“THE most painful consequence of democracy is often losing in public. That is humiliation, a defeat that you need democratic experience to handle, personally as well as politically,” a book on democratic elections and independent journalism, entitled And the Winner Might Be . . ., says.
This is the stark reality Zimbabweans are currently facing as some candidates from both the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who lost primary elections are refusing to accept the results. Some are even threatening to quit their party or to urge voters to decampaign the winning candidate.
Senior party officials who have questioned results of primary elections include Kenneth Manyonda, Gibson Munyoro, Irene Zindi and Rugare Gumbo from ZANU PF and Silas Mangono, Tichaona Munyanyi, Justin Mutendadzamera and Dunmore Makuwaza from the MDC.
Manyonda, a former deputy minister and provincial governor, was beaten by William Mutomba in Buhera North. Munyoro, a former MP for Makoni West, lost to newcomer Joseph Made, the Minister of Agriculture.
Zindi, a former MP, was defeated by former provincial governor Oppah Muchinguri, while politburo member and Minister responsible for Parastatals Gumbo had been beaten by little-known Godwill Shiri.
Primary elections in Mberengwa East had to be rerun and Gumbo eventually won.
The story was the same for MDC sitting MPs Mangono of Masvingo Central, Makuwaza of Mbare West, Mutendadzamera of Mabvuku and Munyanyi of Mbare East.
Though only elected officials vote for candidates in primary elections in the MDC, there was still some disgruntlement. Mutendadzamera, who lost to Timothy Mubhawu, was quoted as saying he was going to bar Mubhawu from campaigning in Mabvuku.
“We are going to treat Mubhawu worse than we would ZANU-PF,” he was quoted as saying.
Munyanyi, who lost to the party’s deputy secretary-general Gift Chimanikire by only four votes, claimed that there had been a lot of vote-buying.
“The MDC is no longer different from ZANU-PF,” Munyanyi was quoted as saying.
Complaints by losing candidates have raised questions about whether politicians have really embraced democracy or not, because there has to be winners and losers in any election.
They have also raised another fundamental question: How genuine are complaints about fairness and rigging that are raised by losing candidates?
Historian Pathisa Nyathi said the refusal by candidates to accept defeat in elections was more to do with the political legacy of the people of this country.
“Traditionally, we did not have an elective process. We had chiefs and kings and these were usually a right by birth, and once there, you were there until death. We even had a saying: Kaliphumi elinye lingakatshoni (The sun does not rise until the other has set).”
Nyathi said the refusal by most candidates to accept defeat was therefore based on historical fact, and not a fallacy.
“Our values are at variance with our pretentions towards democracy and democratic values that were imposed on us by our colonisers,” Nyathi said. “The truth of the matter is that Africans would rather do without elections. Once you are in there, it should be permanent.”
Reggie Moyo of the National Constitutional Assembly said most politicians had not yet embraced the concept of democracy.
“There is a lot of unfairness going on. People who go into the elections know the rules of the game, but they still challenge the results because they know that there is a lot of “isitsotsi”. They want to win by hook or crook,” he said.
Moyo said what was happening at the local level was a reflection of the situation at the highest level.
“The situation is the same even in civic organisations. Once you are there, you don’t want to leave. We are too egocentric, so we will not accept any defeat.”
What was baffling, in the case of the ruling party, was that its national elections directorate, and even Vice-President Joyce Mujuru, accepted that these ills existed, but said people should have pointed them out before the election results.
The ruling party even set what could be a bad precedent. It re-ran elections in some constituencies where candidates had complained about anomalies.
People are now asking whether the government, which is essentially the ruling party, will do the same in the forthcoming national elections if losing candidates complain about rigging.
But as one observer noted, ZANU-PF and the MDC are the same. The only difference is that one is in power and the other is not.