Numbers out of tune- an exercise in self-deception


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Zimbabwe politics intrigues me. For three months, after the 2008 March elections, Zimbabweans were beaten to death, especially in former Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front strongholds, for voting for the wrong party. Conservative estimates say some 180 were killed.

Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who had narrowly won the presidential elections in March but did not secure an outright victory, pulled out of the run-off. People still voted though and Mugabe romped to victory.

But a report by the Research and Advocacy Unit entitled: Numbers out of tune? that examines last year’s elections, with the main question being where did Mugabe get the extra one million votes, says people should not compare last year’s elections with the results of the June 2008 elections. Only ZANU-PF apologists can do that because “the June 2008 presidential run-off election are so patently false and manufactured”.

As a Zimbabwean who has watched and reported on all Zimbabwe’s elections from 1980, I was totally baffled. To me this sounded like arguing that if someone writes an examination but fails, then rewrites the examination and passes, the latest result is not acceptable.

I am one of those people who were appalled by the way people were beaten up in 2008 just to get them to vote for ZANU-PF, but ignoring the outcome is behaving like an ostrich, burying your head in the sand, because the beating had a purpose, not just for 2008, but for the future. In fact, it had a serious repercusions on the 2013 elections.

The March 2008 elections, which RAU uses for its comparison, have no bearing at all, in my humble opinion, to the 2013 elections. But the June 2008 elections, only accepted “by ZANU-PF apologists”, have a strong bearing and in fact reflect the trend that continued to 2013.

Instead of querying where Mugabe got the extra 1 030 704 votes in 2013 to poll 2 110 434 votes in the 2013 elections, if I were a ZANU-PF apologist, I would ask how the hell did Mugabe lose 39 835 votes that he had in June 2008 when almost one million more people voted in 2013?

Here is why I think, you cannot ignore the June 2008 elections and I use figures supplied by the Zimbabwe Elections Supervisory Network.

In 2008, Tsvangirai won the elections largely on the strengths of votes from Harare and Manicaland. He garnered 439 195 votes from the two provinces -more votes than Mugabe’s total votes from six of the country’s 10 provinces. Mugabe’s votes for Bulawayo, Harare, Manicaland, Mashonaland West, Matebeleland North and Matebeleland South only totalled 437 636.

In the end Tsvangirai polled 1 195 562 votes against Mugabe’s 1 079 730.

But in the run-off elections, more people turned up to vote than in the March elections -2 514 750 compared to 2 497 265. In Harare, 95 000 more people voted for Mugabe than did in March.

The situation was worse in Manicaland. More people voted for Mugabe in this province than any other pushing his tally from 141 592 in March to 323 264 which means 181 692 more people voted for Mugabe.

The situation was the same in Masvingo, another former stronghold. Some 164 732 more people voted for Mugabe. In Mashonaland East there were 154 154 more; followed by Midlands with 135 576 more, then Mashonaland West with 121 969 more and Mashonaland Central with 119 286 more.

Mugabe who polled 1 079 730 in March got an extra 1 070 539 votes in June to total 2 150 269 votes.

Ignoring the June 2008 elections is grossly downplaying the fear factor in the 2013 elections yet this voting pattern was reflected in the 2013 elections. Thousands of voters were still living through the violence that engulfed the country and did not want a repeat.

Some also took Mugabe’s campaign launch speech literary. Mugabe said the 2013 election was a “do or die” election. Too many, this could have meant vote ‘Mugabe or you die’. The only way to avoid similar violence to 2008 was to vote for Mugabe and ZANU-PF, and in such large numbers that there would not be any run-off which could lead to violence.

Add to this the fact that the MDC had failed to deliver, the economy was back on track, food was readily on everyone’s table, or within reach, hey presto! Even Mugabe and ZANU-PF were surprised by their victory.

The rigging was in the mind, in the people hearts. Only those who went through the trauma can understand it.

*Please read this for a detailed argument (22 000 words) on how and why Mugabe won.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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