A Game Changer

If you were watching the Ryder Cup golf competition in the USA last week you will know that on the second last day it looked as if the US team was going to win by a wide margin. They had the advantage of playing at home and a very partisan crowd and I think the victory parties had begun. It was not to be and the European team went into the last day and took victory out of the hands of the US team, eventually winning the Cup by a tiny margin.

I have no idea what triggered the victory, but I am sure that the turning point would have taken place sometime in the previous 24 hours. Politics is much like golf; victory does not come quickly or easily and very often the lead moves from one player to the other and back again.

In Zimbabwe over the past three weeks the game has changed and we need to ask why? Three weeks ago it looked as if the whole constitutional process was going to be gutted by the actions of the hard liners who had struggled to find a response to the COPAC draft that was finalised in July. They produced a new draft and declared with supreme arrogance that their draft 'is not negotiable'. Since then the draft prepared by the hard liners has been virtually dumped and the COPAC process restored to its central role with the next 'All Stakeholders Conference' now scheduled for later this month.

Certainly the new impetus given to the process must have an origin and I suspect it lies within the SADC structures. Clearly this can only come from a quarter that holds real power and influence here, no western State has such leverage and therefore it must be regional in origin. The President of South Africa, speaking as the facilitator, stated quite clearly the position of regional States when he said that an election in Zimbabwe without the required reforms to make such an event acceptable to the global Community, would be a futile exercise.

This strong stance sets the stage for what comes next. It is now very clear that Zanu PF is not going to be allowed to avoid the GPA reform process and hold a violent and manipulated election that they can manage and control. Just to remind people of these required reforms they are as follows:

1. Negotiate, agree and adopt a new constitution;

2. Prepare a new voters roll based on new constitutional provisions;

3. Restructure and reorganise the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission so that it is not partisan, totally professional and independent;

4. Establish conditions for a totally free election campaign process, supported by a free media and the removal of undemocratic restrictions on political activity;

5. Create the conditions for people to cast their votes without fear and without any restrictions and hindrances;

6. Provide for regional and international supervision of the whole process, starting well before the election and continuing until the results are known and implemented.

The demand for the full implementation of this programme of reform means that if it is pursued it will take a time. It is unlikely that the referendum can now be held in 2012. It may be possible if there are no new obstacles, to hold the referendum in November but this is unlikely. We may therefore have to hold the referendum in February 2013. The voters roll will take another 4 to 5 months and the legislation changes will also take time but could be done in tandem. Restructuring the ZEC would take time but again could be done in parallel with the other reforms.

However you look at it, the next elections cannot be held until late in 2013, if they are to be a credible test of national public option. For the State President who will be nearing his 90th year, it will be too late for any serious attempt to secure a final five year term as President. We are therefore now in a transition from the Mugabe era to a new leadership dispensation. This plunges Zanu PF into an internal crisis as they now have no choice but to choose a successor in circumstances where they are divided into two clear factions under different leadership.

For the hard liners in Zanu PF this is all bad news. They have been trying to mount a number of different efforts to find a solution that would offer them a chance of holding onto power and protect their essential interests. Their last shot is an election under conditions where they can use the present voters roll with 6 million voters on it, 3 million ghost voters and a totally skewed and false voter distribution. A carefully manipulated delimitation exercise supported by probably 200 000 voters newly settled in peri urban slums controlled by Zanu PF thugs. Then a campaign where only Zanu has any access to radio or TV, meetings are tightly controlled and movement restricted. They will use their financial resources to get millions into their regalia - they have just ordered 2 million caps from Johannesburg. Their campaign will have no financial constraints - already they have bought hundreds of vehicles for the campaign.

Then they will use an emasculated ZEC under ineffective leadership and total Zanu PF staff to allow the Registrar Generals Office to control the ballot, to supervise the count and then control and manipulate the reporting. To back this formidable machine they have mobilized and deployed the Joint Operations Command with activated structures at national, provincial and district level throughout the country.

Would they have a party if that were possible! They have been trying to get this through the system but have been foiled at every point by a stubborn MDC and a recalcitrant Zuma and the SADC. They are stuck with the GPA and the SADC and I think they are now close to understanding that they have nowhere to go, but down.

A real game changer in all this is the fact that the South Africans now know that elements in Zanu PF supported Malema in his efforts to destabilize the country and to try and force Zuma from the Presidency. It's had the opposite effect to that intended, probably confirmed Zuma in his position and strengthened ANC determination that Zanu PF must face the music here at home in a free and fair election. What a game of golf this is, the Ryder Cup pales by comparison!

Eddie Cross
Harare, 8th October 2012