One of the reasons I absolutely admire Tsvangirayi Mkwazhi, the Zimbabwean photographer: A Zimbabwean man scrounges for food in a birds' nest. Yes, these little birdies are destined for the pot! And Mugabe thinks a new election will solve Zimbabwe's problems if he "wins" them?
A little less than a month ago, a brave and quiet man was found dead and brutalised in some bush in Zimbabwe. This man, Mushangwe, was a member of Zimbabwe's electoral body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. This was the man whom the opposition parties in Zimbabwe said was the most reasonable and professional man on the staff of that disgraced and discredited body.
He is the man who told the Simba Makoni campaign that it had actually come second in the elections of March 29, with 31% of the vote. He was abducted from his home, disappeared for a couple of months and his decomposing body discovered later in a bush somewhere. It is said he suffered. His death was not painless, as evidenced by the state of his remains. The world took no notice of the death of this brave man who had been the only professional on ZEC. When he disappeared, there was none of the outcry that we see now all over the world in response to the disappearance of MDC activists and human rights campaigners. One wonders: if Mugabe and his goons saw that they got away with this, could it have emboldened them to try it on again?
Anyway, there is now talk of a new election if the agreement of September 15 fails, which it now looks set to do. That new election is already being planned for. What Mugabe does not know is that the result of that election will be determined by what happens at his Congress set for this week. Should he retain the leadership of ZANU PF, as is most likely, ZANU PF, he thinks, is certain to win the next election, which they will want to be held quickly after the death of the agreement is confirmed. But the dirty little party will not take power.
By retaining the leadership of ZANU PF at the congress, Mugabe will essentially bring about the unification of the two factions in the party which are competing to take over from him. Here is where it gets interesting. As those two factions see that there is no way Mugabe is about to leave Zimbabwe House, they will realise that they have been had by the old man, who has been stringing them along, telling the world that he will step down in 2008, only to use brute force to ensure that he does nothing of the sort. If he bulldozes his way into the presidency again, he's had it, I tell you.
His plan is as follows: if the agreement fails, quickly call for new elections (to catch the MDC off guard, he does even count the Simba Makoni challenge) while dangling the charges of insurgency over Tsvangirai's head in order to keep the man out of the country. I know that the State of Emergency route is still open and its intended purpose was (still is?) to incapacitate the MDC leader especially and allow Mugabe a free hand in Zimbabwe. So Tsvangirai, who is now in self-imposed exile, will not be allowed back into the country because the charges against him for planning an insurgency will still be "live". His party may be allowed to take part, depending on how Mugabe "resolves" his insurgency stitch-up, but we all know that their campaign would be totally useless without Morgan himself, who is the biggest drawcard for the MDC. And we also know that the military estalishment is dead set against Tsvangirai because of his announced plans to charge them with crimes against humanity and for electoral violence.
But Mugabe has another think coming. The new elections are supposed to be a walkover for him: brutalise the countryside, set up base camps where "war vets" fire guns into the air every night for two weeks before any election and frighten the bejesus out of the poor villagers, who will then vote overwhelmingly for him.
But has he thought about this being turned on its head, I wonder? That despite the violence and everything else he may cook up, the machinery he has in place would then work for Simba Makoni? That, in clinging to the presidency of ZANU PF and the country, he gets the factions within his own party to go outside of ZANU PF and secretly back Simba Makoni. He forgets that his comment last week that without him Zim is dead has been communicated to all the major leaders in ZANU PF and they see that he intends to rule until donkeys grow horns. Maybe, just maybe, the factions will unite and say that the starting point is to get rid of him. Are we about to see the equivalent of the Blair/Brown Granita Pact? Are the factions going to bury the hatchet and unite to see the old man off? That would mean a repeat of March, wouldn't it, with Mugabe's own party campaigning against him.
There is one flaw with this idea, though.Tsvangirai may still carry the day (which would mean those within the party will, yet again, retreat behind barricades and rally round the old man rather than see Tsvangirai in power).
So, essentially, yes, Mugabe could go the route of the new elections with a virtual (if not actual) State of Emergency in place, freezing out the MDC, making it impossible for them to campaign. I do know that he does not intend to announce that there is an arrest waiting for Tsvangirai if he comes back to campaign, but Tsvangirai may well decide not to come back or simply refuse to participate unless international observers (real ones) are brought in. In that case, I wonder what he would do if Mugabe is ganged up on and sent packing out of office, with Simba Makoni elected in his place? Such an outcome would put Tsvangirai and the world in a quandry: refuse to accept the election results because Tsvangirai was not part of them and possibly see a re-run in which Mugabe is yet again installed by the Junta because it fears a Tsvangirai presidency? Or accept it, knowing full well that any power Makoni wins, he will treat only as a mandate to prepare the country for new elections under a new constitution and a stabilised, if not growing economy?
The good thing about Simba is that he has consistently said that any mandate he wins will not be to actually install himself in office for five years. He wants to set up a Transitional Authority the moment he wins and get this to sort out the economy as a matter of urgency, while drafting a new constitution with other stakeholders and then call another election soon after that. Privately, he hints that he may not participate in those elections.
The penny only dropped for me after the elections that his candidacy was simply a way to get Mugabe out and clearing the way for a true democratic election, in which he may actually not participate.
Mugabe may be biting off more than he can chew, as I said to Dave.