Saturday, April 02, 2005

Evidence that demands a verdict: A new day is dawning for Zimbabwe.

It might have shocked or even disturbed some of you that I haven’t shared my views on the parliamentary elections going on in my home country today. I guess I’ve been thinking, digesting if you will because a lot has been going on and there’s a lot of evidence that demands a verdict.

The run up to these elections has been more controversial than any other election in Zimbabwe’s short 25 year history. Just two months ago, the MDC, Zimbabwe only opposition party had it’s supporters in limbo as they balked and stalled about whether they were going to participate in the elections. The MDC’s leadership complained that the playing field was not even. I’m surprised they thought it could be even after petitions they filed in the courts appealing some of ZANU (PF's) victories from the last elections were held up by pro-Mugabe over the last five years.

The teething pains of a political party in its infancy saw the MDC weather it’s first major internal squabbles when Sekesayi Makwavara, the political double agent dumped MDC on whose ticket she’d been elected deputy mayor of the former sunshine city, Harare, and when Tendai Musekiwa reneged on his parliamentary obligations absconding to the UK. See this A few other people left the MDC and off course the government’s propaganda machinery pounced proclaiming the MDC an effigy of days past. It is during this inaugral term too that MDC was rocked by the suicide of Learnmore Jongwe a founding member of both the opposition party and ZINASU—the Zimbabwe National Students Union. The tragic death of this young lawyer cum politician cast a dark cloud over all those who had high esteem for the moral fiber of the MDC. Jongwe in death as he was in life, will be remembered as a maverick and a real agitator whose contributions to the evolution of democracy in Zimbabwe will be hard to replicate.
If you think these tales from the MDC are high drama, hold your scowls and conclusions for these juicy extracts of some of the events that unfolded in ZANU (PF) since the last elections. The overarching theme for much of the jostling going on in Zimbabwe’s ruling party for the past three years has been propelled by Mugabe’s long awaited and overdue announcement of his intentions to quit active politics after his current term expires in 2008. Many of his lieutenants and their backers have been busy aligning themselves covertly and openly to people they see as assets in their aspirations for the top position. The death of Simon Mzenda, former vice president further complicated things because whoever would get the nod to replace him would be tipped to succeed Mugabe since Mugabe himself would pick the next veep.
Knowing the seething ambition of his followers, Mugabe took his time before appointing a new vice president. Commence chaos! Secret meetings were called, fliers denouncing perceived opponents were flying everywhere even at the ZANU (PF) congress late last year. So intense was the internal battle, finance minister Chris Kuruneri was arrested (in April ’04. He’s still being held); an espionage plot involving indigenization proponent and Mugabe’s nephew Phillip Chiyangwa was uncovered; and Mugabe threatened his underperforming followers that he’d have no place for them in his cabinet if they could not win in today’s elections. And then there was Jonathan Moyo.

Educated in the US and accused by the Ford Foundation of stealing their money through devious operations in South Africa and Namibia when he was meant to be doing research for them, Moyo has been the biggest newsmaker in Zimbabwe. Just five years ago, the vapid tongued scholar turned politician accused Mugabe of self aggrandizement. That was before Mugabe appointed him first into the upper echelons of ZANU (PF) and then into cabinet as a junior unelected information minister. Using high sounding language and sensuous imagery, Moyo catapulted himself to the fore of Zimbabwean politics. He closed newspapers, repeatedly denigrated the opposition, produced an unending bevy of propaganda, promulgated authoritarian laws, and single handedly edited all of the government run publications.

But even Moyo found himself overpowered when he delved into the controversy surrounding the vacant vice presidential spot. In what will forever be known as the infamous “Tsholotsho Declaration,” he unwittingly nailed himself to the cross by getting in the way of Mugabe’s intentions. It is alleged Moyo courted several provincial leaders in ZANU (PF) and had them flown to Dingane School in Tsholotsho district where he was officiating at a prize giving ceremony. After the ceremony, the acrimonious Moyo held a meeting with the politicians he had called asking them to back the candidate he saw as fit to be appointed vice president.
Boy did things turn sour when Mugabe caught wind of the meeting! Not only did he go ahead and appoint Zimbabwe’s first female vice president shattering the Moyo’s hopes. The aging leader embarked on one of his most vicious cleansing tirade in the history of the party. In a matter of weeks all but just a few of those who attended the Tsholotsho meeting had been sacked from ZANU (PF).

