Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Election 2008: Strategies and Counter Strategies

By Reason Wafawarova ⋅ February 24, 2008

The Zimbabwe March 29 harmonised election is coming on the backdrop of strategies and counter strategies by the two major political parties and the three major Presidential candidates. In the 2000 parliamentary election, the 2002 presidential election and the 2005 parliamentary election it was a two horse race for all political offices available.

The tradition for this period has been that the opposition MDC has always tried to ride on the protest vote – a vote whose strength was obviously overestimated on the basis of an unscientifically assumed correlation between economic hardships and electoral political behaviour.

On the other hand the ruling party, ZANU PF has been capitalising on the proven links between the MDC and some Western governments to label the opposition an outfit of traitors and puppets – an assertion the opposition has shown little interest to either deny or disprove. The ruling party has coupled these attacks on the opposition with the mileage resulting from the land reclamation programme of 2000.

While the opposition MDC have endeavoured to buttress the protest vote by cultivating anger and animosity between the electorate and the ruling party the ruling party has always stood firm in the claim that whatever economic problems there is in the country, they are all a result of a call for sanctions by the MDC. The MDC tried in vain to capitalise on the assumed anger of the electorate, particularly the urban electorate by endless attempts at mobilising people to embark on an uprising.

It has been a well-calculated cycle alongside the examples of Guatemala in 1954, Chile in 1973 and Panama in 1990. This is the cycle where an opposition party or a rebel movement calls for sanctions from the super powers of this world. The sanctions create an unprecedented economic strangulation for the sitting government. The economic situation is bound to deteriorate and in the process it is bound to naturally result in protests. The protests are calculated to bring repression and the activities of repression are hoped to grow ever more rigorous due to the growing effects of the policy of economic strangulation and the intention is to achieve a cycle of more repression, more dissidence and hopefully more violence – preferably of a catastrophic nature.

This end result of violence of a catastrophic nature has always been the philosophy behind the MDC calls for things like Mass Action, the Final Push, Winter of Discontent and the ill fated Defiance Campaign of March 2007. This philosophy is based on the hope that when the situation has deteriorated to catastrophic levels the scenario will be so bad that it warrants intervention – most preferably with the approval of the population, unable to stand the situation any longer. This intervention can come in the form of promised economic rescue packages as was promised by Australia when the former Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer promised in August 2007; that it would take an MDC government three months to restore the Zimbabwe economy if only the MDC could come to power.

The intervention could also come by way of international mediation as is the case in Kenya right now or it could come by way of military intervention as was the case with Panama in 1991 and Chile in 1973.

Needless to say this cycle has not really worked in the case of Zimbabwe and the opposition MDC, particularly the Tsvangirai faction, has been under pressure to change strategy. The MDC has been pressured to sell more of their alternative policies than merely highlighting the failures of the ruling ZANU PF.

This has resulted in what was seen in Mutare on February 23 when Tsvangirai launched his election campaign at Sakubva. More will come about the launch but for now it is important to look at the strategies being adopted by the opposition MDC, by presidential aspirant Simba Makoni and by the ruling ZANU PF.

The MDC will shift towards alternative policy but they will maintain their combative line of labelling the ruling party a dictatorship and an illegitimate regime. This means that the MDC line of hate politics is going to continue, their strategy of character assassination will continue, their belief in appeasing puberty behaviour by behaving like teenagers to attract the youth will continue and the culture of vilification will continue. The only change will be a bit more emphasis on promises for jobs, education or anything socio-economic that can be picked up by the mind.

On the other hand the ruling party looks like set to pursue their politics of ideas. They will sell the revolutionary ideas of national resistance to the imperialist forces and their surrogates in the MDC. They will continue to rally the nation around the agrarian revolution, particularly its current farm mechanisation phase and they are likely to produce more evidence that the MDC is a British project. They are also likely to step up the resolve that an MDC win is akin to re-colonisation and to this end the war veterans will most certainly come in handy.

The ruling party will have to have an answer for the economic challenges facing the urban population and its likely that the Look East policy will be sold big time on this one, most likely with tangible programmes being unveiled in the coming weeks. Already, there has been an unveiling of a US42 million-dollar loan facility availed by China.

Most importantly, the ruling party will sell its long history of success measured against the sanctions-induced eight years of faltering. This success will be premised on self-determination, national liberation, social services, mass education and the concept of sovereignty.

