When an election date has been announced in Zimbabwe the country slowly comes to a standstill. Some companies and organisations are closed for the whole week leading up to the big day. No business deals will be clinched in that time either. Not even some essential services are operational.
My father-in-law needed to have medical tests two days before the election and was told to wait until afterwards by five different private doctors. All this seems to point to a ZANU-PF victory because people are already preparing for the worst.
But should they be?
In the run-up to the elections, it seemed Robert Mugabe’s and Morgan Tsvangirai’s strategies were based on making personal attacks on each other. They did not have a real plan. They did not tell the electorate what they would do for them. No amount of time was spent on the manifestos.
MDC seemed to be a few steps behind ZANU and placed a lot of emphasis on a violence-free election. Considering the last poll in 2008, it seemed a good strategy but ZANU did not use violence this time because they need this election to be as legitimate as possible. Another reason for the lack of violence is because many who were involved previously realised the futility of their acts. They had to return empty handed to the communities they terrorised. They would likely not do that again.
Role of the Army
The position of the army is another worry in this election because for many Zimbabweans threats of a military coup are real. In reality, though, the chances are slim.
I don’t see foot soldiers and police aligning themselves with the generals. They are all being affected by the issues of the daily grind in Zimbabwe and they are also discontented. The shambolic special vote didn’t help as thousands spent the day at polling stations and failed to vote.
Even though threats of extreme violence may be exaggerated, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has not instilled any confidence that this election will be free. They have disregarded the constitution in not providing a digital copy of the voters to political parties within a reasonable time before the election. The hard copy was provided only a day or two before the election
It has been up to the likes of Baba Jukwa and his Wiki-leaks-type revelations to inform. Baba Jukwa seemed to be a ZANU-PF mole who attracted a bounty on his head of $300 000 – almost a $1 for each like on his Facebook profile.
His example also demonstrates a turn in the attitudes towards the much-feared Central Intelligence Organisation. Many Zimbabweans have publicly liked this page which shows that Zimbabweans are not as fearful as they used to be.
Where this election will turn is with the rural vote. I had been skeptical about the numbers often put forward about those residing in the rural areas but after a trip to rural Masvingo and Mutare I changed my mind.
People are plentiful, they do not have access to general media and some live in no-go areas, especially close to election time. ZANU has done its utmost to keep these folk happy.
At the moment in Watsomba, north of Mutare a city on the border of Mozambique, I witnessed workers from the Rural Electrification programme installing poles and promising to bring electricity immediately after the elections. They also employed local youths to carry out that work.
My aunt is a member of ZANU in her area and was picked up each morning to go and campaign for the party in the different districts. She talks with a genuine passion because she gets material benefits. She is very excited about the electricity that is on its way.
Food handouts and seed for farming is distributed in the name of ZANU regardless of the source of the aid. So, in those peoples’ eyes ZANU is their party of choice. They are not really interested in manifestos but in what is done for them today.
In this election, I foresee Mugabe winning again. MDC-T will probably win the majority of parliamentary seats hence we will probably see another government of national unity (GNU). There seems to be clear signs of rigging but I also believe that regardless of Mugabe’s perceived popularity he would not win a free and fair election. Zimbabweans have generally had enough.
The MDC did not do themselves any favours when they were in the GNU and have lost ground. As a result, this time, there is a large amount of people who are not sure who to vote for. A few years ago there was no question. The MDC has been complacent, some have enjoyed the gravy train and they have forgotten their mandate.
This is the last chance for the MDC-T. If they get beaten today then the only way they will remain relevant is by having a new leader. They will have to restart through working hard to gain the hearts of Zimbabweans again because the protest vote is no longer guaranteed. I am sure even their sponsors will be looking for an alternative.
If ZANU-PF win, Mugabe will probably hand over the reigns to a successor sometime soon. But it will definitely mean some tough times for Zimbabwe and speculations will run riot on the economy again. I would like to speculate at what would happen if the MDC win but I think thats highly unlikely and would be pleasantly surprised if that were the case.
Edited by Firdose Moonda and first published on the Street Seen blog
Read the post mortem of the 2013 elections here