CRISIS-TORN Zimbabwe this week drifted into election mode, despite 2018 general elections being three years away, after former vice president Joice Mujuru emerged from her woodwork to declare her ambition to wrest power from ZANU-PF, which has ruled the country since April 1980.
The development, which was preceded by the launch of a multiplicity of fringe political formations, with the latest being the revival of the National Democratic Union (NDU), is likely to result in the beleaguered economy slipping into a comma as ruling ZANU-PF party elites concentrate on retention of power.
Mujuru, who had appeared hesitant to throw herself into the opposition political arena, after being sacked from both ZANU-PF and government last year due to an alleged conspiracy against President Robert Mugabe, this week emerged with a public declaration of her plan to contest for power, but did not immediately give out the identity of the political outfit she is likely to use to rally support against her former boss and his party, ZANU-PF.
She, however, unveiled a manifesto she said would usher a new era of transparency and democracy as well as lift the country out of its current economic crisis.
The document released by the widowed politician calls for an overhaul of the controversial empowerment legislation which has deterred foreign investors from injecting fresh capital into the country.
It also promises to give “all persons who call Zimbabwe home” access to land and participation in its sustainable utilisation.
Currently, no white person can legally own farmland in Zimbabwe.
The more than 3,000 white commercial farmers who owned vast tracks of land were kicked off their farms from 2000 to date, with the seized land being redistributed to landless blacks as part of a process meant to address past historical imbalances.
Mujuru has also promised to usher in a new era that would respect property rights.
While Mujuru’s public announcement did not surprise many as it had always been widely speculated that she would venture into opposition politics after being sacked from ZANU-PF, it may nonetheless unnerve political bigwigs within the ruling party, which is torn by internal power fights as well as continued suspicion that the party still harboured hundreds of her sympathisers.
The ruling ZANU-PF party is pulling all the stops to ensure the success of its economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset), as that would be important to its bid to retain power in 2018.
But the economic fundamentals appear to be worsening by the day, a situation that has boosted confidence among its opponents who now see a clear opportunity to wrestle power from the governing party.
In recent months other political outfits such as NDU, the African Democratic Party led by Marcellina Chikasha; the Zimbabweans United for Democracy led by former High Court judge, justice Benjamin Paradza, and another outfit reportedly led by veteran opposition politicians and former parliamentarian Margaret Dongo, have also emerged from obscurity to agitate for change and offer themselves for election in 2018 to long-suffering Zimbabweans who are gasping for lasting solutions to the country’s endless socio-economic crisis.
There have also been several offshoots from the Morgan Tsvangirai-led Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) such as the People’s Democratic Party led by MDC-T’s former secretary-general, Tendai Biti; the Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe led by former MDC-T treasurer, Elton Mangoma; and the Economic National Democratic Party led by former MDC-T Gokwe district secretary, Thabani Tigere.
As the pre-election euphoria heightens, civil society has also joined the bandwagon.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition has presented its own alternative economic blueprint to Zim-Asset, the Zimbabwe Social Market Agenda for Recovery and Transformation, which it hopes will drag the country from the doldrums.
Despite it being highly unlikely that a general election would be held before 2018, speculation that the country’s next general elections would be held before the appointed time seems to be rising.
And relentless infighting within the ruling ZANU-PF party is not making things any better.
Fears abound that the development would, however, further relegate the country’s economic revival programme to the periphery.
Investors would also most certainly continue fence-sitting or remain well off-shore until the southern African nation sorts out its politics.
Analyst, Rashweat Mukundu, who admitted the country was now in election mode, described the entrant of Mujuru in opposition politics against her former allies as quite interesting.
“Zimbabwe is already in an election mode, judging by the latest statement by dismissed VP Joice Mujuru which sounds more or less like a party manifesto. ZANU-PF has been in an election mode since 2013, more so after noting that its promises won’t be realised, hence the political rhetoric that we see. The whole government machinery is in disarray owing to succession politics all linked to the 2018 elections,” said Mukundu.