In all this there is Dr. Simba Makoni who looks like he is not prepared to play confrontational politics with either the opposition MDC or his former party, ZANU PF. When Makoni was called “old wine in a new skin” by Morgan Tsvangirai he totally refused to be drawn into a counter response insisting that the matter was trivial and he would rather concentrate on more pressing issues. President Mugabe compared Makoni to a prostitute and again he has refused to be drawn into a counter response and he has insisted that this is just a matter of opinion.

It is clear Dr. Makoni wants to ride on the “prince” myth that pushed him into this presidential race and as much as possible he will endeavour to stay away from the mud. His advisors know the advantages of creating fewer enemies at a time like this. They want the MDC and the ruling party to be throwing mud at each other openly so that Dr. Makoni can play his stainless prince politics to the amusement of the tired voters.

Dr. Makoni is also aware of the dangers of playing vilification politics against a revolutionary like President Mugabe, something Tsvangirai has failed to learn over the years. Makoni is also wary of attacking the West over their hostility towards Zimbabwe because he knows that may chunk away an element of the electorate from the urban vote.

Put simply, Dr. Makoni will try everything in the book not to be tainted. He will want to prove that he is different from ZANU PF and also totally different from the MDC. One easy way is to avoid confrontation by any of the two and try as much as possible to play victim to any attacks that may come from either way.

The danger of this strategy has been that no one trusts Dr. Makoni. Those in ZANU PF will assert that Makoni cannot condemn the MDC because he is part of the opposition crusade to reverse the gains of independence. On the other hand the opposition have asserted that Dr. Makoni will never condemn ZANU PF because he is a decoy of the ruling party planted to split the opposition vote.

Whichever way the West has taken a keen interest in the Makoni political entry. The BBC has been covering him quite favourably and in him they see someone they can work with and that means someone that can accommodate the interests of Britain in Zimbabwe – interests at whose centre is the returning of farms to those white settler farmers who may still be interested in coming back to the country.

Makoni has already indicated that his idea of land reform is production oriented and not politically oriented, explicitly meaning that those who cannot match the production of erst farmers have no business to be on the pieces of land they occupy – never mind the determining factors. Makoni has even scoffed at the idea of giving ploughs and scotch carts to peasant farmers as “a mockery to our people.”

The ruling ZANU PF is likely to maintain that Makoni is a self-glorified dissident who suffers delusions of popularity. They are also likely to exploit his soft spot for the West and his failure to acknowledge the ruinous effect of sanctions on Zimbabwe. Needless to say they will also pounce on his independent status and they will question Makoni’s idea of a National Authority made up of free lancing politicians who are unaccountable to anyone.

This writer did promise to come back to Morgan Tsvangirai’s election campaign launch at Sakubva Stadium in Mutare on February 23.

Tsvangirai tasked everyone at the stadium to go back to their cities and villages and ask whomever they met two questions, “Are you hungry? Are you angry?”

Tsvangirai has always been desperate to command a large support base of hungry and angry people. That is about all that can be expected from a protest politician of Tsvangirai’s calibre.

The MDC leader asked if his listeners had enough hunger and anger for jobs, education, justice, change (whatever that means), hope and land. It is interesting that Tsvangirai seems to have a solution for people who are hungry for land much as he is opposed to the mushrooming of peasants on productive land.

Tsvangirai assured his listeners that the MDC was the face of change – that irregardless of the fact that the MDC has failed to achieve objectives like hope and justice right within the party’s own structures – where Tsvangirai has been labelled to command dictatorial tendencies so many times.

In typical discipleship to John Quincy Adams’ theory of the “law of political gravitation,” Tsvangirai declared that the MDC was a party of people “weak with hunger but strong with anger”. Dear reader, the above theory is the concept of economic strangulation to the point where a state is made so weak that its people can accept the oppressor as the liberator. This is the point where a state is said to be “ripe for the picking” and Adams, one of the US Empire’s founding fathers, expounded this theory.

In apparent reference to Makoni’s politics of reforms, Tsvangirai said that the MDC was not there to reform but to transform the nation. He then focussed on attacking The Herald for claiming that he is a man of no education and that his party has no programme.

The response to this was that ZANU PF has a programme of “poverty, exile, starvation and disease.” He also claimed that like Winston Churchill who once worked as a waiter, he; as a former miner, had enough experience to listen to the people just like what Churchill did with his experience of taking orders from customers at a restaurant. One would understand Churchill’s claim to the relevance of his experience but its difficult to imagine how a miner gains the listening experience from dealing with rocks. Sometimes a political rally can make one to say anything that sounds like a sentence.

