialogue table we are told a determination of “who does what and who goes where” will be made.
Chamisa says he will be coming to this dialogue table armed with two things; on one hand the keys to forever economic happiness for all Zimbabweans, and on the other disastrous volumes of sand to pour into the works of President Mnangagwa, should he continue to refuse with Chamisa’s “jiggies”.
It is hard to think Chamisa is posturing. In his mind this election theft is as real as the proclaimed economic keys to our happiness.
The sand claim is real too in Chamisa’s mind. He genuinely believes without his blessing there cannot be economic development in Zimbabwe, the same genuine way he believes he won the presidential race on July 30.
Not even the Supreme Court can convince him otherwise, not his friends either, not even his father, not his wife, not his colleagues — no one.
One wonders whether this is a concerning reality of political psychosis or just a political strategy to remain relevant all the way to 2023.
Lovemore Madhuku believes Chamisa’s campaign for 2023 began on August 1, and is unlikely to be interrupted by anything until another election date is announced, and until that day comes and passes.
It is in the interest of public progress that this Government should focus on the job at hand and allow Chamisa to wallow in his political machinations in absolute peace and freedom.
He is a perfectly normal guy enjoying and enduring the terrains of political manoeuvring.
If I were the opponent I would simply pretend this young man is an entertainer of our people.
Zimbabwe, we are one, and together we will overcome.