Why Mugabe won- Tendi


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Guardian columnist Blessing-Miles Tendi today said President Robert Mugabe’s victory in the just ended elections where he polled 61 percent of the vote and walked away with more than two-thirds of the parliamentary seats cannot be dismissed merely as rigging and obstruction by the incumbent.

Even in the MDC-T there is no consensus that rigging was to blame, he says. “Some of its senior party officials have quietly sent messages to ZANU-PF conceding defeat and making clear their public pronouncements to the contrary are a means of managing disillusioned supporters.”

He quotes Paul Themba Nyathi from the smaller MDC party as saying:”I got a feeling that Gwanda North [my constituency] was unwinnable. People who used to come to our rallies and support us suddenly could not look me in the eye. They started vacillating. We had a free and fair contest, everyone was free to canvass and the vote was peaceful in Gwanda North. Hand on heart, I think ZANU-PF beat us fair and square. There is something that made people to fall in love with ZANU-PF again.”

Tendi blames the MDC-T for spending too much time on things that did not really matter when it joined the inclusive government and only started focussing on reforms when it was too late.

“Tsvangirai’s party lost sight of the need for rapid and comprehensive institutional reforms in the early years of power-sharing. It expended most of its energies in fighting for appointments to the ministry of agriculture, attorney general, the central and provincial governors.

“By the time it refocused on institutional reforms, the period to elections had shortened significantly. There was little time, energy and external goodwill left for the MDC-T to pursue what should have been its main pursuits from the beginning.

“However, the MDC-T from early on sought to reform one particular institution: the military, which it saw as having blocked its ascent to power in the 2008 election. According to Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe underwent a “de facto coup d’état” in 2008 and was now run by “a military junta”, making security sector reform necessary.

“But the MDC-T’s pursuit of this reform was based on a misunderstanding of the military’s relationship with ZANU-PF. The military does not and never has ruled Zimbabwe; the MDC-T has never presented evidence to the contrary, despite its passionate claims.”

Tendi also blames the West, which has refused to recognise Mugabe’s victory, for letting the MDC down.

“A largely unstated factor so far in debates about how ZANU-PF won this election is that for the first time in years the MDC-T ran a less effective campaign because of financial constraints. As MDC-T insiders have revealed to me, the party’s traditional Western backers were not as forthcoming with financial support as they were in 2008.

“During the campaigns Tsvangirai publicly criticised the West for giving up on removing Mugabe from power in preference for eventual accommodation with the Zimbabwean president. The West has been unequivocal in its public condemnation of ZANU-PF’s victory but in the coming weeks it must answer hard questions about why it abandoned the MDC-T financially prior the election.”

He also says there was a greater sense of unity, purpose and discipline in the ZANU-PF campaign than in the MDC-T one. For instance, 29 members of the MDC-T who were disgruntled with the manner the party’s primaries were conducted defied the leadership and ran as independents. Only three disaffected ZANU-PF candidates did likewise.

“MDC-T divisions were particularly stark in Manicaland province, where imposition of parliamentary candidates by Tsvangirai resulted in a serious rift between him and the provincial executive. Manicaland – unlike in 2008 — voted for ZANU-PF this time.”

Tendi was one of the first to predict that Mugabe would win. He did so in January, before the national referendum.

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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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