After talking about his listening experience gained through mining contact with Trojan Mine rocks Tsvangirai said he had used this vital experience to go around the country on a “Listening Tour”. It is sincerely hoped that Tsvangirai listened attentively to what the people of Zimbabwe really want.

Away from the working experience stuff, Tsvangirai went on to talk about his party’s Election Manifesto. He talked of the usual issues of a new constitution to be implemented in the first 100 days of his government. He also talked of economic recovery under the RESTART policy document, about introducing what he called “the rule of law” and also promised to “end corruption”. It seems Tsvangirai will never acknowledge that he is contesting this election because of the rule of law and of course it is easy to say that corruption can be absolutely ended, especially when one is talking to voters.

Tsvangirai then made a promise to secure US$10 billion – money that he said the world was “waiting” with. Tsvangirai’s idea of the world is well documented and we al know who makes up this “world”.

It is the prioritisation of redressing the needs of groups of people whom Tsvangirai considered to be victims of the excesses of the ruling ZANU PF party that is quiet interesting. He actually outlined these groups in their order of preference and at the top was the War Veterans whom he promised benefits comparable to “other countries abroad”. He did put up a good show in pretending to have the interests of what his supporters call “Whore Veterans” at heart but like Tsvangirai himself said, the war veterans are “not getting any younger” and are likely not to be fooled by such childish gestures.

Second was the group of what he called “victims of Operation Murambatsvina” whom he also promised compensation and housing.

Most surprisingly, the much talked about victims of the Matebeleland civil conflict of the eighties came third on Tsvangirai’s priority list and he promised to deal with this phase of history by embarking on developmental projects like roads and schools. It takes no rocket science that the rating of the Matebeleland people below the so called Murambatsvina victims is not going to be taken kindly by many people in the MDC itself and from Matebeleland in partcular.

Lastly, the MDC leader talked of restoring business for all that have gone out of business in the recent past but he did not explain how he would revive these businesses.

On land reform he said those allocated land would answer the following questions from his land audit team. They would answer “where” they got the land from, “how” they came to be on that land and “what” they were producing on that land.

From there a Tsvangirai government would embark on “a participatory and all inclusive land resettlement programme.”

He would also establish land-holding quotas for each region and again this was not explained.

He said land ownership would be limited to one household –one piece of land and that he would introduce a Land Tax not for the servicing of land related activities but as a way of discouraging land waste.

This whole land issue was handled in a very colourful way meant to tell the people that one will have to be a former white farmer in order to meet the requirements for occupying land under Tsvangiarai’s new government, if he were elected into office.

Tsvangirai then ambitiously promised not only to restore the health sector but also to “bring back our doctors and nurses,” apparently from the Diaspora. Really?

He promised to bring education to some 1.5 million children who are said to have no access to education. It is only Tsvangirai who can justify how authentic this statistic is.

He said his government would embark on a commercial foreign policy and move away from what he called a “warrior foreign policy”. However, it would appear like Tsvangirai makes judgements on the current foreign policy away from the provocations of sanctions and the regime change politics of which is a big player.

The last part of the speech talked of attracting tourists, bringing a new currency regime and paying the civil service well.

It would appear like Tsvangirai has learnt well not to antagonise the civil service and the security forces. In the past Tsvangirai thought threatening civil servants and the security forces would coerce the public service into cooperating with the MDC but that proved to be disastrous. The new approach is this newly found love for war veterans, soldiers, the police and all the civil service. Whether this new strategy will work is a matter of speculation now.

Once we get the ZANU PF manifesto it is this writer’s duty to analyse it the same way we have looked at the MDC document.

It would appear like the major threat to the MDC vote comes from Makoni’s market based policies as well as from the Mutambara led MDC’s perceived control of Matebeleland.

To its advantage, ZANU PF has not had control of the constituencies in question for the past eight years and their rural strongholds are likely to stand solidly behind the politics of ideas and land based policies, policy areas ZANU PF can articulate with so much fluency.

If this trend is not overturned by unforseen factors then the ruling ZANU PF should have fewer problems with this election than the opposition in its collective sense.

Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome

Reason Wafawarova is a political writer and can be contacted on

1 comment:

david santos said...

Thanks for your posting, very good, and have a good day.