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Negotiations Best Way Forward For Zim

AS the post-March 29 electoral standoff begins to gather even more dangerous momentum with growing reports of electoral intimidation, political violence, murders and the destruction of homes across the country

 at a time when the battered economy is exacting a new deadly toll on helpless Zimbabweans, three scenarios are emerging as the only possible ways out.  These are:

*The holding of a presidential run-off between Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe towards the end of this month to break the March 29 electoral deadlock and facilitate a winner-takes-all outcome with the winner almost guaranteed to be Tsvangirai as Mugabe can no longer win any election whether free or not.

*A boycott of the run-off by Tsvangirai under the claim that he won the first round on March 29. The consequence would be to hand the presidency to the embattled Mugabe on a silver electoral platter.

*A negotiated 24-month transitional government to break not just the March 29 electoral stalemate but also to resolve the deep-seated political, economic and constitutional crisis that has dogged Zimbabwe generally since Independence and particularly over the last nine years.

The first scenario of a run-off is the most straightforward as it is a necessary step in terms of the Electoral Act. 

If there are two or more candidates in a presidential election and none of them gets an absolute majority of at least 50% plus one vote in the poll, there should be a run-off between the candidates with the first and second highest votes within 21 days of the election results.

The official position, which has been by and large corroborated by independent sources which may differ on the actual figures, is that no presidential candidate on March 29 received the required legal threshold to win outright.

Objectively, all indications are that Tsvangirai would trounce Mugabe in the run-off.  The reasons for this are not difficult to understand.

Mugabe has become widely and deeply unpopular with a majority of voters who see him not just as too old to remain in office after 28 years of his failed rule but who also see him as the personification of the biting economic crisis about which he clearly has no solution. 

The feeling now among voters is no longer about electing the right person or the right party with the right policy but about choosing a different person and different party with a different policy. Tsvangirai and the MDC fit that bill.

The mind of the electorate is now so fixed against Mugabe that if he were to contest against a donkey in the run-off, the donkey would win by a landslide not because anyone would vote for it but simply because people would vote against Mugabe and thus benefit the donkey.

What makes the task even more impossible for Mugabe is that Zanu PF is no longer united behind him.  It is now split in the middle with one half decidedly against Mugabe’s continued rule and is ready to work with the opposition while the other half supports him during the day only to spend the night scheming ways about how to replace him internally.

The results of the March 29 election clearly show that the biggest loser was Mugabe as he lost big not only to Tsvangirai but also to the MDC and Zanu PF!

Therefore, there is no doubt that Tsvangirai would win the run-off as he would be supported by a de facto united front of opposition and ruling party forces. 

Mugabe would be haunted by the very problem that he sought to avoid by having “harmonised” elections: namely that his party would play “bhora musango” against him.

While there is no doubt that Tsvangirai would win the run-off, there is every doubt that he would be able to govern the day after when prospects of instability would emerge and threaten his regime in very destabilising ways. 

This is because the present constitutional, legal, institutional, bureaucratic and policy environment in Zimbabwe is deeply underwritten by Mugabe’s 28 year legacy which is run by his associates who would be prone to playing dirty games to undermine and sabotage the new dispensation after the run-off. 

It is a matter of the public record that some of Mugabe’s key associates in the security forces have said that they would neither salute Tsvangirai nor support his MDC government should he win the presidential election.

These include but are not limited to General Constantine Chiwenga, Retired Major General Paradzayi Zimondi, Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, Brigadier-General David Sigauke and Major-General Martin Chetondo.

Their public position is inherently destabilising and is cause for serious reflection about the dangers of Tsvangirai’s certain success in a winner-takes-all run-off. 

The MDC itself has added fuel to the fires of this potential instability by failing to provide security guarantees to Mugabe and his associates beyond worthless rhetorical promises that keep changing by the day. 

Eyebrows were raised a few weeks ago when the MDC publicly called on the International Criminal Court to start investigating Mugabe and his associates with a view to prosecuting them now. 

The call hardened attitudes inside Mugabe’s crumbling powerhouse which nevertheless still has an institutional capacity to cause mayhem against a Tsvangirai victory in the run-off.

If Tsvangirai boycotts the run-off as posited in the second scenario, then Mugabe and his cronies would smile all the way back to State House. 

This is in fact the scenario they are praying for because it would enable them to claim victory, however empty, on the back of a constitutional and legalistic position that they would use to paint Tsvangirai as an electoral coward.

But even if Mugabe were to win by the backdoor through an unfortunate Tsvangirai boycott of the run-off, the sobering reality is that the already catastrophic economic situation in the country would deteriorate to levels never before imagined and Zimbabwe would truly become hell on earth.  

The very real and most likely yet utterly destabilising effects of the first and second scenarios have given rise to a third post-March 29 scenario: a negotiated transitional government. 

What fundamentally drives the third scenario is the realisation that, after 28 years of de facto one-party and one-man rule which sums up the Mugabe legacy, Zimbabwe does not have the means of changing its government or national leadership while also conserving the soul of the nation in constitutional, legal and institutional terms. 

A nation with a system of a de facto one-party and one-man rule cannot move forward and be democratically-transformed through an election. 

In such a system, elections are used to keep and not change the government and its leader. Indeed, it is critical for Zimbabweans and others with good intentions of helping out to understand that an election is not a conflict resolution mechanism.  

Resolving the Zimbabwean crisis necessarily requires a transition from Mugabe’s legacy of a de facto one-party and one-man rule to an institutionally based and a constitutionally defined dispensation whose pillars would not be threatened by any change of government or leadership through a democratic election.

It is for this reason that the third scenario has a lot of appeal among nationalist and patriotic elements who recognise and accept the electoral victory of the MDC and Tsvangirai but also fear that the victory might be subverted and rendered meaningless by the unreformed constitutional and institutional legacy of Mugabe’s 28-year one-man and one-party rule.

By Professor Moyo:The independent MP-elect for Tsholotsho North.

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