The Sunday Mail
With the FIFA World Cup over, Zimbabweans will certainly be more attentive to the local political contest scheduled for July 30, 2018.
Whether the former was free, fair and credible is perhaps subjective, or objective, to the extent that one interprets the execution of guiding FIFA rules and their impact on individual teams’ performances.
Expectedly, the victors will claim the tournament was successful, while some bitter losers will feel robbed.
Similar sentiments characterised primary elections across the political divide and will likely manifest in the aftermath of the forthcoming harmonised elections.
Already, some paranoid opposition players are questioning the neutrality of ZEC before the game has even started.
Even lawyers have gone to the extent of disregarding the country’s Constitution and electoral laws for political expediency.
A post on social media aptly captured it all: “If the MDC Alliance was a football team, up to this day the World Cup would not have started, with them demanding to know where the balls were made and stored.”
The MDC Alliance leader, Mr Nelson Chamisa, has threatened to usurp the powers of ZEC and violate the laws governing the conduct of candidates as provided by the electoral law.
While acknowledging the country’s sovereignty, he contradicted himself by claiming that “we have our scientists from Germany who will do forensic testing of every ballot paper to be used in the election”.
The self-proclaimed “referee” took the grandstanding a gear up by declaring that he will announce the election results, reminiscent of what Mr Tendai Biti did after the March 2008 harmonised elections, leading to his arrest.
History tends to repeat itself.
The MDC’s record of threatening to boycott elections or pre-empting them as unfair dates back to the 2005 parliamentary elections.
On the eve of that poll, the late Morgan Tsvangiarai said: “We are damned if we do (participate) and damned if we don’t.”
Yet, while Save was able get another lifeline thereafter, it could be doom and political oblivion for many after July 30, 2018.
Opposition politicians, including former president Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace, are certainly in a similar Catch-22 situation.
It is a do-or-die plebiscite where winner takes all.
When Jonathan Moyo was readmitted into Zanu-PF after the Tsholotsho debacle and his resultant expulsion from the party after standing as an independent candidate, he honestly admitted that “it’s cold out there”.
And it is obviously colder where he is now.
Politics tends to be addictive and usually when you lose, more misery follows.
Those who are standing as independent candidates now — across the political divide — are surely clutching at straws.
Equally, losing parties face unprecedented divisions, if not complete demise.
Against the backdrop of a humiliating defeat in the aforementioned 2005 House of Assembly polls, in which Zanu-PF garnered a two-thirds majority, inevitably intra-party divisions rocked the MDC on whether to participate in a senatorial plebiscite later that year.
The fissures led to the first split of the movement, which continues to haunt it.
Despite leading in the March 2008 Presidential election, again the MDC chickened out of the June 27 run-off at the eleventh hour citing violence.
SADC intervention gave them a lifeline, paving the way for a Government of National Unity (GNU) in 2009. Basking in the glory of being in Government, including enjoying the comfort of power and attendant luxuries, they forgot about future elections, only to be trounced again by a vigilant Zanu-PF in 2013.
That defeat led to further splits.
There are now more serious divisions within the opposition movement, especially after the death of founding president Morgan Tsvangirai in February this year.
The dream of a so-called grand coalition collapsed due to lack of shared ideology, unrestrained greed for power and donor fatigue, among other factors.
In retrospect, when Georg Limke of the Danish Trade Union Council came to Zimbabwe in 1996 to groom the ZCTU leadership to form an opposition party — initially disguised as the National Constitutional Assembly — they harnessed the discontent over economic hardships in workers, academics, students, some war veterans and the general masses to create an anti-Zanu-PF protest party, later to be launched on September 11, 1999 (tellingly on the eve of Zimbabwe’s colonisation – 12 September 1890).
Massively supported by white commercial farmers, the MDC became a tool for local resistance to the land reform programme.
Meanwhile, Tony Blair’s Britain had openly admitted to supporting and funding it through the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, much as George W. Bush’s USA was doing through the National Endowment for Democracy.
The MDC easily qualified itself as a sellout and puppet party, and their calling for collective Western sanctions made them unpopular back home.
In fact, the “Mugabe must go” mantra of the past two decades unintendedly revived the nationalist and patriotic sentiments that explained Mugabe’s longevity.
Ironically, it is Operation Restore Legacy that removed Mugabe as a factor in the 2018 election, both as Zanu-PF’s liability and opposition’s asset.
Equally, efforts to accommodate Mugabe and some disgruntled former Zanu-PF leaders have proved be a costly exercise for the MDC Alliance.
Not surprisingly, last week Chamisa disowned former First Lady Grace Mugabe despite previous flirtations between the MDC Alliance and NPF that are in the public domain.
“If Zanu-PF rejected her, why should I take her on board?” he said.
This does not only explain the failed attempts to unite with other desperate politicians like Joice Mujuru, but egocentric attitudes that will make 2018 a mission impossible in efforts to dislodge Zanu-PF.
At the global stage, Mugabe’s ouster has provided consolation for the West’s failed regime change agenda, judging by the warm welcome of the new dispensation by critical international players.
Britain has been at the forefront of that and Donald Trump’s recent criticism of Nelson Chamisa’s immaturity and myopic leadership says it all.
The alleged abuse of Western donor funds by the opposition and civic society even compounds the predicament.
Supposedly, the West, in general, now prefers a reformed Zanu-PF that is genuinely open for business in a peaceful and stable environment.
Politics is all about pursuit of interests, not sustaining meaningless relations.
Previous support of local opposition has cost the West a fortune both in funding and lost investment opportunities, not least because of China’s monopoly of the Look East policy.
The end is nigh for opposition leaders.
Some have resorted to terror tactics, as Mr Chamisa, through futile demonstrations, wants to be an “Earthquake” to derail the electoral process or push for another GNU.
However, ZANU-PF is alive to the plans.
“The only ridiculous thing being that he expects Zanu-PF to be an accessory to his afterlife. We will help him as a Zimbabwean, but certainly not as political figure who is contesting. If he wants any assistance from Zanu-PF, let him join the party,” noted Presidential spokesperson Mr George Charamba last week.
It is often said “if you cannot beat them, join them”.
Many opposition leaders are likely to seriously consider this adage after July 30, 2018.
Godwine Mureriwa is a political analyst. He wrote the article for The Sunday Mail. Feedback: [email protected]