Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Gravitas Volume 1. Issue 9: Debating Coalitions and Zimbabwe's Future.

Gravitas Volume 1. Issue 9: Debating Coalitions and Zimbabwe's Future.

Dispatches from The Madaraka Express: Five Books through the African Savannah*
Tinashe L. Chimedza & Tamuka C. Chirimambowa**

Kenya’s Long Goodbye to Arap Moi: The African is Not Blind

In the classic book called ‘Facing Mount Kenya’ written by Jomo Kenyatta, former first president of Kenya and father to Uhuru Kenyatta, there is an intelligent throwaway line: ‘the African is not blind’. After almost three decades of authoritarian rule the Kenyans very laboriously got rid of its big man: Daniel Arap Moi.  Stories are abound of how that political regime tortured its opponents under Nyayo House right in the middle of the city and journalists feared for their lives to expose corruption – it could cost a life. The writer Ngugi Wa Thiongo abandoned his station in a huff when they came for him with colonial jack-boots, guns to his face abducted him in his own country. He stayed in detention without trial and his crime was very simple:  his cutting edge literary explosions were stirring up the hornets’ nest. No tyrant wants uncensored books in the hands of the masses for they might just decide to take the contents seriously and who knows how this ends. First, it might be a naked people’s movement like in Pepetela’s book The Return of the Water Spirit.  But these demos cannot be trusted. They can get angry very quickly and decide enough of this nonsense  and how about we get ourselves some ‘big men’ to roast for a meal. Now that’s a dangerous thought to contemplate even for those behind fortified houses  and behind police and military cordons; so, better they rough up some writers, bomb some newspapers  and send bullets in envelopes.  


 Fig 1.0 Kenya’s Madaraka Express

When everything fails how about appointing the tyrant’s daughter to a censorship board so as to manufacture a whole unthinking mass of young people who mistake the mortals for immortals on the evidence of a mere name. The brother Musaemura Zimunya had to contend with our own Censorship Board after they banned Dambudzo Marechera’s Black Sunlight.  But back to Kenya. Now the old Moi spends time telling jokes and old musings about politics and from time to time endorses this or that candidate. Yet he is no longer in charge and no one from his family are part of any ‘dynasty’ ruling Kenya. The process was not as easy and as linear as history would have us believe.  The absurd spectacle of Moi’s rule was played out when he banned the secret ballot introduced what was called mlolongo in which voters stood behind their preferred candidate. Here in Zimbabwe there was a point at which the ruling elites used a ‘bereka kumusana’ system meaning you had to stand behind your candidate in intra-party elections. But here is the point: the Kenyans fed up of authoritarian rule, ingrained corruption, a backward economy and social discontent the first key thing they did was to have a new democratic constitution and the second leg was to get rid of Arap Moi. In our case, we already have a new and liberal constitution and the second leg remains the unfinished business.


Corrupt elites and Africa’s stubborn enclave economy: Snippets from Nairobi

Down Tom Mboya street, yes that Tom Mboya, the evidence of the stubborn enclave economy horribly stares one in the face. By enclave economy we mean an economy in which the modern and urban economy is very minuscule and is superimposed on an otherwise non-manufacturing and mainly rural agriculture economy. That economy, typical to Africa, has limited internal dynamism such as found in a modern advanced capitalist economy which is capable of generating aggregate demand, sustaining its own investment and capital accumulation. Here on these dusty streets of downtown Nairobi where rubbish is rarely collected the competition is very, very rough and stiff to the neck. Man’s survival mode is in full swing and that primordial instinct to live to the next day is naked to the eye. The matatu (commuter buses) conductors are shouting to get the next customer, the pavements are lined with all sort of wares from clothes, books, shoes and all sort of consumer goods and each vendor is screaming all sort of marketing seduction to lure the next customer. This is before nigh falls and the whole economy is swallowed by bars, music and literally human merchandise on display. The matatus are an artistic form to behold, during the day loud music blasts out non-stop, the outside has been transformed with all sort of pictures: from Bob Marley to the faces of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Junior and Mandela. Some form of Pan-Africanist crusade pervades the air. At night, these matatus become spectacles to behold:  neon lights draping and hugging them with mini-cinemas inside. In the traffic mess the small motor cycles weave through like those Moto GP riders carrying one or two people at the back.

