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Zimbabwe season of electioneering is upon us

By Takura Zhangazha

The political parties in Zimbabwe’s inclusive government have now begun playing out their electoral endgames eleven months prior to the expiry of its constitutional term of office in June 2013.

Takura Zhangazha
Takura Zhangazha

There have been varying public statements from the three parties in government about the actual date of elections but whichever way one looks at it, election season is now firmly upon us again.

Whereas Zanu PF has been insisting on elections being held this year, that can now be considered a moot point given the hints by some of its newspaper columnists that it is well-nigh impossible to have both a constitutional referendum and an election in terms of a new constitution in the next eleven months.

The MDCs, on the other hand, have been arguing for the full implementation of the Sadc facilitated election road map. They, however, must most certainly know that again in the limited time available, they will not get everything that they are requesting short of a constitutional amendment that extends the lifespan of this current government.

And for this, they would require an almost impossible to get two thirds majority in Parliament. At best the MDCs will probably have to revert (amidst Zanu PF resistance) to the Electoral Amendment Bill (among other potential or existent laws) to try and integrate the provisions of the Sadc facilitated road map into domestic law.

Regardless of the outcome of all of these contestations, the issue of elections is no longer as distant as it was two years ago. In fact, it has become evidently more urgent for political parties within and without of the inclusive government and as such, the Zimbabwean public must brace themselves for highly politicised debates and an increasingly polarised political environment.

In this, there will be the revival of the old rivalries of 2008 and mudslinging between leaders in the inclusive government about the performance of rivals in the last four years.

The images of friendly leadership handshakes will decrease and we will all be asked to demonstrate loyalty to one party over the other without really questioning issues of the policy substance that has been provided by the inclusive government in the period that it has existed.

It is because of such a potential development that one can reasonably argue that we are now entering a political period in which we should no longer expect much by way of non-partisan or “common ground” policy from the inclusive government.

Each party will angle what it would call its own “exclusive” policies in the inclusive government as evidence of its ability to govern and therefore its electability over the others. Zanu PF will insist that it’s indigenisation programme has been a success while MDC will argue that were it not for its control of broader economic policies, hyper-inflation would still be knocking on every citizen’s door.

Blame games for the undemocratic and expensive constitutional reform process under Copac will reach a particular partisan crescendo because it is the one thing that all parties in the inclusive government cannot skirt collective responsibility on.

The actual reality for the everyday citizens will however not be as frenetic or as emotive as that of those that will be seeking their votes. They will view and participate in the electoral processes either out of cultural and political coercion or even self-aggrandisement than belief in any particular principles.

This being a direct result of the fact that the inclusive government has had little to offer by way of inspiring its own people to believe in anything else but survival of the “fittest” and the cliched kiya-kiya political economy.

Add to this, the clear distinction between the profligate lifestyles of those in government and the majority populace has already led to a cynical electorate which may seek more to gain materially in the immediate than to challenge political leaders on the country’s future.

So there will be the positioning of money, jobs and drought relief handouts in direct return for votes from a public that knows that without taking advantage of the elections, these material benefits would be few and far between.

So as Zimbabwe enters this protracted election season, it is of importance that civil society organisations take non-partisan stock of the inclusive government based on democratic values and principles. Where this is not done, it is the country that will be the worse off in the present and in the future.

It is also imperative that the inclusive government be brought to account not merely on the basis of the personalities that comprise it, but on its performance when measured by social democratic value and principles. Originally published in the Zimbabwe Standard newspaper