“It is an exciting time as she (Mujuru) has deep roots in the party not to mention a huge following in ZANU-PF. Her entrance is a game changer of sorts and will likely bring the best in the form of violence from ZANU-PF and the worst in the form of electoral mismanagement by ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission),” he noted, adding that the country’s economy, which was on auto pilot, would only worsen.
“ZANU-PF has no capacity to resolve the fundamental economic challenges without undermining its sustenance which is rooted in corruption and nepotism,” he said.
Political economist, Ibbo Mandaza, who has previously been associated with Mujuru, said he was skeptical whether Mujuru had anything to do with the latest statement in which she launched an economic roadmap called Blueprint to Unlock Investment and leverage for Development (Build).
The blueprint is linked to a yet to be launched political outfit, the People First.
“She has been awfully quiet and very, very careful how she does her things and I am finding it difficult to link this statement to her,” he said.
Mandaza also indicated that he believes the country would most likely hold its next general elections much earlier than anticipated given the real chances of an economic implosion, as well as the infighting in ZANU-PF over the succession of President Mugabe.
Economist, John Robertson, said elections or not, the country’s economic situation would never improve as long as the country did not respect property rights.
“The economy will not recover as long as property rights are not respected. If you don’t respect people’s rights the investors will not have confidence in the processes. The land has to be put back on the market. The constitution has to be changed to put land back on the market because as it is all the land is under the State,” said Robertson, adding that even Mujuru must come clear on this issue if she hopes to attract any investors.
Since Independence in 1980, ZANU-PF has survived four major scares.
At independence, its major rival was ZAPU, then led by Father Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo (now late).
ZAPU gave up the contest for power after it entered a Unity Accord in 1987 to join President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF in governing the country’s affairs.
After Nkomo and his leadership joined ZANU-PF in 1987, President Mugabe’s party enjoyed a free reign until 1990 when the party’s last secretary-general, Edgar Tekere, was dismissed from ZANU-PF for undermining his boss’ authority.
Tekere went on to form the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM), which taught his former party one or two lessons.
Since then, ZUM lost its momentum and has since died a natural death.
The only party which came close to removing President Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party from power was the MDC, formed in September 1999 in fulfilment of a resolution reached at the People’s Working Convention of February of the same year attended by civil society representatives, including from the main labour union, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).
Under the leadership of Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC came close to defeating ZANU-PF in 2000 and 2005. Its best chance was to come in 2008 when ZANU-PF lost its majority in Parliament for the first time since independence.
The 2008 elections, held around March, saw Simba Makoni dumping ZANU-PF two months earlier, to gun for the presidency under his Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn party.
Despite his late entry into the race, he managed to garner more than eight percent of the vote.
In that bloody election, President Mugabe lost the first round to Tsvangirai who couldn’t be declared the winner after he failed to attain the required threshold for him to unseat his rival.
The presidential run-off that followed was mired by violence and outright intimidation, which formed Tsvangirai to pull out. The election was declared a sham poll by observers resulting in the formation of an include government to end the bitter contestation for power that followed the disputed election.
The Government of National Unity (GNU) became a poisoned chalice from which the MDC drank from and got carried away by the trappings of power.
Following the liquidation of the GNU, the MDC lost its altitude, with its leader discrediting himself by endless sex scandals. The party also embarrassed itself by getting entangled in corruption, especially in local authorities that were under its dominion.
In the 2013 election, the MDC was thoroughly walloped by ZANU-PF, a defeat that resulted in its officials turning against each other as they sought to revive the party.
Debate has ensued for a very long time as to why opposition parties in Zimbabwe have failed to last the distance.
The reasons behind the failure by opposition parties to make an impact are as long as the original snake.
They include lack of clear-cut ideology that resonates with the electorate, political opportunism, infiltration by State agents and the so-called big-man politics whereby opposition leaders don’t seem to allow democracy to flourish within their own parties.
Analysts have also been calling for opposition parties to form broad or united coalitions or alliances based on values and principles not opportunistic arrangements of wanting to win an election at that time.