|6 March 2002
ZIMBABWE: Focus on post-election scenarios
Concern is mounting that
violence will follow this weekend's presidential election no matter who
Zimbabwe has been polarised by a long campaign for the 9-10 March
election. President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have
been demonised by their rival camps, and a close poll is likely to see violent
acts of resistance and a settling of scores, commentators warn.
fears exist on both sides of the party divide, political analyst Brian Kagora
told IRIN. If Tsvangirai wins, his greatest political threat is expected to
come from the senior ranks of the army, war veterans, and the ruling
partys militia who have repeatedly warned they would not accept his
A Mugabe victory is expected to trigger an "explosion" in
the urban areas, the political base of the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), Kagora said. Mass protest in support of former trade union leader
Tsvangirai, would aim at making Zimbabwes cities ungovernable.
"The biggest determining factor is the stance taken by the candidates
themselves. If they extend an olive branch to each other for some kind of
managed transition we wont have the kind of explosion that everyone
fears," said Kagora.
THE MUGABE WINS SCENARIO
believe that either way we are going to have some kind of violence. Our current
government is extremely desperate and cannot afford to let anybody else in
because of its record," commented political analyst Janah Ncube.
MDC loses we all know it will be because of rigging. People have invested a lot
of hope for change in this election." She added that the MDC may not be able to
control the ensuing street protests.
Given the scenario of urban
resistance to a Mugabe victory, draconian legislation recently introduced is
increasingly seen as aimed at political control in the post-election period. "A
lot of people [perceived as government opponents] are going to be in trouble,"
The Public Order and Security Act restricts peoples
rights to freely gather. It also makes it a crime - punishable by up to 20
years in prison - to ridicule, denigrate or excite disaffection with the
president or institutions of government.
"That means it is impossible
to criticise the government," explained human rights lawyer Taiwanda Hondora.
The act also makes it an offence "to create an organisation that seeks to
coerce the government meaning all lobby groups".
governments notorious information law seeks to regulate the independent
media. A delayed labour relations bill subverts the right to strike. All these
new pieces of legislation could be interpreted as prepared in readiness for the
rigging of the poll, said Kagora.
Of equal concern is an old law, the
Electoral Act. Section 158 allows the president to override any other
legislation that relates to the election and validates anything he does, said
"If ballot boxes are stuffed, Mugabe can pass a statutory
instrument that can legalise that," he added. Under the security law, it would
be illegal to even suggest that the president was doing anything untoward.
However, a crackdown would deepen the international isolation of the
government and rule out any economic recovery. It would eventually precipitate
a new crisis of legitimacy, noted Kagora. "The government would have to be even
more militaristic in the containment of discontent," he added.
TSVANGIRAI WINS SCENARIO
A Tsvangirai victory by a small margin
could lead to the ruling party unleashing "unaccredited violence". Acts of
sabotage and banditry "could create an environment where the army is welcomed
to restore law and order", Machaba-Hove said. The irony would be that
Tsvangirai would inherit Mugabes security laws, enabling him "to crush
the opposition", Kagora noted.
Mugabes election campaign has
tried to make a direct connection to the independence era, and link Tsvangirai
and the MDC to white Rhodesian interests and British imperialism.
Mugabe has tried to evoke the spirit of the "chimurenga" (liberation war) in an
appeal to nationalism and resistance to perceived "anglo-saxon" interests.
War veterans and ruling ZANU-PF party militia have reportedly been
warning the rural population as a form of electoral intimidation
that they would return to the bush if Tsvangirai were elected. The countryside
bore the brunt of Zimbabwes bitter independence struggle.
Kagora sees the main threat to a Tsvangirai presidency coming from the senior
politicised ranks of the military, rather than rank and file troops and
militia. An insurrection would suffer from a "lack of consensus and would be
easy to deal with", he predicted.
However, Ncube is concerned that the
MDC, if confronted by insecurity, would be just as ready to clamp down as its
predecessor. "The only politics they know is ZANU-PF politics. 'Change' is a
process, a culture, a mindset, not just a word," he said.
NGO-representative Nancy Kachingwe: "I dont think the MDC are any more
protected from the traps of being in power than anyone else." She added that
the MDC was still a broad based movement that had not yet had a chance to
become a party and address some of its internal contradictions.
Kagora the biggest challenge to a Tsvangirai presidency would be the crisis of
expectations generated by the economys decade of decline, and the popular
demand for a new order. "People are expecting magic," Kagora says.