TODAY is a historic and significant day in Zimbabwe’s body politic as it provides the country’s estimated 5,6 million registered voters an opportunity to elect their new leadership for the next five years.
After all the euphoria associated with election campaigns has died down, the onus is now on Zimbabweans across the political divide to sift through all the messages and political innuendos they were fed on to pick their choice among the record 23 presidential and thousands of Members of Parliament and council candidates in the race.
Being the first election since former President Robert Mugabe was forced to step down last November and the first without the late MDC-T founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who succumbed to colon cancer on February 14 this year, it is a major national test to the country’s democratic tenets.
But the main focus will be on the presidential race where Zanu PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance’s Nelson Chamisa have been touted as front-runners. It would however, appear that a thin line separates the front-runners’ policies besides the fact that Mnangagwa (75) represents the war generation that has ruled the country since independence in 1980, while Chamisa (40), embodies the hopes of the youth, the bulk of whom are virgin voters. This election, if declared free and fair by the thousands of local and international observers already on the ground, could confirm the country’s rehabilitation after years as a pariah state and help unlock foreign direct investment.
On June 14, Zimbabwe’s nomination court sat and accepted 23 presidential candidates some of them literally there to make up the numbers or as rumour would have it, they were funded by the ruling Zanu PF to stand by in case Chamisa chickened out.
After months of threats to the effect that there will be no elections without reforms, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) refused to move an inch. Ballots were printed either in Harare or God knows where and the election is on. Chamisa seems to have capitulated and grudgingly will go into an election he argues has a high likelihood to be rigged. Reports of ballot papers being found in possession of aspiring Zanu PF candidates across the country are disturbing, especially that these are to be used by voters in the rural areas instead of Zec material. It appears Zanu PF has used the old trick before to dribble past the opposition MDC-T then led by Tsvangirai.
Even on the campaign trail, Mnangagwa outspent Chamisa on the campaign trail, buying top-of-the-range all-terrain vehicles for his more than 300 Zanu PF parliamentary candidates for a cool $36 million from South Africa, occupied most billboards in major towns and dominated the airwaves with adverts – but all that is water under the bridge.
Both men have claimed they will win with Chamisa going one step further and declaring any outcome that favours his nemesis will be “fiction”.
On the other hand, Mnangagwa told his supporters on Saturday that Zanu PF will continue to rule and he has not shown the demeanour of someone ready to leave State House.
“It is Zanu PF that has ruled, is ruling and will continue to rule. Zimbabwe will be born afresh on Monday (today). This coming Monday we will win the election,” Mnangagwa said confidently.
Mnangagwa has struggled to walk out of his long-time mentor Mugabe’s shadow while Chamisa seems to be walking right into it, albeit at the 11th hour. Suddenly, Mugabe’s shadow now looms large in today’s election. Even the master political craftsman, Mugabe himself called for a Press briefing, yesterday and announced he would not vote for Zanu PF. The choice for Zimbabweans is not cut and dry. Chamisa presents himself as a man for the future, using his youthful exuberance to woo the youth under the banner of Generational Consensus.
Mnangagwa on the other has been trying to project himself as a reformist, ready to break ranks with Mugabe’s 38-year torturous regime, blamed for the mess that is for all to see – a tough task to undo in eight months. Mnangagwa at his inauguration in November last year said he wanted to fight corruption. Little has come of this. Former Cabinet minister Samuel Undenge in jail for his role in a $12 000 stinky deal remains Mnangagwa’s only political scalp.
But critics have always argued, Mugabe did not “win power” because he was popular. The institutions of State power remain the fulcrum upon which power might be won or lost. Only time will tell. We just hope the military won’t stay in citizens’ way and try to influence the election results. The onus is on the people − not politicians − to decide who will become the leader of the second republic today. The argument is that power should never be concentrated where only a few direct the lives of others and that political control and decision-making must be dispersed. This plebiscite is the question of whether sovereignty lies with the people of Zimbabwe or whether our politicians or the military should make decisions on citizens’ behalf.
Young people, it’s true that it is not only your voices that would be heard this general election, but the poor majority who have suffered under successive Zanu PF regimes over 38 years. A true democracy is where the voice of the people is heard!