Back to the fray

I spent Tuesday evening catching up with the state of political speculation. At last Morgan Tsvangirai has spoken out in public – for the first time since Saturday’s election – to affirm that he has won Zimbabwe’s presidential election outright.
Interestingly he denied reports that had been circulating all day that he (or his representatives) are in negotiations with Zanu-PF to ease Robert Mugabe out of the presidency.
The MDC leader talked of restraint and reconciliation: “For years we have trod a journey of hunger, pain, torture and brutality… today we face a new challenge of governing and rehabilitating our beloved country, the challenge of giving birth to a new Zimbabwe founded on restoration not retribution, on love not war.”
Tsvangirai said he was waiting for an official announcement of the results from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission before starting any talks – well that’s the official line anyway but it’s hard to believe that overtures are not already being made, reassurance given, amnesty offered.
Zimbabweans still have no official word on the numbers of votes cast in the presidential election. The electoral commission (ZEC) has so far revealed 182 of the 210 – with 90 for the ruling Zanu-PF and 87 for Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change. Six Cabinet ministers have, officially, lost their seats.
This compares with the tally of the Independent Results Centre which gives 99 seats to the MDC, 95 seats to Zanu-PF. There are serious discrepancies in particular between the ZEC results and independently-collated figures from Mugabe’s rural heartland, Mashonaland.
The MDC is demanding the production of the V11 forms signed by the contesting parties at the close of the count in each polling station in Bindura, Goromonzi and Mount Darwin West to verify the real totals.
Large numbers of police and riot police on the streets are a visible reminder that any result, any deal, has to be sanctioned by the feared state security apparatus.
As the Telegraph’s David Blair has written: “In a country of sycophantic cabinet ministers and powerless civil servants, real authority in Zimbabwe is wielded by the hard-line ‘securocrats’ who command the armed forces.”
These are Mugabe’s comrades in arms, his “right-hand men” over the past 28 years since the end of their war of liberation, the second Chimurenga.
General Constantine Chiwenga (Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces), Lt Gen Philip Sibanda (Zimbabwe National Army Commander), Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, Happyton Bonyongwe, (Director-General of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), Air Marshal Perrence Chiri (retired Zimbabwe Air Force Commander and the architect of the ‘Gukurahundi’ repression by the Fifth Brigade in Matabeleland) and retired Major-General Paradzai Zimondi (Commissioner of Prisons) lined up side-by-side for the cameras on the eve of the elections to hammer home their message.
These were the sinister creatures who in the run-up to the elections declined to pledge loyalty if an opposition leader were elected president in a free and fair election; who said they would not salute any “puppet” (the derogatory term Mugabe customarily used to refer to Tsvangirai); who said only Zanu-PF could ever be allowed to rule Zimbabwe.
It was these hard-faced men in the Joint Operations Command, and above all Gen. Chiwenga, who are said to have met with Mugabe on Sunday evening to discuss their tactics in the face of the overwhelming vote of no confidence in Zanu-PF’s rule delivered on Saturday.
If the anonymous diplomatic sources quoted by newshounds in Harare are to be believed, Chiwenga either persuaded Mugabe not to declare himself the outright victor with more than 50% of the vote, or conversely persuaded Mugabe not to concede and to spin out the process.
There are many versions of the guesswork that masquerades as mainstream journalism… a rumour passed on by one or more sources “close to ZEC”, or “close to Zanu-PF” or “close to the JOC”… and so on and so forth becomes the theme of the day.
Hence one moment we are told Mugabe has departed for Malaysia, the next that he is closeted with the military planning to declare martial law. We are told that Zanu-PF is in shock at the scale of its defeat, then that the party is busy rigging the vote so that it will emerge the victor.
In the face of so much uncertainty, Zimbabweans themselves have nervously held fast, enduring the time-wasting tactics of the ruling party and its placemen on the ZEC.
Some will say this was a masterstroke by the MDC, others that it was simply a reflection of the vacillation and lack of decisiveness that have characterized Tsvangirai’s actions over the years.
From what I have seen, it was a mixture of fear and hope that encouraged people to keep the peace and wait patiently to see what would happen.
Many young men told me that if the official announcement of the final results were to be a travesty of the truth, then this time people really did intend to stir themselves and rise up in violent protest against what had increasingly become a despotic regime.
And yet I heard few voices calling for retribution for Mugabe and his henchmen, provided they step aside to let the democratically-elected opposition assume power. Is this a reflection once again of the gentle and kindly nature of the peoples who make up the nation of Zimbabwe?
Again and again I am told that a “southern African solution” of defusing grievances through a truth and reconciliation process is the preferred option. “Let Madala (the old man) retire to his big home for the final years of his life”, John told me. “So long as he steps down and we get a good government this time.”
“I am Nambya”, says Zengeya – “but I don’t care if our leader is Shona, Ndebele, Tonga or Karanga… whether he is MDC or Zanu-PF or any party. Let him just respect the will of the people, the people’s choice.”