Late on Saturday night, I was sitting in a hotel room in Guangzhou, China, streaming the announcement of the results of the presidential race in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans went to the polls on the 23rd of August in a harmonised election that many believed would mark a turning point in the country’s politics.
Towards elections, there was an expectation that the 2008 moment would be repeated – that the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa, would defeat the incumbent president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, of the Zimbabwe African National Unity – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).
Back in 2008, the president of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), Morgan Tsvangirai, achieved an incredible feat when be obtained more votes than the late Robert Mugabe. The results, which would be announced after more than a month, sent shockwaves across the Southern African Democratic Community (SADC) region.
Tsvangirai obtained 47.87% of the vote against Mugabe’s 43.24%, with Simba Makoni of Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn getting 8.31%. Owing to none of the parties managing to attain a majority, an elections re-run was scheduled.
It was marred by state-sponsored violence unlike anything Zimbabwe had seen before. Tsvangirai, whose supporters were being subjected to unimaginable violence by the security apparatus of the State, ultimately withdrew from the re-run, resulting in Mugabe winning the second round uncontested.
The disputed presidential run-off and its results were not endorsed by any of the Election Observer Missions, affirming the view of the MDC-T that it had been nothing more than a violent sham.
One of the most significant outcomes of the 2008 elections was that ZANU-PF lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since 1980. The MDC-T under Tsvangirai and MDC under Arthur Mutambara obtained the majority of seats, with the MDC-T having 100 seats and MDC having 10, against ZANU-PF’s 99. One other seat was won by an independent candidate.
This outcome resulted in negotiations for power sharing that would culminate into the Government of National Unity (GNU), with ZANU-PF’s Mugabe becoming the President, MDC-T’s Tsvangirai becoming the Prime Minister, and MDC-T’s Thokozani Khupe and MDC’s Mutambara the Deputy Prime Ministers.
The process leading up to the GNU was characterised by contentious negotiations to create a framework for a power-sharing executive government between all the parties. From the first round of the negotiations right until the final deal was accepted in September 2008, there had been disagreements on how the executive and government would be constituted.
Negotiations on how Cabinet would be constituted took up much of the discussions and ultimately, the MDC and MDC-T would have 16 ministers while the ZANU-PF would have 15. The GNU lasted for 5 years, a time where there was relative stability in Zimbabwe, with the economy marginally stabilising due to its dollarisation.
However, in a Zimbabwe still under economic sanctions, isolated from the global market, dollarisation impacted on the country’s competitiveness. The cost of producing goods in such an economy was exponentially high compared to regional counterparts.
Additionally, there was disequilibrium on its import-export balance sheet as Zimbabwe was importing more goods than it was able to export, impacting on the circulation of the US Dollar. However, this is a discussion for another day.
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