How Zanu PF would win an Election Against the MDC

The opinion polls all say the same thing, Zanu PF, once the Mammoth of Political Parties in Zimbabwe, could only command less than 5 per cent support in urban areas and about 15 per cent in its strongest Provinces in rural districts. Yet they are on record demanding an immediate election - why? What would they do to win such a contest, or at least avoid a debacle?

It has become clear in recent days that once they had determined that the GPA road map would end in a total electoral defeat, they have been working on alternative strategies. The electoral one, favored by Mr. Mugabe and some of his cohorts was based on the following assumptions and strategies:

That it was essential to restore credibility and legitimacy to a new Zanu PF led government in whatever form it emerged from the GPA process. The group that then argued for a snap election believed that it was possible to win such an election under certain conditions and that if they could defeat MDC by even one percent, it would be enough to restore legitimacy and put them back in charge, secure for at least five years.

That by controlling the new diamond fields at Marange, they had more than adequate resources to fight the election and implement the strategies they had agreed were necessary for such a victory.

That to be successful, they had to put aside any moral feelings or considerations of human rights or the political freedoms that had formed the basis of their long struggle for Zimbabwean independence. The retention of power was the overriding consideration, this was to be a struggle without rules or boundaries - whatever it took, the game had to be won.

The actual strategies were tried and tested - they had been used in every election contested by the MDC since 2000 and in smaller ways in all elections before that. In fact it is difficult to identify an election in Zimbabwe that has ever been free and fair. The words do not enter Zanu PF's vocabulary.

The first step they took was to ensure that the voters roll created the foundations for the elections and the controls needed. So instructions were given to the Registrar General, Tobaiwa Mudede and by August 2010, he had the roll just about finished - 6 million names, roughly half dead or absent, 75 percent in the rural districts and 25 per cent urban. How they did this was by simply manipulating the rolls administratively using their records and using field agents to get people to move their votes from urban to rural areas.

Using this 'modified' roll they then intended to hold a carefully managed delimitation exercise using a co-operative Judge or two. This would be based on the roll and would reduce the number of urban Parliamentary seats from just over 80 to 52. This would then be further 'adjusted' to make sure that the former commercial farming districts had over 50 seats and the remainder would be in the Tribal Areas (100 plus seats).

The next piece in their battle plan was total physical control of the former commercial farming districts. They had already driven 95 per cent of all the commercial farmers off the land, now they had to make sure that any farmers holding any form of land rights in the commercial farming areas, were totally Zanu PF controlled and would do, without question, what they were told to do. Anyone not fitting these criteria was then simply removed by force and their staff disbursed. By mid 2011, the commercial farming areas were rendered 'no-go' areas for the MDC, all MDC structure in these districts were destroyed or disrupted.

Then they moved to ensure control of the tribal areas - the Chiefs Council was called together several times. Chiefs and Headmen throughout the country were told that they were expected to control and direct their people in any forthcoming election or face penalties. The withdrawal of allowances and even dismissal was threatened. Every Headman was instructed to make lists of all the families in their villages and to note the MDC activists. Lists of MDC leaders were compiled in all areas and their homes noted.

Finally the JOC (the Joint Operational Command) system was activated. JOC's were formed at Provincial and District level controlled by senior Civil Servants who are Zanu PF loyalists or military and security personnel. Then teams were inserted into every District comprising a small group of 'enforcers' under the leadership of a military or security figure in plain clothes. These structures were expected to 'do what was necessary' to ensure a victory for Zanu PF in that area.

Based on the experience in 2008, it was decided that the campaign of violence and intimidation would be more muted and anonymous. People would disappear rather than end up in hospital. Particular attention was to be paid to the support base and activists of the MDC in all areas. In some selected urban centers it was agreed to experiment with efforts to destabilize the MDC and we saw the emergence of gangs such as Chipangano in Mbare in Harare. Some idea of the scope and size of this programme was inadvertently revealed when a mineshaft in Mt Darwin was opened up and over 800 bodies extracted.

Finally they reinforced the mechanisms designed to control the voting and reporting of the vote. As Stalin said, 'It is not who votes that counts, it is who counts the vote'. The new Electoral Commission was moved to the Ministry of Justice where Chinamassa could supervise it. Their funding was limited and foreign support restricted and the staff was drawn from CIO and military sources. It was clear, they were going to restrict voting rights and stuff ballots where required and manipulate the vote if needed.

By August 2010 they were ready and a snap election outside the framework established by the GPA was called for October. When this was prevented by the personal intervention of the South African President, they regrouped and tried to force an election in March/April 2011. This was again prevented by SADC intervention and pressure. Now they are confronted with a firm SADC position on elections - only AFTER the full implementation of the reforms called for and agreed in the GPA, they are rethinking their strategies.

The scope for this is limited but they have access to almost unlimited funding and are ruthless and determined. As has been amply demonstrated in other parts of the world recently, change under these circumstances can only happen if the region stands firm on principle and the international community is prepared to support change strategically.

All the elements are in place in Zimbabwe for a peaceful, democratic transfer of power to a new principled government. Those who seek to frustrate and impede such a process have to be firmly dealt with and denied the opportunity to derail the whole process. It is not the time to back off or weaken.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 27th August 2011