Cyril Ramaphosa must know Zimbabwe is in greater peril than ever before
The SA president must be aware that the adverse effects Zimbabwe’s implosion has had on SA will escalate
SA has much to answer for the sorry state Zimbabwe is in. Back in 2002, so much was riding on the Movement for Democratic Change( MDC) led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai being able to beat Robert Mugabe at the polls.
Tsvangirai said the night before the result was announced he was visited by the SA observer mission leaders, Brigalia Bam and Sam Motsuenyane, who told him he had won. So it came as a big shock when the wily Mugabe was announced as winner — and the election was declared free and fair. Patricia de Lille was part of the SA parliamentary observer mission and later said when she left the Sheraton Hotel in Harare each morning she saw many of her fellow MPs sitting in the foyer. They were usually sitting in the same comfortable chairs when she returned at the end of the day. In short, they failed to do their duty.
Justices Sisi Khampepe and Dikgang Moseneke conducted the SA judicial review, which concluded that the poll was not free and fair. But government refused to allow public access to the report until 2014 and only released it after the Mail & Guardian repeatedly appealed to the courts. By then another couple of elections had come and gone with increased levels of brutality, the decimation of the farming community and millions of Zimbabweans fleeing their country for the perceived greener pastures of SA. Tsvangirai was arrested and imprisoned on trumped up charges of treason and would certainly have gone to the gallows had it not been for the heroic efforts of the late George Bizos to secure his acquittal. Subsequent elections in 2008, 2013 and 2018 were marked with the same degree of brutality.
In the 2008 election, Tsvangirai beat Mugabe at the initial polls winning 47.9% against Mugabe’s 43.2%, forcing a runoff. But he withdrew from the runoff following an exceptionally bloody campaign by Zanu-PF forces that targeted MDC voters.
After that poll, which was particularly bloody and SA and Sadc observer missions yet again declared free and fair, Tsvangirai was forced into forming a government of national unity with Zanu-PF. Like Joshua Nkomo, who was forced into a unity government with Mugabe in 1987 to stop the genocide of the Matabele, Tsvangirai thought it the only way to stop the bloodshed and the downward spiral of the of the economy.
While the unity government existed peace prevailed and the economy recovered to a degree, thanks to the fiscal management of Tendai Biti, who dollarised the economy. For a short time Zimbabwe flourished as a third world country with a first world currency.
The 2013 poll saw the end of the unity government as the MDC prepared to contest the election. Tsvangirai’s campaign saw him traversing Zimbabwe in his red bus, with “Morgan is More” emblazoned on the side. He did not lose the election in terms of popularity with the electorate, but lost it due to a grossly inflated voters roll that contained the names of tens of thousands of people who had died or emigrated. Robert Mugabe was declared winner of the presidential poll with 61% of the vote to Tsvangirai’s 34%.
Eventually, in August 2017, not long before his untimely death, Tsvangirai decided it was time to unite all opposition parties under a new properly registered and constituted party, the MDC Alliance. He would lead it and Nelson Chamisa would be his deputy. MDC-T would continue as a stand-alone party and Thokozani Khupe, appointed in 2014, would remain as its deputy.
Tsvangirai felt he was allowed to appoint new deputy presidents as at the 2014 MDC Congress a motion was moved and passed that the party president would be allowed to appoint other officers as he saw fit. The secretary-general of the party at the time was Douglas Mwonzora, who failed, possibly deliberately, to do his duty by recording the minutes of congress, which it turns out has been to his advantage as he now sits firmly in the Khupe camp. This recently came back to bite Chamisa and the MDC Alliance.
The subsequent disputed 2018 poll clearly demonstrated that Zanu-PF was up to its old tricks again. Khupe only garnered a little more than 45,000 votes, while Chamisa, according to votes recorded by photographing signed off results papers at individual polling stations and collated at the alliance headquarters, got more than two-million, more than enough to become president of Zimbabwe and form a new democratic government. But the official results posted by the electoral commission told a different story. Chamisa won 44.3%, Mnangagwa 50.8% and Khupe, now installed as the official leader of the opposition, just 3.42%.
But Khupe is hungry for power and has done everything she can to nullify the validity of Chamisa’s presidency of the MDC Alliance in court. What people do not realise is that Khupe was elected vice-president of the MDC T in 2014 for a period of only five years. This expired in July, a fact the Harare High Court ignored when it handed down its judgment at the end of August nullifying Chamisa’s presidency of the MDC Alliance, which Khupe has now hijacked as her own. Khupe has been in cahoots with Zanu-PF for some time.
Backing this assertion up, and reminiscent of Bell Pottinger’s white monopoly capital campaign funded by the Guptas, is the fact that Zanu-PF pays a Washington PR company, Mercury, $1.5m a year to promote Khupe as the leader of the official opposition. The reality is that Zanu-PF is trying to put lipstick on the pig, aiming for a de facto one-party state under the guise of democracy.
What is encouraging is that Khupe has little support, despite hijacking the MDC Alliance as her own, is busy firing MPs and city councillors and has been captured in a Twitter video saying she is in politics because “It’s all about getting money. We are doing this for the money”.
Chamisa will bounce back. He has a loyal following among democracy hungry Zimbabweans that transcends tribal affiliations He will rebrand and rebuild an inclusive party that will most certainly win an election provided it is free and fair.
It is time for Cyril Ramaphosa to act, not only as the president of SA, Zimbabwe’s most important neighbour, but as the current president of the AU. He needs to know that Zimbabwe is in greater peril that it ever has been before, and that the adverse impact it has been having on SA will escalate. He needs to get independent negotiators who will listen to all parties about the situation in Zimbabwe. When Lindiwe Zulu visited Zimbabwe recently with ANC hangers-on, she was reportedly told by Zanu-PF not to speak to Chamisa, despite his efforts to arrange a meeting. This has to stop. We now need an honest broker.
Correction: October 15 2020
This article has been corrected to accurately reflect the election outcomes in 2008 and 2013. An error in Douglas Mwonzora's name has also been rectified.
• Hudleston is a Zimbabwe-born journalist and author of The Face of Courage, a 2006 biography on Morgan Tsvangirai.
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