This is the daily grind of what has been called ‘Africa’s youth bulge’ trying to eke out a living far away from the elite class riddled by corrupt networks that feed obese on tenders, government contracts and dishing out all sorts of bureaucratic favors.  To see the horrifying inequalities, one has to move out of the city a little bit, into the gated estates of Muthaiga, Kileleshwa, Westgate, Lavington, Kilimani, Karen and then wonder into the new malls: Two Rivers Mall, Karen Hub and Westgate. Here the elites can shop for the trinkets found anywhere from London, Brussels to New York. Contrast this with the slum of Kibera and mass of humans eking out a living in downtown Nairobi and one gets a sense of how inequality has become a stinging rebuke on the ‘development’ path that Africa in general is taking, itself as a remnant of a colonial political economy of exclusion and exploitation. It is this stubborn political economy which Uhuru Kenyatta & William Ruto are attempting to assail by building the Madaraka Express – a railway project whose investment is many times over Zimbabwe’s national budget.  Yet for these projects to start happening Kenyans had to erode state authoritarianism which had been built by Moi.

Political Parties, Kenyan Civil Society and the Electoral Processes
In the words of Dennis Kadima, citing the success of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) coalition in 2002, Kenya ‘has become Africa’s model of how opposition parties can succeed in replacing an entrenched ruling party and access power by building a vibrant and diverse electoral coalition’.  Denis Kadima’s edited book The Politics of Party Coalitions in Africa (EISA, 2002) is a must read. Since then it has become common for Kenyan political parties to actively seek coalitions of a variegated sorts towards major elections and or when faced with referenda. For the Kenyans to get rid of Moi there was a new democratic constitution in place; they created a coalition with a new political identity; the coalition had separate internal structures; had a policy platform and civil society played a critical role in mobilizing ordinary citizens. One of the key elements of the Kenyan experience was that the political parties which formed the electoral alliance were also strategically complemented indirectly by a very mobilized civil society which was focused on the entrenchment and sustenance of multi-party democracy.
Fig 1.1 Uhuru Kenyatta  & William Ruto: Jubilee Coalition Leaders
 As this piece is being written the two most prominent political protagonists, incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, have been actively marshalling some kind of electoral pacts to secure a win at the ballot box.  So even those with state power have been organising what is called the Jubilee Coalition led by Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto because they are well aware that a narrow political project will result in them losing state power. On the other hand, the opposition led by Raila Odinga has been mobilizing under what has been called the National Super Alliance (NASA) bringing together disparate political formations to mount a formidable challenge to Jubilee.
Coalition Building and Zimbabwe terrain: Some Lessons
There are few observable facts from Kenya’s complex political terrain.  While others have dismissed Kenya’s, coalition building as ‘tribal’ horse-trading there are some pointers that can be quickly gleaned. Firstly, all the parties that form a coalition, be it Jubilee and or National Super Alliance they all make sure that the political identity of the coalition is above and distinct from those of the political parties they come from so as to make it very clear that this is a separate but broader political project than a single political party. Secondly, the coalitions are complemented by the resources of the existing political parties but are actually able to have a different organizational structure which seats above and is supported by the political parties. Thirdly, the coalition also serves as an important constituency of non-party members, also attract fence-seaters and in the process, serve as a platform for generating broader and very nationally popular movement with its own life and excitement.  Fourthly, and very importantly, a coalition with a distinct political identity complemented by organic political parties serve to increase pressure on the ruling elites and might even contribute to further fissures, instability and therefore electoral weakening of the ruling ‘elite bloc’.  In the case of Zimbabwe one of the ways the party-state has entrenched its hegemony is a historical sense of ‘comradeship’ created by the liberation process and cracking this historical solidarity is key to winning state power.

What Future for Zimbabwe’s Coalition Politics: Some Pointers

In the case of Zimbabwe, firstly even those with ‘superior numbers’, need to rethink a ‘big brother’ attitude which is parochial and gets bogged into what has been called the ‘big tent’ or as one of theirs has said: ‘we are the elephant in the zoo’. The big tent points or the ‘zoo politics’ only speaks to a politics of accommodation and re-arranging the chairs cosmetically rather than a politics of structural and strategic confluence which is driven by a clearly spelt out national agenda. Secondly a genuinely national coalition will have a political identity of its own which creates new excitement and shows broad leadership from the opposition. Thirdly the coalition needs structures that will be different and only complemented by the existing political parties so as to build a nationally legitimate political organization which focuses its energy on national mobilization. Fourthly, the coalition needs to start actively building its National Agenda Platform so as to show its ideas, capacity and drive for alternative leadership. The critical question here is whether the policy platform is going to be an elite project written by socially divorced intellectuals or alternatively a national agenda platform developed by a participatory and therefore organically sound process. The former process is cheap but the later presents political opportunities of social mobilization for the opposition to rebuild concrete social and political power. Recently the MP Priscilla Misihairambwi has warned sternly that ‘so, you get a sense that as opposition, again you don’t have a group people that have been able to think beyond the populist nonsensical rally messages’.  By building a deliberately broad, structurally deep coalition which is framed by the confluence on a particular agenda the opposition formations can look forward to strategic mobilization which is capable of winning state power and perhaps usher in a Zimbabwe which has said its goodbyes to the politics of the strong/big man.

