By David Hwangwa
President Mugabe, whether he was bluffing or working on a new propaganda plan for his party as we approach elections, promised the world that Zimbabwe will and are capable of hosting free and fair elections. With the harmonised elections coming anytime before the 31st of July, Zimbabwe will brace itself for what will be the tightest race since the disputed 2008 election.
The scars of the bloody 2008 elections are still fresh and fears of a repeat of 2008 cannot be totally dismissed. 2008 resulted in spate of state sponsored violence and intimidation that it made the whole election process nothing but a farce. At present, apart from the new constitution that has just been passed into law, the same conditions as that of 2008 still exists in Zimbabwe because most of the security and media reforms as agreed in the Global Political Agreement the three principals signed in 2009 are still pending.
Mugabe is still adamant that Zimbabwe is capable of holding free and fair elections, the same thing he promised the nation and the world in 2008. Just like 2008, international observers are not invited too. Mugabe and his ZANU-PF will try and get observers from sympathetic SADC countries. ZANU-PF has of late pushed forward the idea that Zimbabwe does not really need observers from the West because Zimbabwe never send any observers there when there are elections happening. If Mugabe is confident that Zimbabwe is really capable of holding peaceful elections then he has nothing to hide and thus it will do no harm to have external observers when the country goes to the ballot.
Mugabe's talk of promising Zimbabweans a peaceful election is nothing but talk because talk is nothing. Mugabe needs to read the riot act to his security generals. With reforms to the security sector looking slimmer by the day considering that Mugabe has to call elections before July 31, the only alternative that can save Zimbabwe is Mugabe getting firm with his generals to stay away from the politics.
An election result that will not give Mugabe outright victory is only going to cause problems for Zimbabwe and the region as a whole. In 2008, Mugabe lost out in the first round of a hugely disputed and controversial election to perennial challenger Morgan Tsvangirai after results were withhled for weeks. Mugabe is left with little time to implement reforms before elections and in the event that he goes ahead and implement a few, it will only be for him to save face with SADC. This is because the regional body breathing down heavily on him to implement reforms that the government has been stalling for the past five years. Zimbabweans have to brace themselves for whatever ZANU-PF will bring because ZANU-PF will not allow the MDC factions to defeat them on a platter.
It is rather ill-timed and uncalled for for the president to promise the nation peaceful elections because Mugabe's gatekeepers will not allow the MDC factions to defeat the legendary leader of Zimbabwe. Already there is massive intimidation on members of the MDC-T as well as NGOs and the civic community. MDC-T members are getting arrested for telling the truth, the perfect example being the MDC-T youth chairman, Solomon Madzore, who was detained for calling Mugabe a "limping old donkey." Mugabe and his security chiefs got touched with that sentiment because it bordered on the truth because Mugabe is a "limping old donkey" has stalled progress in Zimbabwe. Madzore is only one of a few members of the former opposition party arrested for comments deemed offensive to the president.
One wonders if the security chiefs will guarantee a peaceful election for Zimbabwe when people are being arrested for things they say. This is even happening in the new era for Zimbabwe where there is a new constitution where freedom of expression is guaranteed.
A peaceful free and fair election might result in the liberation of Zimbabwe from Mugabe's rule, liberation through the ballot and the pen. The security generals are on record saying that they will never allow the country they liberated by the gun to go by the pen. Borrowing on Mugabe's famous speech in 1976, that "our votes must go together with our guns... The people's votes and the people's guns are inseperable twins." The security service chiefs have gone all the way by showing their allegience to ZANU-PF and have further vowed to never salute Tsvangirai, in the event that he wins, a clear sign that Zimbabwe's transition to democracy is doomed.
Simba Makoni, the Mavambo/Kusile Dawn leader criticised president Mugabe recently for lacking the authority to put his service chiefs in line.Makoni's call for Mugabe to fire the generals for involving themselves in political issues raised a very critical matter with regards to Mugabe's ability to control his gate-keepers. Army general Constantine Chiwenga ridiculed Tsvangirai after the MDC-T had announced that they were going to meet the security service chiefs to prepare for a post-election era. Simba Makoni raised an important consideration that Mugabe is incapable of reading the riot act to his generals because they are not meant to meddle in the politics of the country. Commissioner Chihuri, together with his collegues in the army, intelligence and the prison services are geared up for the elections and busy mobilising for conditions that will serve the best interests of ZANU-PF.
Mugabe is thus working on borrowed time because he is under pressure and SADC is no longer being lenient with him again. Gone are the days of former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, who single-handledly resuscitated Mugabe's career as he faced defeat in 2008 with his now infamous rant that there is no crisis in Zimbabwe when election results were being with-held and opposition party supporters being tortured by ZANU-PF. Mugabe knows very well that SADC will not allow a farce election and he is very much aware that he needs to implement some of the reforms still pending from the global political agreement he signed with his coalition partners five years ago.
Mugabe has to come good on his word of a free and fair election in Zimbabwe else we will see a repeat of 2008 soon. The 2013 election will be a tight contest between incumbent president Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai with Professor Welshman Ncube expected to cause an upset or two in the Matebeleland region.
David hwangwa is a Political commentator and Human Rights Activist.