Prelude in D Minor, by Morgan Tsvangirai

Every Province in the country is holding what we have come to call “Star” rallies. These are large events in stadiums in the main urban centers that act as Provincial capitals. Yesterday Morgan Tsvangirai was in Bulawayo and the rally was held in the White City Stadium.

All of these rallies have been well attended with capacity crowds and more. Yesterday was no exception and by the time he arrived I would have estimated that some 50 000 people were in the stadium. I have attended every major rally of this nature at White City since the Party was formed in 1999 and in my estimate this was the largest gathering since then.

The people mainly came on foot or in the mini buses that are such a feature of everyday life in the Cities. There was little bussing and no other inducements. They came to see the man who will be President on the 1st of August this year.

Like all these events they are characterized by good humor, lots of singing and sloganeering and are generally good fun. There was not a single Police officer present. Nelson Chamisa, who acts as MC on these occasions said at one point that the Zanu PF rallies with the State President are like funerals, the MDC rallies were like weddings.

The real question is just what is happening out there and are these massive gatherings any indication of the real level of electoral support for the MDC? There is no doubt about the status of the smaller parties but the level of support for Zanu PF is more difficult to read as they have plenty of money and use all the means available to get a crowd. But in my view, the way the MDC rallies have been turning out this time – they are all much larger than in 2008 - is this a indication that a major swing in support for the MDC is underway?

A number of commentators are also seeing this and are now predicting an MDC victory – ‘Baba Jukwa’ says it will be 85 per cent. My own estimate for some time has been 80/20. I spoke at a multi Party forum on Thursday evening at the City Hall in Bulawayo. The hall was full and the four Parties represented were ZAPU, ZANU PF, MDC (N) and MDC (T). The Zanu PF representative spoke last and no sooner had he started, the people in the hall began laughing at him. After 30 minutes of humiliation he was hauled off the platform by his minders and hassled out of the hall. I felt sorry for him.

But the question remains – why can we say that this is going to be a landslide? I see several issues – first, all the smaller Parties have little to offer in what has become a two horse race. Anyone voting for a minority Party is simply taking votes away from the only Party that can form the next government and the only Party that can beat Zanu PF and take power.

Secondly, we have this strange feature of our political culture of consensus – it was there in 1978 when 83 per cent of the population voted for Muzorewa and took power away from the Smith regime. It was there two years later when the same people voted 81 per cent for Mugabe to bring the war to an end. Now the people are simply saying, “We have had enough, let’s get this thing done!” MDC (T) is the beneficiary.

So now it’s just the issue of how and can they rig the result? Zanu PF confidence that they can deliver a result that they predetermine is well founded on historical precedence – in the 2000 referendum they rigged the result by 15 per cent, but underestimated the “No” majority and still lost. In 2002 they lost the Presidential ballot hands down after denying 400 000 people the right to vote on the day (remember the queues). Yet they still managed to manipulate the outcome and come out on top with a little help from down south. In 2005 they gave us a good thumping with the same techniques and when they managed the 2008 run off on their own terms, they rolled up the election of President with 84 per cent of the “vote”.

So what is different now and why are we confident that this time they will not escape judgment by the people? Conditions today are vastly different to 2008. Let’s just look at the new features of this electoral landscape:

· The popular consensus is so much stronger than in 2008;
· The IT revolution has arrived – in 2008 only 20 per cent of the people had access, today it’s over 90 per cent with 98 per cent cell phone coverage;
· There will be a much bigger foreign observer presence – over 1000 observers from other countries will be here, teams in every constituency;
· The JOMIC system will cover all wards and constituencies with both static and mobile observers;
· The Electoral Act – amended twice in recent years, gives us much greater control of the whole process – from the balloting to the counting and reporting; and finally
· The MDC (T) is so much better organised, its structures widespread and for the first time, all polling stations are covered.

Is this enough? Yes, I think it is and I think that Zanu PF has seriously underestimated what they are up against. It is beginning to dawn on them and their hard line allies that this time, they will not be able to pull any rabbits out of their hats. This time they face judgment by the people and they will be found wanting.

The Bulawayo rally was a prelude to the closing stanzas of this opera.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo 21st July 2013