Chamisa battling Mnangagwa’s soft dictatorship

By Tafi Mhaka

I am afraid the MDC Alliance appears oblivious to the mammoth political fraud in the electoral making. As things stand, the opposition grouping not only runs the horrifying risk of losing a massive chunk of democratic credibility through participating in a sham poll – which is practically impossible to win – but also losing an election which the electoral union essentially lost when President Emmerson Mnangagwa ascended to power after the November 2017 military takeover and immediately crowned himself a champion of change (with the support of MDC-T).

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa and President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa and President Emmerson Mnangagwa

A military coup is hardly ever synonymous with democratic change or free, fair and transparent elections. Yet the MDC Alliance appears progressively overwhelmed by incredible denial and endless indecision over how to handle Mnangagwa’s soft dictatorship. MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa last month promised to boycott the election if the electoral landscape remained biased towards Zanu-PF – and nothing has changed since then.

But while addressing alliance supporters at Garwe Stadium in Chivhu on June 5, Chamisa sang an entirely different tune altogether and vowed not to boycott the election despite how unequal the electoral landscape is.

How popular is Chamisa?

The Kuwadzana legislator claimed he told Southern Africa Democratic Union (SADC) and African Union (AU) electoral observers that Mnangagwa would not get “25% or 20% of total votes…I know all their tricks to bring in fake ballot boxes”.

Although Chamisa’s trademark braggadocious swagger is incredibly entertaining, such political grandstanding is fairly naïve, uncalled-for and simply disturbing. As a former minister of information and communication technology who has made much about how digitally illiterate Mnangagwa allegedly is, Chamisa should understand that the democratic devil lurks in the critical details.

So I can’t for the life of me understand why the MDC Alliance has not been running dependable weekly and monthly opinion polls in all towns, cities, rural areas and provinces and announcing the results regularly.

Opinion polls can help structure electoral strategies and help identify increasing or waning support and really demonstrate mass support if need be. How on earth will AU, SADC or European Union (EU) observers or leaders concur with (or attach value to) Chamisa’s subjective valuations of Mnangagwa’s electoral chances when his political calculations remain devoid of research findings and based on gut feelings and the look and feel of massive campaign rallies?

AU and SADC won’t help

Chamisa shouldn’t place an ounce of faith in discredited regional bodies. No matter how contentious and desperate the electoral situation might get, the AU and SADC will never run an election in Zimbabwe. Both the AU and SADC wouldn’t want to open a Pandora’s box of electoral disputes and be obligated to attempt to intervene in a plethora of controversial election campaigns across Africa.

Besides this organised political opposition to progressive politics, the Zimbabwean military complex, led by Vice-President Constantine Chiwenga, Zimbabwe Defence Forces chiefs, leading war veterans and Zanu-PF hardliners, would never allow either the AU or SADC to run an election in Zimbabwe.

Worse still, electoral observers won’t (and can’t) do much to change electoral processes or electoral results; mind you, the electoral observers’ overrated presence is principally a dignified and functional exercise in international diplomacy that is undertaken to fulfil unilateral obligations and safeguard geopolitical influence.

Chamisa helping Mnangagwa

If Chamisa remains comfortable with indulging in loquacious press conferences and releasing fanciful public statements on Twitter and Facebook or indeed entertaining thoughts of gallivanting around SADC and hobnobbing with leaders who have bigger problems to worry about than a foreign election which is yet to take place, Mnangagwa would be overjoyed with such inconsequential evaluation and denunciation of his dubious democratic project.                                

But, if Chamisa boycotts the election and develops a fresh struggle against political and humanitarian injustices, Zimbabwe will venture into the unknown and that would concern Mnangagwa and international investors and lead to enormous despondency and massive unrest – and change down the line. However, if the MDC alliance participates in the July 30 poll and Mnangagwa wins the presidential vote, Chamisa and the MDC Alliance will have to acknowledge defeat and start planning for the 2023 elections.   

Chamisa would also have to lobby the US to remove the ZIDERA economic sanctions and help Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF make an economic success of a deftly structured soft dictatorship. Whatever happens on July 30, Chamisa faces a make or break moment in his topsy-turvy political career.