*The five books in no particular order: Facing Mount Kenya by Jomo Kenyatta; North of South by Shiva Naipul; I dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallman; The Africa Challenge by Wangari Maathai and The Flames of Thika by Elspeth Huxley.

**Tinashe L. Chimedza & Tamuka C. Chirimambowa are the Co-Editors of Gravitas.


The Fall of Gambia’s Jammeh and Some Notes for Zimbabwe’s Opposition.


By Blessing Vava*


The Fall and Intransigence of the Big-man

On the 1st of December 2016, Yahya Jammeh, the strongman of The Gambia, lost an election to an unheralded opposition leader, Adamma Barrow, to mark an end to 22 years of iron fist rule in the tiny West African country.Jammeh's defeat is both historic and significant, not only for The Gambia but the whole continent. After celebrating the fall of colonialism and the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity, the continent has found itself with life leaders, who have a disregard for democratic principles and maintain a hold on power in the name of a pan-African and anti-imperialist agenda.Most of the strong men have been using fear, violence and electoral manipulation, in the process relegating opposition parties to mere spectators as they continue to rule using terror. Controversial electoral outcomes have become rituals across the continent, with regional blocs failing to bring member states to account and encourage the strongmen to uphold democratic norms and values.In fact, the continent is overburdened by liberation war cults who consider it their eternal right to rule at all costs.

Fig 1.2 Strong Man No More: Jammeh of Gambia

Jammeh’s fall brought a sense of hope for democracy in Africa, despite the unevenness of the playing field, which was characterised by fear and violence. It shows that where the opposition gets organised, dictators can still be defeated by a people united for a cause.Despite earlier pronouncements accepting the outcome, Jammeh made a summersault, disregarding the electoral outcome to the utter amusement of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), who stood firm in cornering the beleaguered dictator to submit and surrender.

ECOWAS Stance on Jammeh: The Dawn for a New Era?

The swiftness and the subsequent intervention of ECOWAS as well as the threats to invade The Gambia to flush out Jammeh should rather be commended and it shows how much we are progressing to finding solutions to our own challenges as a continent.Without a doubt, the Gambian scenario was a test for the upcoming 28th summit of the African Union Head of states to be held in Ethiopia at the end of this month.Many times, the regional bodies have been condemned in failing to call errant dictators to order.The shortcomings of the African Union, have resulted in western intervention by former colonisers, however, compromising the sovereignty of the African people.As the rest of the continent celebrated the fall of Jammeh, it was ECOWAS which was rather given a gun salute for their firm position in safeguarding the will of the people in The Gambia, as expressed by the 1st of December 2016 election.

Lessons from The Gambia

From this background, there are a lot of lessons to learn from The Gambia, which can assist us in understanding the role of SADC in the context of the 2008 or any other future elections in Zimbabwe.That election was quite significant in the sense that it was the first time that President Robert Mugabe was defeated, despite all the State machinery at his disposal.Now, some quarters are trying to hypothesise The Gambia scenario and comparing it to Zimbabwe, saying that the regional body, SADC, should have gone the ECOWAS way after Zanu PF was defeated on March 29, 2008. In my opinion, I have three points to buttress my argument against such postulations. I would argue that SADC did all in their capacity, despite the opposition trashing the regional body left, right and centre for what they deem a failure to intervene and drive Mugabe out.For starters, it is not and it will never be the business of SADC or any regional body to undermine processes in member states without enough justification and, let alone when the participants of the said elections have failed to win elections. Firstly, March 29, 2008, election was inconclusive. The votes polled by MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai were not enough for him to be declared winner and subsequently assume the presidency from Mugabe. The Constitution was clear on the threshold 50% plus one vote for a candidate to be declared duly the winner; however, Tsvangirai had just polled 47.9%, therefore, triggering a presidential election run-off.Equally, we must not forget that it was the same period that the electoral commission withheld results for five weeks and no-one knows what kept them for that longer period.

