Politics of change and change of politics: Zim elections '08
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Zimbabweans are on edge because maybe, just maybe, the crisis of sorts that has riddled the nation could very well be over. The hunger, poverty, displacement, and disenfranchisement could all end. And that hope, that glimmer of an end, is all the more reason to be on edge because the status quo is beyond untenable.
How did we get here? President Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF miscalculated and they miscalculated badly.
First, they misjudged when they assumed that the legislative concessions they granted in the Mbeki mediated pre-election talks would not come back to haunt them. Prior to the elections, Patrick Chinamasa, the Justice Minister, agreed to curtail the despotic extremes of three pieces of legislation: the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), and the Electoral Act (EA).
AIPPA was amended to make it easier for foreign journalists and Zimbabweans working for foreign entities to operate. The change to POSA — that political parties only had to notify the police as opposed to request their sanction before the held rallies — proved to be pivotal in the MDC’s ability to broadcast their message.
The EA changed in two important ways that proved to be ZANU-PF’s unraveling. First, the act created an autonomous electoral commission — the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). Not only was ZEC created, but many brave Zimbabweans who served the commission disposed of their mission impartially and stood up to ZANU-PF in keeping with their constitutional mandate, something for which they are now being persecuted. Further, changes to the EA compelled that results from each polling station be posted publicly as soon as they had been counted.
Second, ZANU-PF grossly underestimated the opposition’s ability to get organized and offer stiff competition. The MDC mobilized a campaign that featured candidates in most of the contested council, parliamentary, and senate seats nationwide and, of course, Tsvangirai — the bane of Mugabe’s despotism. They were also able to deploy a massive amount of polling officers to over 9,000 polling stations, They not only observed the process, but vitally recorded and archived the results before relaying them back to party’s central command. This made cheating very difficult and is the reason the MDC beat ZEC to the ball when it came time to announce results.
But third and most importantly, ZANU-PF underestimated the people’s discontent with the party. They expected the Zimbabwean people to carry their load one too many times. They relied on their decade-old denigration of the opposition as stooges of the west just a little too much. And all of a sudden, the very people whose subjugation ZANU had come to expect turned their backs on the party, leaving them exposed. ZANU has no one else to blame for this but themselves. The MDC has persistently increased their electoral winnings each time they have contested an election. ZANU’s strategists should have paid this widely apparent trend more attention, but they didn’t.
So here we are.
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