There are only 6 days left till Zimbabwe holds its elections. The political environment is changed, unlike how it was when the country last had elections in 2013. There is a lot to lose, and there is a lot to win. It will be the first election without the towering figures who had dominated Zimbabwean politics for many years, Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai.
Robert Mugabe was the leader of the current ruling party, ZANU-PF, and the leader of Zimbabwe as prime minister and president since 1980. He was ousted from power through a military coup in November 2017. The coup saw his long-time ally and henchman Emmerson Mnangagwa become the president of Zimbabwe in what Mugabe still views as betrayal of the highest level. Morgan Tsvangirai was the leader of the biggest opposition party in Zimbabwe, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) since its formation in 1999. He succumbed to a vicious battle with cancer and lost his life in February 2018, which saw Nelson Chamisa, a young and charismatic leader, taking over.
When Emmerson Mnangagwa came into office when the military stepped in the acrimonious power struggle to succeed Mugabe, there was a euphoric feeling and an overwhelming sense of a better future beckoning. Having been under Robert Mugabe since independence in 1980, living under authoritarian conditions, Zimbabweans had grew weary of his rule. His rule had been calamitous, and Zimbabweans always yearned for a day he would leave power, an idea he was strongly inimical to. But events turned fast, and his time came up. The coup received backing from the civilians and opposition members, not because it was right supporting a coup, but because Zimbabweans had grown tired of Mugabe's hegemony and wanted a fresh beginning.
The new president was expected to revive Zimbabwe's abysmal economy. He promised that, taking a different route from Robert Mugabe who was hostile to the West. Mnangagwa launched his rhetoric, "Zimbabwe is open for business," with his message being intended for the foreign investors to come and do business in Zimbabwe. Some quarters thought the opposition had lost relevance, something which was greatly warned against, and some were willing to forget Mnangagwa's stained past in order to embrace him and give him a chance.
But just as the election is around the corner, there is growing dissatisfaction and disillusionment in Zimbabwe. There is little to show for what Mnangagwa promised. He vowed to fight corruption, but this is just empty talk. His cabinet still comprises of ministers who have been implicated in corrupt dealings. The ZANU-PF members still exhibit an annoying sense of arrogance, and it is just clear they do not have the interests of the people at heart. Rather, people of a corrupt inclination have tended to join or support ZANU-PF because from its conduct, it is a haven for the corrupt and the criminals.
The cash crisis still remains a deep issue. It is clear beyond any stretch of imagination that ZANU-PF have failed to deal with the cash crisis in Zimbabwe. There is no cash at banks. The bond notes, which were introduced to ease the challenges, being said to be at an equal value with the US dollar, have borne fruitless results. The daily withdrawal limits are measly, ranging at $20-$50, mostly given out in coins. There is a parallel black market, and it is clear there will not be an early solution to the malaise as long as the ruling government is still in power.
The ruling party has shown a lack of initiative to change things. They have shown a lack of will for deep and genuine reform, which go beyond the "Zimbabwe is open for business" mantra. Zimbabweans want real change. Jobs. Opportunities. Prosperity. An acknowledgement of our dark past (insert the Gukurahundi, 2008 election violence here). Zimbabweans want tangible change in their lives. A willingness to fight corruption. A willingness to change the country for the better.
The elections are very crucial. There are many opposition contestants, but the biggest is the MDC Alliance, led by Nelson Chamisa. The way the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has been acting is seriously jeopardising the credibility of the election. Issues like printing and design of ballot papers, the voters roll, unfair media coverage, falsehoods and disparaging language have put its credibility under threat. The electoral commission's conduct impliedly suggests a collusion with the ruling ZANU-PF. There are also reports of intimidation which are putting the credibility, freeness and fairness of the election under immense threat.
In the midst of this, support for the MDC Alliance is surging, although the odds are stacked against them, as the Afrobarometer survey shows. Although Nelson Chamisa has not been the most perfect kind of politician, people are investing their trust in him. He is shaking up things. To the young, and even the old too, he represents hope, peace, progression, development and he is naturally endearing to the electorate with his excellent, impeccable oratory skills. The race is very tight. Some have been asking whether the military seized power only to rule for a few months. Some are greatly optimistic that the system will be dismantled via the ballot and MDC Alliance under Nelson Chamisa will resuscitate Zimbabwe.
The elections present a great opportunity for Zimbabwe, and a massive feeling of disappointment at the same time. Should Zanu-PF win, the likelihood of things remaining the same is high. Should the MDC win, the likelihood of things changing for the better is high. But with the way the election is being handled, one may just say to Zimbabweans, "brace for anything, folks."
Header Image credit: ZOOM Zimbabwe News