Can Regional Bodies Cry More than the Bereaved?
Those who still recall will reminisce August 2, 2013, press conference held at Meikles Hotel by the by then MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti, who announced that the MDC had won the elections hands down. He was later to be arrested and charged for contravening the electoral act by announcing the ‘results’ of the elections. Brave chap he was!This brings me to my second point, on how Tsvangirai shot himself in the foot by encouraging his supporters to remain patient, as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was going to announce the results. What a wait it became ‑ five weeks.The momentum was lost, and still, how could SADC intervene in that case?I vividly recall a meeting held one early Sunday in Harare, were Tsvangirai begged with civil society to be patient with ZEC.Thirdly, as if that was not enough, the MDC-T leader did the most unthinkable political gesture; his rushing to seek refuge at the Netherlands Embassy was a heavy snub on SADC and the rest of the African countries.In essence, he showed them the middle finger, basically confirming that his party was not seeking African solutions but those from outside our borders.Hence it would be na├»ve to blame SADC for initiating a dialogue to discuss a power-sharing arrangement to break the political impasse after the sham June elections.In all fairness, The Gambia scenario is different from the Zimbabwe case in 2008, and such an example cannot, therefore, be used to point at the inadequacies of SADC for allegedly protecting Mugabe. Worse still the opposition in Zimbabwe created conditions that would not have made it possible for SADC to intervene.

History Matters

However, SADC’s “inadequacies” should be understood from the background of a shared sense of history rooted in liberation movement solidarity. West Africa has very differentiated political ruling classes, which do not have very strong links.At the same time, Mugabe presented somehow of a dilemma to South Africa because he had “successfully” presided over the fast-track land reform programme a question that is thorny and emotive in South Africa. In addition, in West Africa, the “colonial masters” stayed in the background, unlike in Zimbabwe, where they were very vocal.Consequently, through the former South African President Thabo Mbeki papers, the African National Congress was actually advising Zanu PF, they blocked the release of the judges’ report on electoral violence.

Boycotting in Whose Interest?

Ultimately, democracy, democratisation and its consolidation in Africa can never be secured by the threat of water cannons and bullets, but by the self-organising initiatives of its people.With the 2018 beckoning, the opposition parties seem clueless, with some boycotting by-elections, but hoping to participate in the polls. The Norton, Chimanimani and Bikita by-elections have brought with us many lessons, and the opposition will pay dearly for that. The biggest lesson learnt is that by boycotting, they strategically demobilise their own structures and even the potential voters.How does one boycott a dictator?

Fig 1.3 Tsvangirai: From No Reform No Elections to Coalition ?

The opposition only will revel in such pitiful actions to its detriment because a boycott is a moral statement meant to delegitimise the political class, but in our contexts the political class knows no shame or morals. Given the objective to reconfigure the balance of forces, what will a boycott serve or achieve in altering permanently, the balance of forces in favour of the political project?For those in the opposition that have contested the elections, they may have lost, but at least they have had a reality check, and they may know what to do next time. Losing is equally important and part and parcel of the electoral process. In the United States, the Democrats got used to winning and they went to sleep and got Trumped.  The talk of reforms is a far-fetched affair and one wonders how the parties are going to achieve something they failed to change during their stint in the inclusive government?

The People: The Final Arbiter.

My advice to the opposition is that, the solution is the people and they are the last bastion and natural garrison to defend and expand a democratic sort of politics which secures their material transformation. Everything else not rooted in the concrete material reality of our people melts into thin air and the lecherous political calls will entrench its illicit accumulation project unchecked.From my own assessment, it seems the opposition in Zimbabwe is obsessed with mass and power projection tactics such as rallies and streets protests, yet experiences elsewhere of building a people’s movement indicate otherwise. Rallies and street protests are only a public display of social and political power gained, built and galvanised in the everyday lives of people based on their concrete material demands.

*Blessing Vava is a Graduate Media Student at the University of the Witswatersrand in South. He can be contacted at blessingvava@gmail.com  
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The Forthcoming 2018 Elections: Scenarios, Coalitions and Some Questions for Zimbabwe’s Opposition Movement.

Dr Toendepi Shonhe*.


1.           Introduction
Given the history of a parked transition since 1980, Zimbabweans are worried that the country remains arrested by retrogression. Zimbabwe has been stagnant without tangible development and the future of the country is threatened by mis-governance, corruption, lack of leadership and a complete absence of a shared vision. The country’s prospects are dim. Indeed, the country is in deep crises that requires Zimbabweans to reflect deeply as a collective. The important questions to be asked are: why must we be worried; what is at stake and what are the prospects for Zimbabwe?

Contemporary public discourse presupposes that there are two variables that are important in determining what direction the country may take towards 2018 and beyond; namely, the prospects of a strong coalition and electoral reforms and that the two are mutually exclusive.  The truth of the matter is that while these two factors are critical, there are other equally important factors to consider when trying to imagine what sort of strategies the opposition in Zimbabwe may assume going into 2018. This article provides an opportunity to technically appraise these complex electoral questions and the prospects for the opposition.

