Crucial elections will take place in Zimbabwe on July 30. This week the MDC Alliance (Movement for Democratic Change) led by advocate Nelson Chamisa takes the last campaign steps to overcome former President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party. Already the election is tainted by reports that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) computers have been hacked from a base in the United Kingdom. The worrisome revelation comes at the same time as Zanu-PF candidates have surprisingly been able to send personalised campaign text messages to registered voters.
However, with all the usual shenanigans remnant of Mugabe’s past rule a victory for his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa is hard to sell. Previously sceptical research institutions agree that 40 year old Chamisa will give Zanu-PF a run for its money and win this election.
Chamisa is now on the last minute stretch which includes night vigils in all major cities for a push that will see the MDC Alliance galvanise support aimed at getting an undisputed 65% and above of the vote; breaking an entrenched liberation movement’s 40 year stranglehold on power.
Consequently, it should be noted that this election is significant for the opposition and progressive forces, together with regional and international stakeholders, to put closure to the issue of legitimacy of past disputed elections that have haunted a once vibrant and prosperous nation for almost two decades. Zimbabwe has been a pariah state isolated from the rest of the world.
Zimbabwe, once the bread basket of Africa is now a basket case producing one of the highest figures of exiles at four million, for a country that is not at war.
The responsible, mature and timely intervention by international players who include the European Union (EU) is of paramount importance. The EU Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) is led by Elmar Brok, a Member of the European Parliament from Germany, who has already announced that the election “is a crucial test to Zimbabwe’s reform process.”
The election takes place at a time of much desperation for change by citizens who have suffered years of poverty as the political crisis lingered on. Unemployment is still at highest levels, with the so called “New Dispensation” led by Mnangagwa excelling more at grand words and moves meant to hoodwink and lure international support, but meaningless to the average Zimbabwean on the ground, fed on empty promises.
The cash crisis persists. At the time of writing, fuel had run out at major fuel stations, exacerbated by Mnangagwa’s failure to deal with corruption and patronage.
Cronyism continues with Wicknell Chivayo, an unpopular businessman, set to benefit from a US$140 million deal corruptly approved first by Mugabe and then by Mnangagwa to complete the implementation of the Gwanda Solar Power Project, recent press reports indicate.
That is not all. Calls by opposition parties for a fruitful dialogue on addressing essential issues that will allow for a credible election have not been heard, with ZEC chair Priscilla Chigumba digging in. Issues that have to do with voters roll access and transparency with ballot paper printing and distribution, including security after the vote, are now “ water under the bridge.”
Neither has Chigumba unashamedly hidden her strong bias towards the ruling Zanu-PF party, compromising her integrity and role as chair of the election commission. Furthermore, there is no investigation as to who hacked into the ZEC computers and stole crucial voter information.
Zanu PF has ruled Zimbabwe for 38 years with remnants who include a military elite continuing to be in charge after Mugabe was deposed in a military coup last November.
The military response remains key, given past experiences in 2008 when Mugabe lost presidential elections to the late MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Reports in retrospect indicate that he was ready to step down but was forced to remain by the military junta in alliance with Mnangagwa.
The nation now eagerly awaits the junta’s response to a Chamisa victory. Therein lies the true test of a “new dispensation”, in which politics as in all democratic societies will lead the gun.
Chamisa is set for a certain victory with a recent survey by Zimbabwe’s Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) in partnership with Afrobarometer showing his support surging, while Zanu PF candidate Mnangagwa’s support has dwindled.
It is important to note that last May in a similar survey by the same group Mnangagwa’s support stood at 42% and Chamisa at 30%. The gap has since narrowed to just 3% and the margin of error is at +\-2%. Mnangagwa now stands at 40% and Chamisa at 37%.
Even more significant and crucial to understand is that 15% of the respondents refused to reveal their choices and 5% said they don’t know whom they will vote for.
The survey suggests that these respondents are more likely to lean towards the opposition but because of the prevailing culture of fear will not risk their lives by disclosing opposition support. If handled properly this election is certain to put an end to Zimbabwe’s haunted past.
By Grace Kwinjeh