A Political Tsunami
A few weeks ago I stood in a small house in a local high-density suburb
addressing a meeting of about 150 people crammed into every corner. I
to them that what we needed to end the crisis in Zimbabwe was a
Tsunami. I said a Tsunami could not be detected on the open sea (during
campaign) and when it reached the shore and rose up like a mountain of
water, those on the beach got little or no warning. It was silent and
totally destructive, sweeping away everything in its path.
Right now (17.00 hrs on Sunday the 30th) the semi official tally is 103
seats to MDC and 5 to Zanu PF. The outcome of the election has been a
stunning victory for the MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai. Many of the strong
of Zanu PF have fallen to overwhelming MDC majorities. Makoni has
more or less to expectations - in fact did better than we anticipated
especially in Matabeleland where he seems to have garnered about 30 per
of the vote. Nationally it looks like about 10 per cent.
It also looks like a first round victory for Morgan with over 50 per
the national tally. Even here in Matabeleland where Makoni took votes
from him, his margin was 2 to 1 against Makoni and 10 to 1 against
The Police have said to us in the MDC - you may not celebrate until
official results are known. In one of my polling stations when the
officer announced 452 votes for Morgan Tsvangirai and 14 votes for
Mugabe, one of the policemen in the Station made a sort of gurgling
Yesterday was extraordinary - as I have said before, no more than 2,8
million voters were active in Zimbabwe and I think we will see when the
final tally comes out that a very high turnout was achieved. We knew
our own research that a high turn out would favor the opposition.
are saying that the turn out was low - but that is because they are
at the voters roll against the turnout. In the rural areas the numbers
small - but still gave MDC a clear majority.
The Mutambara group fared poorly - at this stage I know of only a few
candidates who won their seats - David Coltart in the Khumalo
seat. He will be insufferable - but it is good that we are not losing
talents and experience. Otherwise it looks as if the ratio of votes
Mutambara group to Tsvangirai was at least 2 to 1 in Matabeleland and
got nowhere in the rest of the country. Both Welshman Ncube and Gibson
Sibanda lost their seats. I am sure Mutambara will have been
In my long career in opposition politics - first in the Smith era and
later in the last 20 years of the Mugabe era, I have never voted for a
winner before! Quite an experience for me therefore to vote for 4
and have them all romp home. But I am the first to acknowledge that the
circumstances were exceptional. This was, as Morgan stated, a
the leadership of Mugabe.
What turned this election from a silent surge of feeling in mid ocean,
a tsunami? For a start it was the Mbeki factor. Right from the start of
2007, Mr. Mbeki played a crucial role in persuading his SADC colleagues
recognise the MDC and to back reform of the electoral process. They
Zanu PF to come to the negotiating table and in 9 months of
got a number of concessions agreed and implemented. Frustrated at the
end of the process, Mbeki then turned to Makoni and sent him in to
with Mugabe. It was a clever and fatal move and sunk the Mugabe ship in
ocean. But even Mbeki could not have anticipated the size of the
Meanwhile the effects of the reforms agreed and implemented in Zimbabwe
even though they were limited, had started to work through the system.
the law of unintended consequences came into play. The shift of
power from the Registrar Generals Office to the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission seemed to Zanu PF to be a move that was without risk. After
had they not appointed the Commission themselves and was not George
Chiweshe, the chairman, a loyalist? In fact they completely
the dynamics of the shift from Civil Service control under Mudede to
under a civilian Commission.
The Commission has played a crucial role - sticking to its mandate to
administer the election within the guidelines of the Electoral Act.
actually frustrated several attempts by Mugabe to implement last minute
changes to the electoral system and insisted on the counting at the
stations - this opened the door to the MDC vote count and reporting
and prevented many of the rigging efforts that had enabled Zanu PF to
dictate the outcome of previous elections.
Then came the MDC state of preparedness - the consensus of the media
many other commentators was that the MDC was a spent force. Divided and
confused, weakened by a year of relentless onslaught by the authorities
the departure of thousands of their key activists to South Africa and
elsewhere. In fact, it stunned Zanu when the MDC was able to field 2000
candidates at short notice and then come out fighting with a well
and financed campaign. The key to that was the support network built up
several years in the region and these hidden hero’s are very much
responsible for the activity everyone has seen in the past few weeks
adverts, the flyers, the poster war and the funding for our candidates.
Finally the anti rigging operation. We knew how they had rigged
elections and we set out to try and stop a recurrence. The whistle
campaign was a key part of that and we have had hundreds of calls from
quarters and several key 'hits'. The many people who climbed in and
'one more time' and spent days in the bush helping with the count
reporting system are unsung heroes.
Then the people - they had just had enough, had enough of arrogance
being taken for granted, enough of the suffering and destruction of the
economy. Their steadfast faith in the electoral process and their
take to violence. They chose to suffer in silence and then go out and
For me they are the real champions and I hope they will never again be
for granted. I also hope they will hold their new leadership
the trust they have given us.
30th March 2008