2.          Key Factors for Scenario Mapping
As already indicated, beyond coalitions and electoral reforms, the other factors to be considered are; the economy, regional and international support, legitimacy, leadership, funding, trust and confidence.

2.1.       The Economy
A further deterioration of the economy will result in increased dissatisfaction by the citizens. In any case, unemployment and the economic crises remain the major concern by citizens across the width and breath of the country, as the May 2017 Afrobarometer results have shown. The high prevalence of poverty in both urban and rural areas, among the young and women is a key factor for the citizens. Against limited scope for reversal of the downward trend in the economy, given the unlikelihood of increasing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), slowed down impact of the import substitution policy implemented through SI 64 and limited value addition on minerals and agricultural commodities, the chances of stabilizing the currency remains sketchy. However, cognisance must be taken of possibilities of food security gained in the 2016/17 farming season and its potential to minimize the levels of disenchantment. Food sovereignty will have the effect of reducing the demand for foreign currency and as such may help stabilize the currency. If this was to trigger production in the industry, this may begin to reverse de-industrialisation; however, this looks most unlikely as most products are exported in raw form due to the disarticulated nature of the economy. In the absence of fundamental changes in industrial production little must be expected to revamp the economy .

Fig 1.4 VP Mnagangwa leading Command Economy: Election Gimmick?

Interestingly, apportioning blame and giving accolades by citizens has not matched conventional knowledge, as the May 2017 Afrobarometer revealed. On the other hand, Zanu PF has sought to proffer a new narrative based on an emerging new economy where the informality of the economy is normalized. This has been aided by a highly reconfigured political economy where the social base has undergone comprehensive changes.  How the ruling party will consolidate its narrative and/or how the opposition will develop and indulge with a counter-narrative matters in terms of how citizens will weigh the impact of the economy going forward.

2.2.      Regional and International Support
To achieve the desired electoral and democratic reforms, Zimbabwe needs regional and international support. In 2013, an opportunity was lost where SADC and the AU had sided with the citizens’ quest for democratic elections, yet the opposition disregarded the advice and thereby squandering a grand opportunity for reforms. This resulted in Zimbabwe regressing in a very significant way.

Restarting the formula will require a new impetus, which is currently non-existent among the key players in the polity. This is made worse by the fact that the major international centers of power, including the country’s former colonial masters (Britain), the United States of America and European Union have begun to thaw relations with some elements within Zanu PF, never mind its effect on democracy in the country. The overall impact is that regional and international support for reforms will be more difficult to mount given that these players are now more focused on advancing their economic interests more than settling the longstanding democratic deficiency, for which the opposition movement has long cherished.

On its part, the ruling party has relied on the former liberation movements platform for collaboration and solidarity. This is likely to increase given the threat being posed to the African National Congress (ANC) by its own opposition, now including the core-alliance partners, COSATU and SACP. However, President Mugabe’s age may begin to cause an overall decline in regional support for the ruling party. In the event of President Mugabe’s untimely departure, any successor will struggle to amass the same level of support in Africa, diminishing the country’s role in shaping the agenda in SADC and AU. How these possible futures may shape scenarios for 2018 and beyond depends much more on how either side will shape regional and international advocacy.

2.3.      Legitimacy
The post-2008 elections negotiations that led to the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU) revealed that Zanu PF has a strong affinity for some form electoral legitimacy despite its authoritarian tactics. This may be the only leverage that the opposition may have to rely on to push for reforms and the holding of free and fair elections. How the opposition movement will explore and use this important factor and how Zanu PF will respond may have material impact on the quality of the election to be held in 2018? Alternatively, it will be a question of how Zanu PF ensure that they secure legitimacy in spite of their refusal to implement electoral reforms? These questions will determine  how Zimbabwe’s future may be shaped going into 2018 and beyond.

2.4.     Leadership
A key factor that will influence likely scenarios for 2018 is leadership. With regards to Zanu PF, providing leadership in the various aspects of the governance sphere, has been problematic and questionable. In the end, the ruling party has had to rely on the strong-hand tactics to maintain its grip on power. The party has had to resort to both coercion and consent to secure power retention. However, President Mugabe’s advanced age, at 94 when the next election will be held, has intensified the succession battle within the ruling party. Two main factions (Lacoste and G40) have recently emerged. There has been intensive infighting that initially resulted in the expulsion of Dr Joice Teurai Mujuru and her Gamatox team, and more recently the expulsion of some members of both Lacoste and G40 factions.