Seeing his plans unravel and spited by the fact that he’d been disallowed to represent ZANU (PF) in Tsholotsho today, the eccentric Moyo registered himself as an independent effectively ousting himself from ZANU (PF). Now Moyo intends to publish a book divulging prized insider information about his days working for Mugabe. With all that drama and perennial diatribes denouncing the US and UK from the Zimbabwe government, the nation trudged toward this day and now here we are.

I am excited, I really am hopeful for my country. And my hope springs not necessarily from the unlikely success of the MDC in these elections. Let’s be real for a moment, ZANU (PF) does control most peoples lives, they delimited constituencies again merging them in opposition stronghold while splitting them in the pro ZANU rural areas, ghost voters on the voters roll yadi yada… In spite of this I’m happy because a new day is dawning for Zimbabwe.
How so you ask. Let me tell you. This election campaign season has
already been hailed as the most peaceful in our young nation’s history. Many reports have been published from both sides of the fence lauding the fact that people have been able to openly support the party of their choice unlike years past. Despite disenfranchisement Zimbabweans in the diaspora made their opinions known in mock elections held in the UK and South Africa. The MDC predictably dominated in the imitation poll. Millions of our countrymen are are reported have come out to vote further validating my claim that indeed a new day is here.

The continued evolution of democracy in Zimbabwe is yet another reason why I excitedly report that it is a new day for Zimbabwe. Just two weeks ago it emerged that independent candidates are thinking about forming a coalition. Publisher Trevor Ncube and world acclaimed journalist Geoffrey Nyarota egged on speculation about the emergence of a viable “third force” in Zimbabwean politics in this article and this one too. I don’t care much for the name calling that has been hurled at these two men mainly by self proclaimed but inexperienced pundits. What has stood out to me in all of this are the unmistakable signs of an emerging democracy. People in Zimbabwe are beginning to get what a politics is about. The power and potential of their voice is something that ordinary Zimbabweans are realizing more and more each day. Even though it is as yet unconfirmed, this rumor of a third horse in our democracy is certainly good news. A cursory glance at say the US democracy will reveal that even after almost 229 years of independence, a viable third option still remains elusive to American voters. Thinking that we might be sitting on the verge of a new political party in Zimbabwe makes me ecstatic. Democracy is on the march in Zimbabwe.

I’m not naïve to hardships suffered by my family and friends in Zimbabwe today. I know they are enduring untold suffering at the hands of a regime whose days are now for sure numbered. It’s a new day for Zimbabwe! Do you know that this is the very last parliamentary election we’ll have with Mugabe as executive president? Do you know what that means? It means regardless of the outcome of these here elections, the end of the Mugabe era is in sight for Zimbabwe. Good and bad as he’s been for our nation, we like the handwriting on wall in the book of Daniel can echo, “Your days are numbered.” Gone are the days of endless wondering when all this could end. Forget the sorrow and hopelessness from fear that this might never end. The end is nigh! The ides or March are indeed upon the long embattled leader.

So even if the MDC doesn’t emerge victorious from these elections I will not be sad. I will recall that they are participating in only their third elections since they became a party. I’m at a loss to find any other opposition party anywhere in the world that had as forceful an emergence as the MDC made back in 2000. In their very first go around they almost got 50% of the parliamentary seats. And in 2002 even though he lost, Tsvangirai fronting the two year old party, entered the annals of history as he became the closest contender to contest the presidential elections in Zimbabwe. Certainly the MDC has grown by leaps and bounds. The incidents antagonistic to the progress of democracy should not bog down our realization that the dawn of democracy is upon us.

Don’t be confused by romantic raves about trivial minutia, the verdict is in: Democracy is on the march in Zimbabwe. The new day is here for us!

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