By Dr M Mavaza and Paul Mugari| On Monday 30 July Zimbabweans will head to the polls to choose their next government, with millions of voters desperate for a functioning economy. International election observers have been invited to monitor the elections. The role of the observers is normally to: engage citizens in the election process; deter fraud; expose problems and irregularities; provide an accurate measure of the quality of the election; promote confidence in the process and outcomes; and provide recommendations for improving the process for the next election. This is good for Zimbabwe as this helps give election integrity. It is therefore imperative that the opposition and the people note the gestures from the new dispensation and do the very best to make it work. This is better than being overly cynical, suspicious and cold. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
This is a time for the opposition to show good will, and prepare for unity, and thinking outside the box. In some cases, there is no box. We face an election post former president Robert Mugabe and post former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. These are uniquely different times, and an opportunity for a fresh start. The former president spent most his last days as the president dominated by reports of being between Singaporean hospitals and a gilded-cage Harare mansion. Some have called for the legacy of the former president strongman’s legacy to be exorcised, in the interest of convincing investors to return to Zimbabwe. The main opposition party the MDC T likewise also saw the final days of its former leader Dr Morgan Tsvangirai dominated by reports frequent visits to a South African private hospital. The political polarisation that existed during this period may have contributed to the overstay of these two leaders at the expense of progress. Both the Zanu pf and MDCT should reflect on how their leaders dragged and clang to the top job, and how the party members and supporters allowed his to happen.
Moving on, because we must, some significant progress has been noted. The former president Mugabe’s ouster heralded the beginning of a new Zimbabwe. There have not been widespread reports of pre-election violence. At least not the level of the 2008 polls which was blamed on Zanu pf. It is often assumed that election violence is used precisely because it works in favour of those who use it. It can be argued that political participation in Zimbabwe was becoming a dangerous business. Therefore, when pre-election violence drops it signal a change in policy, a notable change. One life lost is too many, because life is sacred. In Zimbabwe pre-election violence has been blamed on the ruling Zanu PF, often associate with the prolonged rule of the incumbent. This type of violence poses a serious threat to the personal safety of the opposition and voters. Therefore, the reduction in incidents of pre-election violence in Zimbabwe must be welcomed by the opposition if it is true that ZANU PF was behind it. If opposition downplays the reduction in pre-election violence, then we have reason to doubt their sincerity; whether they had something to do with it or at least if at all they care about their supporters.
In the past there has been attempts by this writer to draw parallels between Kenya and Zimbabwe. This writer was thinking that the former president Mugabe would take from the former president of Kenya HE Daniel Arap Moi who left power and became the father of Kenyan politics. Every presidential aspirant almost seeks the blessing of Moi in Kenya. This writer wished that president Mugabe would become the Moi of Zimbabwe, but it wasn’t to be. Instead we were close to Gambia and the fall of Yahya Jameh, and the subsequent onslaught on his close allies. A lesson for the new dispensation? But some parallels can still be drawn with Kenya. There is nothing new under the sun. The opposition and civic society activists’ deep scepticism of president Mnangangwa needs moderation. Because these together with some utterances of the opposition leader, Advocate Nelson Chamisa, can help fuel post-election violence. And, as such all the gains of the reduction in political violence will be lost. Even though the run up to the election has far maintain calm for the most it, there could still be a risk of a Kenya style post-election violence.
If such a calamity awaits us next week, this writer has a few points to highlight.
• The conservative estimates of displaced people in the world currently stands at over 30 million, with liberal estimates as high as 65 million. Zimbabwe does not need to add to that number. We have an economy to rebuild.
• As already argued (hopefully) we have already made some progress. Violence is down. A journey of a thousand miles has already begun, and what we want to see next would be; free and fair elections, Can Zanu-PF accept defeat, if it comes to that? Can the opposition? It is important to see the glass as half full.
• The Kenyan post-election violence resulted in over 1000 deaths and 180,000 – 600,000 displaced. Yet, later the political party leaders signed an agreement and worked together. No significant prosecutions. Zimbabweans should resist being used to prop up some politicians into some positions after participation in violence.
In conclusion we have a country to build. We have seen the optimism and cautious hope that surrounds president Mnangagwa’s ascendancy to power. He promises technocracy that would bring back the economy. The main contender Adv Nelson Chamisa promises a 100 billion economy in a decade, major infrastructural development that will include the transformation of rural economies into industrial hubs, an effective rail system boosted by the introduction of bullet trains, and the construction of modern freeways. And indeed, we have many other presidential aspirants. This is enough to reason to protect the peace and stability we enjoy so far, and if anything, to improve it. It’s time to see our next step in the journey to recovery and give the winner a chance.
Rome wasn’t built in day.
We therefore need to strengthen our institutions to help avert any possible post-election unrest and skirmishes. And in the run up to the elections we should urge all influential people to speak responsibly. Faith communities, civic groups, people of influence, members of Political Debate Group, should urge each other and more to shun any violence. New billboards must be put up shunning any form of violence. All sermons on Sabbath and Sabbath School classes must shun violence. Likewise, all sermons on Sunday must reject violence, and warn the young and the restless not to participate in any skirmishes if they come up. Let’s protect our gains. Iwe neni tine basa.