Zimbabweans went to the polls yesterday to elect parliamentarians and a president. For the first time since I was born, there was a very notable absentee on the ballot paper. Robert Mugabe who, until late last year, ruled Zimbabwe with little in the form of opposition was not up for election as he was deposed in a wave of change that saw his rule successfully challenged for the first time since his rise to power in the 80s.
A part of me is hopeful that what happened last year is the beginning of the end for Mugabe’s Zanu PF party. However, another part of me, the one that felt this type of emotion many times only for Mugabe to emerge as a winner, is sceptical about this whole election. I find it hard to be as hopeful as some of my friends. I left Zimbabwe in 2005 and I am out of touch with what is happening on the ground but I know the narrative all too well.
Zanu PF uses its financial muscle, sway and its struggle credentials plus its rural support base to garner support. They stifle all forms of opposition with varying degrees of brutality in the name of getting rid of criminal elements. They lose the election, or as they would say it the election is ‘a close one.’ They have a runoff that they rig like they tried to do with the first one. After all, if one is cheating the best way to do so is with some semblance of legitimacy. Results take a long time to be released all the while all the African Election observers pass the election as a free and fair one. Finally, the results are released announcing the ZANU PF and the constitution of Zimbabwe as the overall winners. There are disputes but the squabbling is pointless although it drags on even to the next election.
So far this script is not running to this plan as there have been few reports of irregularities and violence. As I write this, MDC leads the early count (according to unofficial reports mostly from friends in Zimbabwe) but I find myself thinking they’ve done that before only to lose at the end. It’s hard not to think that this early lead is all part of the script. We are after all dealing with the behemoth that is Zanu PF.
Like most of my peers, I don’t know anything else but a ZANU PF led Zimbabwe. For that reason, I don’t believe that a party that held on to power for 37 years will willingly let go of power that easily. Only time will tell.