What may serve the ruling party is its strong reliance on security apparatus for electoral campaigns. For instance, its continued presence in the villages under Maguta, the securitisation of unemployed youth residing in the villages, the politicization of food distribution, the politicization of artisanal mining and vending spaces, all work in its favour. As such, in spite of the weaknesses associated with its aged leadership and the attendant intensification of succession fights, Zanu PF’s octopus nature and its convoluted party-state configuration may propel its fighting chances come 2018.

The opposition is currently fragmented. There are as more than 40 political parties, even though some of them have been described as brief-case parties. Currently, there are various initiatives aimed at building a coalition to increase the potency of the opposition movement in the 2018 elections. However, the issue of leadership structure remains unclear. As a result, Zimbabweans continue to doubt the effectiveness of the proposed coalition. In part, the problems hover around the ability of the leadership to set aside personal interests, egos and parochial party agendas, and push for a common people’s agenda. In addition, Zimbabweans worry about the ability of the collective leadership to build trust and confidence among the voters, given incessant fights over control, policy, strategies and leadership credentials. How these and other issues will be resolved is of material importance as 2018 beckons. In any event, past inadequacies associated with failure to assume state power after electoral victories will require additional effort by opposition leaders if the dormant vote is to be triggered into voting.

2.5.      Funding
Funding is an important component for any election. On the part of Zanu PF, there has been huge inflow of resources in the form of vehicles: buses, trucks and sedan cars as well as fuel and regalia. This funding is tied to some patronage setting where international capital has been given lucrative deals by the government in the mining and fuel industry in return for funding the power retention agenda. Moreover the party is relying on the printing of bonds and artificial money transfers for the purchase of hard currency that is in turn used to purchase electoral campaign arsenal. The stage is set for a highly competitive race towards 2018. To the contrary, the opposition movement is underfunded and this is likely to negatively impact on its ability to mobilise and recruit new members. Similarly, the monitoring of the election will also be compromised. The civil society is generally resource poor due to donor fatigue and change of policy, wherein the thawing of relations with the ruling party has created the need for either genuine neutrality or outright support for some preferred successor. In some cases, specific funds have been set aside by some donors to propel some candidates in Zanu PF. How this will be sustained or curtailed will define the trajectory for 2018 and beyond.

2.6.     The narrative
An authotarian regime relies on ideological positioning around a revolutionary project or some historical legacy to awaken emotions among the voting citizens. As a result, a highly contested area has been around party ideology, policy and strategies. Some analysts have argued that Zanu PF has no clearly defined ideology and therefore it is not easy to place their orientation. Yet, despite their capitalist tendencies, policy pronouncements have almost always been populist, redistribute and left leaning in nature. The land reform and indigenization & empowerment programs are cases in point. Meanwhile, the opposition has shown no clear ideology that speaks to the improvement of livelihood questions of citizens in general. If this is to change, clear policy formulation processes must be implemented and this must be supported by messages to counter the dominant messages by the ruling Zanu PF.

3.          The Two Driving Forces
In identifying the coalition and electoral reforms as key variables for 2018 among the other factors articulated in this piece, the opposition correctly captures the key driving forces for the next election. However, it is the nature of the coalition and the extent of the electoral reforms maybe central to the likely outcome for 2018.

3.1.       Coalition
The issue is not about coming up with one coalition for the opposition movement, but it is about the nature, structure, strength and potential to deliver a victory in 2018. To achieve this, the coalition must have a people’s agenda, reconcile ideological differences, establish a winning team, ensure leadership cohesion, develop a superior message and secure adequate funding. Its post-election agenda and structure must be clearly defined, taking into account a possible win or lose in 2018. The coalition must gain the trust and confidence of the people and must eliminate individual weaknesses of the team members by assembling a team with differentiated capacities. Overtime the possibility to achieve these goals is high, however it will require sacrifices on the part of the variegated leaders from the parties involved, a fit that may prove insurmountable. Moreover, intra-party frictions may likely balloon as power dynamics shift in response to coalition reconfigurations.



Fig 1.5 Misihairambwi: Critiqued the Coalition Politics

On the surface, a coalition that combines groupings from the democratic contingent and the Mujuru grouping may provide the much-needed gravitas to deliver victory given the combined elements of democratic values and liberation credentials by the opposition. The liberation parties are most likely to have created a solid network within the region where solidarity and electoral support is provided on the basis of a shared history of anti-colonial struggles in Southern Africa. To unravel this setting, liberation icons such as those in the Zimbabwe People First (ZIM-PF) and National People’s Party (NPP) are a crucial component. However, the challenge remains in unsettled historical questions, where their past atrocities continue to be a burden which dissuade ordinary citizens from supporting these formations and may work against the interests of the coalition. It is also crucial to note that the total support for the coalition remains below that of Zanu PF, at 32% and 38% respectively. In addition, support for ZANU PF is way above the combined individual party support of 22%; being 16% for the MDC T, 4% for NPP and 2% for the rest of the parties. How these parties in their individual and collective settings will reconfigure their fortunes is entirely the big question as we progress into the 2018 elections.

