Truth and Fiction
Just what happened this past week? If you read the media (always
you get reports that say diametrically opposite things - a 'Deal'
says the Gazette, the 'Talks a Failure' says the Independent and
African papers. As for the local State controlled press - well that
a sick joke. You are as likely to get the truth out of them as you are
a used car salesman.
But for all of that we have to try and sort out what really went on
the nonsense being written and spoken. What we do know is the
South African mediators met with the negotiating teams this past
set of options were put before these decision makers, the MDC team
two of the three options with slight variations whilst the Zanu PF team
unable to come to any conclusion in the absence of Mr. Mugabe who was
holiday in the Far East.
Mr. Mugabe was visiting Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore with his
and chief shopping aide, Grace Mugabe. We know that Mr. Mugabe was sent
dropped everything and hurriedly returned to Harare to take charge.
couple of days of consultations President Mbeki arrived with his team
went straight into discussions with the Zanu PF leadership. After
hours of discussion Mr. Mbeki saw the MDC leadership and then returned
the discussions with the Zanu PF team before leaving the country to
The only public part of this process was a brief meeting with the media
where the South African President said that the talks were continuing
that progress had been made. Neither the MDC nor Zanu PF made any
statement and the MDC leadership left the country for South Africa the
The rest of us were just left in the dark with no clear statement on
I slept on the issue and decided to come down on the side of the view
despite all the leaks - a deal was done. There is simply no way that
President of South Africa, who has so much at stake in the process and
whom, for the first time in 7 years, has all his ducks in a row on this
issue, would allow the talks to collapse and flounder. The question is
therefore what sort of deal?
The rest of this note is conjecture - so you can take it or leave it,
may not be accurate. My own view has been for some time that we are
with a March election. My guess is that nomination day is the 7th of
with the elections taking place 21 days later on the 28th of March. The
elections will be in one day and some 2000 seats are up for election.
voters in the main centers may have 5 ballots to complete, in the other
areas, 4 ballots. At issue is nothing more or less than the future of
Zimbabwe as a State.
The devil always lies with the detail. I would agree with a senior
who said to me some weeks ago 'there is no chance of holding a free
election in Zimbabwe today, however we will watch the process carefully
if the outcome is one that we feel represents the views of the
will accept it and move on from there'. A sort of resigned acceptance
SA has not achieved enough in the mediated talks but we have no choice
to work with the outcome.
Frankly I think the same thing applies to the MDC - we have little
but to work with the gains made in nearly 8 months of tortuous and
painstaking negotiations with a group, who from the very beginning were
no way sincere or committed to genuine change in the way our elections
Change there has been - not enough to ensure a free and fair
is it enough to allow a free expression of the will of the people? Can
prevent the sort of fraud that has characterised the elections in
for many years and in Kenya just recently? Most would say no, but in my
the changes negotiated and now being implemented must not be
They are significant in many ways.
The questions that remain are many - can we persuade eligible
voters to come out on the 28th and vote? Can we then protect their
make sure it is reported accurately and without manipulation to the
tally and then finally, will our society and administration accept the
outcome? Those are big questions that only time will answer.
But for me I have always viewed this process as a struggle. It will
struggle right through to the end. My main fear in the past 18 months
been that we would not have an election. That the regime would simply
into its shell and with the support of the armed forces and corrupt
interests, administer the country via a military/Zanu Junta.
coup in all but name. That has not happened and one of the main reasons
been the continued belief that Zanu PF has done enough to win the
The other factor is simply pride. Mr. Mugabe wants to defeat Morgan
Tsvangirai in a straight electoral battle - make no mistake this is
modern equivalent of a 16th Century Jousting competition. He wants to
an election that meets the minimum conditions that he can get away with
then manage his own semi dignified exit from the stage before things
completely out of hand.
Just look at the constraints on Morgan in this contest - he has been
physically, denied funding for normal political activity, restricted in
forms of normal political activity, the bookies are all Zanu PF lackeys
the crowd in the stadium is loaded with Zanu PF supporters. Traditional
leaders who have been intimidated and bribed control the field,
horse is denied food and water and his equipment is tampered with.
No wonder Mr. Mugabe is confident! But remember, this is still a
be won and lost. At least we are going to get our chance on the field.
a risk, but one worth taking if this is all we have got. So my view is
we are in for an election and it is up to every one of us to get off
butts and make sure that this time, the real result is captured and
reported. We sure can live with the result; I am not sure Zanu PF can.
Bulawayo, 19th January 2008