The Zanu PF Battle Plan
The day after the signing of the GPA in Harare in February 2008, the Hard Liners in Zanu PF recognised the danger for them hidden in its text. They immediately began a fight back, initially simply holding up the reform process laid out in the GPA and stonewalling any progress. After 18 months it became apparent to them that this strategy had a limited life and a more permanent solution to the issue of how to retain power had to be found.
The CIO prepared a paper for the Zanu PF leadership and stated that the Party could not win an election. The military concurred and argued for a military led coup leading to a Junta government that would have some democratic credentials. When plans for such an exercise became known in regional circles, the SADC leadership moved swiftly to make it clear that any such adventurism by the military would not be tolerated.
Although they have played with this idea at least twice, it has now been abandoned as the region has maintained its stance of total hostility to such a route back to power. Zanu PF leadership was forced to consider the idea of trying to win the unwinnable – how to so engineer the circumstances under which an election might be held where they could do what the CIO said was not possible – win an election.
Out of this decision came the “battle plan”. This is not so much a strategy for a campaign in the conventional sense, but a comprehensive plan for an election that Zanu PF would control and manipulate from start to finish. It has many different aspects: -
They set about reengineering the voter’s roll and the result is that they have now moved the voters roll and its administration from the Registrars Offices to the Headquarters of the National Army. This was for security reasons and there they have a small team of experienced staff working on it to achieve their goal. They have now created a roll that has six million names on it. The fact that we do not have more than 3 million eligible voters in the country is totally ignored. The roll is deliberately loaded with dead and absent voters.
Then they paid attention to the distribution of these voters, carefully arranging the numbers so that only a quarter were in urban areas, even though they know, that two thirds of our population now lives in the Towns and Cities. Then they loaded the former Commercial farming Districts with more voters than in the urban areas and left the balance in the Communal areas.
In 2008, we were taken aback when the delimitation done just prior to the elections, reduced the number of seats in urban areas to a third - 84 out of 210. Now they have conducted another secret delimitation exercise at Army Headquarters and have come up with a formula that would further reduce the number of urban seats to 52. MDC leadership told me last week that there “would be no delimitation this time”. In contrast the Central Committee of Zanu PF was told this week that delimitation was imminent and that no candidate selection should take place until “delimitation and new electoral boundaries are determined”.
The next part of the battle plan was to make the rural areas no go areas for the MDC. They began by flushing out any non Zanu elements in the commercial farming districts and this has led to more farm evictions. They tightened up access and started to erode MDC Party structures and leadership in these areas. More seats were planned for the farming areas than in the urban centers and they were quite confident that they could win the majority of these seats. By the time an election is held there will be virtually no one in these Districts who does not owe allegiance to Zanu PF.
In the Communal areas, they tightened their grip on the traditional leaders, insisting that they control the people under their jurisdiction. Leaders were encouraged to evict strong MDC cadres and MDC structures were carefully and systematically attacked. Lower level leadership disappeared or were beaten and intimidated. A plan for patronage support was adopted and funded.
The JOC (Joint Operations Command), a relic of the war against the Rhodesians, was instructed to activate its network and JOC’s were reestablished at Provincial and District level. Bases staffed by the military and CIO were established in every district many with “black operation” groups of specialists to conduct covert operations against the MDC and hostile NGO elements.
To strengthen their attacks on the perceived strongholds of the MDC in urban areas, they adopted a plan to settle thousands of people on farms they controlled adjacent to the urban centers. They established a Zanu PF office on each farm and people are being allocated small plots on which they can build a home. Two weeks ago a report came to light that some 174 000 families (three quarters of a million people) had been settled in these areas, each one taking out Zanu PF membership and paying a small fee for the right to build a shack. All urban areas are now surrounded by a necklace of shanty towns and the new delimitation being planned will draw those into the peri urban areas of many urban seats.
The battle plan called for a tightening of the grip on the media – no reforms were acceptable, two new radio licenses were issued – but to loyal Zanu PF interests and companies. Jamming was resumed on all shortwave broadcasters and a strategy for restricting eh effectiveness of Studio 7 – the VOA station broadcast from neighboring Botswana was agreed and implemented.
No reforms to the environment for the campaign were planned – they would resist any attempts to scrap restrictive legislation. Instead they would intensify their attacks on MDC meetings and activities using all available elements and tools – especially POSA (the successor legislation to the Smith regimes “Law and order Maintenance Act”). Criminal gangs of young thugs were to be used in urban areas as a means of intimidation and coercion.
They tightened their grip on the diamond and gold industries and began to use these resources for patronage, support for the military (purchase of arms and supplementing their incomes). They adopted and implemented a destabilization programme against regimes in the region that were perceived as being hostile to Zanu PF (Zambia (successful), South Africa and Botswana). They tightened their relationship with China and secured assurances of support and protection in return for trade and other concessions.
Finally, they agreed to keep the Registrar General (Mudede) in place and to get him to do his usual stuff – control the balloting, the counting and the reporting of the actual election results. To do this they ring fenced the ZEC, controlled the appointment of staff and made sure that the Commission was ineffective.
Finally they set up a department in the CIO with the specific task of neutralizing the leadership of the MDC and its support base. Orders have been issued to take action against the most effective individuals who might be a threat to the process. The leadership of the MDC Youth Assembly has been crippled by the arrest of its leadership on spurious grounds that they were involved in the killing of a policeman. There is no evidence of this but they have been held in Prison for nearly 18 months. Warrants of arrest for many others have been exercised or are being planned.
The subliminal programme of violence and intimidation that is going on is carefully managed. The product seldom sees the light of day. There is still no explanation of mass graves and fresh bodies in places like Mt. Darwin, Marondera and Mutare. People are disappearing and no one follows up, their families cowed and fearful. Homes are burnt, cattle stolen. Attend an MDC function and you are visited the following day with an eviction order; the programme takes on many forms leaving Zimbabwe as one of the most fearful places on earth with a political fear index higher than that in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Can they win an election with this battle plan? I think so and they are clearly confident of this. The problem is that such a victory would leave Zimbabwe isolated and the new government illegitimate. Their calculations are that this would not matter, they would be protected internationally by the Chinese; they think they can live in isolation from the global community whom they calculate would still provide “humanitarian assistance and aid”. They think that they could do very well on what would be left of the economy and that what remains of their enemies inside Zimbabwe would simply migrate.
Harare 15th October 2012