3.2.      Electoral reforms
The electoral reform agenda predates the 2013 elections. Whereas the new constitution provides for electoral reforms, media reforms and many other freedoms, its implementation remains a key concern, as citizens are yet to enjoy these freedoms. Again, whereas the opposition movement has mounted various campaigns to push for electoral reforms, such efforts are yet to achieve any meaningful progress. For instance, the NERA platform started with zest and gusto but this has since fizzled out. Current coalition discussions have not been specific in terms of how the issue of reforms will be treated or prioritized, as current efforts seem to be centred on establishing a workable framework rather than developing the agenda for the envisaged government.

On its part, the Zanu PF government has never willingly entertained the constitutional making process. The ruling party resisted the constitution making process since the early 1990s as part of its power retention agenda, but had to grudgingly accede to the demands of a highly mobilised and powerful opposition and civil society. The Government of National Unity (GNU) and 2013 Constitution became the climax of the opposition and civil society in Zimbabwe.  Despite its expansive consultation and public deliberation, the constitutional making process become elitist, non-deliberative and served more as a political settlement rather than fulfilling the interests of the citizens. In addition, the ruling party is unwilling to implement the new constitution as well as the attendant reforms, for fear of losing power. It is on this basis that, the prospects for reform seem unlikely. This may have a large bearing on the prospects of the opposition in 2018.

The introduction of the BVR, although advocated for by the opposition has resulted in a murkier situation given the possible machinations that may disenfranchise the majority of the opposition supporters.  Put together with the polling station based voting, the opposition support will likely suffer from intensified fear, and thus accelerate Zanu PF victory.


4.         Countenancing the scenarios

4.1.      Scenario I: Paradise

The paradise scenario will achieve full democratic reforms that will promote sustainable elections for Zimbabwe. It is most highly unlikely, but the best-case scenario for Zimbabwe. Within this scenario, all the outstanding reforms identified by Crisis Coalition as early as 2003 and recently restated by Dr Ibbo Mandaza & Tony Reeler will be resolved before the next election. These are;

·       The judiciary has been politicised and subordinated to the Executive.
·       The bi-partisan parliament still functions as a rubber-stamp of the Executive’s whims and policies.
·       The army, police and intelligence are clearly partisan and have played a key role in serious human rights violations.
·       Traditional leaders have been co-opted into ruling party structures and psyche.
·       Senior civil servants have been manipulated to serve as handmaids of the system.
·       Religious leadership has either cases identified itself with ZANU PF policies and positions and has failed to exercise its prophetic and guardianship role in the nation. Where the leadership has dared to differ, it has been met with scorn from the highest office in the land
·       Black business is largely an extension of ZANU PF’s primitive accumulation tendencies in as much as white business was the sanitized face of Rhodesian fascism.
·       Militarisation of sections of unemployed youths under the guise of national service programme
·       Public electronic and print media is used as propaganda machinery for the ruling party.
Mandaza and Reeler (2016) observe that to level the electoral playing field, the opposition movement must demand the following as minimum conditions for the next elections;

·      Demand that all service chiefs make a public statement to the effect that they will obey the constitution and their enabling legislation, and will not support any individual political party (as the constitution requires). Furthermore, they will disband JOC, and only engage the government through the channel of the National Security Council (as the constitution requires). Additionally, the government will invite the leader of the opposition to sit on the NSC as a confidence-building measure, since Zimbabwe is not in a state of war;
·      Demand that the Council of Chiefs make a public statement that they too will obey the constitution and their enabling legislation, and will not support any individual political party;
·      Demand that the state radio and television are de-politicised through the institution of a new management board, and that this board is constituted of independent persons without political affiliation;
·      Demand that all the powers under the constitution are accorded to ZEC, and no government minister can have any say over any aspect of elections;
·      Demand that the electoral act is amended in order to allow proportional representation and hence the diaspora vote.
In addition, in this scenario, all opposition political parties will be included in a grand coalition and respectful relationships will be developed. Issues of leadership, funding, messaging will be dealt with to ignite a new energy in the opposition movement. A strong and attractive alternative policy framework will be developed to reverse the negative effects of the current mis-governance. Prudent leadership in the economic affairs will require taking tough decisions on the economy.

In this scenario, the opposition has the brightest chances of performing well. However, voters seem to be struggling with unanswered questions around the leadership structure and the shared agenda of the coalition. Addressing these and creating the necessary cohesion among the leadership may result in increased combined support from the 32% observed by the Afrobarometer/MPOI survey to some higher figure given that at least 24% of the population did not say they sympathize with the ruling party in categorical terms.  Citizens are likely to have a new impetus to vote if they are assured of a reformed electoral environment and a solid coalition.

 Scenario II: Paradox

This is a paradox scenario in that it presupposes the attainment of reforms in the absence of a coalition. This is difficult to conceive because the reforms can more surely be achieved by a coalition of opposition than it is by a fragmented opposition. This may be achieved if one of the political parties or all the political are successful in working on an electoral reform agenda but fails to agree on an electoral coalition arrangement. However, is inconceivable that parties agreeing on electoral reform agenda working arrangement, will fail to agree on a coalition pact on the same breath. As such, this scenario is unlikely but it is also a good scenario with prospects for the deepening of democracy in Zimbabwe.

If this scenario was to prevail, it will create the most ideal environment for democracy to flourish, because the situation will allow for multiparty democracy where various parties participate and compete on the basis of their policies and leadership qualities. This is a far superior proposal in that the agenda is not confined to the removal of a leader or a political party, instead; the proposal becomes one that is centered on delivering good governance and ensuring that citizens can pursue happiness. However, such a scenario may not deliver regime change, as the ruling party may remain in power. If there is no drastic change in policy by the ruling party, this may mean a sustained economic collapse for the foreseeable future.

Scenario III: The dead-end

In the likely situation, where electoral reforms are not in place and a coalition fails to materialize, the 2018 elections provides a clear platform for a dead-end. Zanu PF will achieve a landslide victory over the fragmented opposition; however, each party will secure a chance to fight on another day. Those parties that will manage to win some seats will be able to secure state funding and live to fight from a point of strength in future elections. The prospects for economic revival under this scenario are very dim. The question of legitimacy may be the only strategic fallback for the opposition after the defeat; however, this depends on how regional and international support will be mobilized and how Zanu PF will respond to the opposition advocacy programs. This scenario will be made worse by a consequence failure to effectively fundraise for the election by the fragmented opposition and sustained donor fatigue. Moreover, going into the election as a fragmented opposition diminishes the chances to a level where a resounding Zanu PF victory will impact on prospects for opposition revamp in immediate future elections. This is a likely but is also the worst-case scenario for the opposition movement in Zimbabwe.
  
Scenario IV: Collective Calamity

A Coalition secured in the absence of reforms is most likely to deliver a fatal blow to democratic transition in Zimbabwe. The level of electoral faults is so high that if a coalition was to be achieved and used to contest under the existing skewed electoral environment, a collective defeat attained will take decades to reverse. While the current efforts by the opposition is on trying to secure a workable coalition, its possible failure to secure reforms may pose the biggest danger to democracy for years to come. This scenario is somewhat likely but is similarly bad for the opposition movement in Zimbabwe. A coalition that fails to secure electoral reforms is weak by definition and intent; it will have weak leadership, poor funding, poor mobilization and messaging.

5.          Conclusions
Avoiding the worst-case scenario of the dead-end and achieving the best-case scenario of paradise calls for solid leadership within the coalition partners. It also calls for strategic thinking and planning to avoid identified pitfalls. It is clear that the skewed playing field has caused fatigue within the opposition support and may attract voter apathy amongst an increasing number of voters in both rural and urban areas. It is therefore worthy noticing that in all the scenarios other than the paradise, Zanu PF is set to win the election, while a fighting chance requires electoral reform and the formation of an all-inclusive grand coalition.

This is likely to deliver a landslide Zanu PF victory for 2018, in spite of President Robert Mugabe’s old age and what many voters observe to be bad economic management. Going forward, an inclusive and deliberative approach to the coalition formation may mean a bottom up approach where civil society and political parties mobilise from below in order to re-energize the base. The current situation indicates an elite coalition and reform agenda where the masses are completely left out. I propose a coalition for an electoral boycott as the only situation given the slow movement in the reform agenda. At the centre of the reform agenda should be the untangling of the hold exercised by traditional leaders on the voters across the countryside.

*Dr Toendepi Shonhe has a PhD from the University of KwaZulu Natal and is interested in the political economy of development especially  Zimbabwe and Africa’s complex agrarian relations.


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