via Elections 2013: What if there had been no vote rigging? | The Zimbabwean by Edgar Gweshe/Thabani Dube 15.10.13
The Herald recently published an article headed “How Opposition MDC-T Lost Everything” with Jos Martens’ byline. What appeared, without the authors permission, was a heavily doctored and clumsily distorted piece that placed all the blame for the “stolen election” on the MDC.
Virtually everything critical of Zanu (PF) was deleted from the original text. The author has requested an apology but at the time of going to press this had not been received. Here is the abridged article:
In the shocking aftermath of the July 31 election, little has been said about the voting behaviour of Zimbabweans. Why – apart from the rigging – did so many people vote for Zanu (PF) and 89-year-old Robert Mugabe, who has been President since 1980?
Nobody expected this monstrous victory for Mugabe-Zanu (PF), but virtually everyone I spoke to in the past year expressed their doubts whether Tsvangirai would make it. Their feelings were that MDC had made too many blunders in the past five years. People’s voting behaviour is largely directed by one main concern, their wish to improve their lives: more income, lower prices, employment, support services, safety.
The 2008 elections had been a massive protest vote against the total economic collapse under Zanu(PF) rule, so much so that it could not even be suppressed by the massive violence unleashed by the ruling party. Mugabe ended up with his back against the wall and only survived by grasping the straw of the GNU.
Only four years later in 2012, the Washington-based Freedom House, not a friend of Zanu (PF), published the results of a survey showing that among “survey participants who agreed to state their political choice, trust in MDC-T dropped from 66% to 39%, while trust in Zanu (PF) rose from 36% to 52%”.
MDC MPs enrich themselves
Once they tasted the comfort of parliamentary seats and benefits, many MDC politicians quickly forgot by whom and why they had been elected and, instead of making a serious effort to change things, they occupied themselves with enjoying their turn to eat the cake. Among other conditions, they each demanded and received a $1,400 base monthly salary, a write-off of their $30,000 car loans and a once-off $15,000 sitting allowance bonus.
Of course, in these matters Zanu MPs behaved similarly, but hadn’t the MDC promised to do away with such practices?
After initial relief with the introduction of the US-dollar in June 2009, which stopped hyperinflation overnight, the economy failed to recover and grow as quickly as expected. While MDC Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, had little success in claiming the proceeds of the Chiadzwa diamonds , he did receive $1 billion in humanitarian aid and in 2009, $500 million in Special Drawing Rights from the IMF. In response, he cut the government budget in half and abolished price controls.
In both 2010 and 2012 Biti froze civil servants’ salaries, while he capitulated to salary increases in other years only under pressure of threatened or actual strikes. This contrasted sharply with his fulfilling the excessive wishes of the MPs. Tsvangirai did not always concur and sometimes even clashed with Biti, but in the eyes of the public it was “his” MDC Minister who was responsible for the continuous clash with the workers. Mugabe took advantage of the discord by – inconsequentially – supporting calls for salary increases.
By 2013 the majority of civil servants earned a salary of between $250 and $300 while, according to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, a family of six needed about $570 to lead a normal life. Unemployment also remained staggeringly high – in 2011 only 31 per cent of the economically active men were in paid employment and only 14 per cent of the women. The informal sector remained the only alternative for millions.
Small-scale farmers had also scant reason to be happy with the MDC. The parastatal Grain Marketing Board failed year upon year to pay farmers in time for their maize, blaming this on the late release of funds by the MDC Minister of Finance. Moreover, floor prices for maize, set by the GMB, were unviable, forcing many farmers to bypass the GMB – thereby forfeiting its input provision programme.
In the meantime Mugabe started his own parallel Presidential Agricultural Input Scheme. In 2011 the Communal, Resettlement and Small Scale Farmers Union, ZFU, issued a statement saying that 560,000 households had benefited from the presidential programme, surpassing the government scheme.
Corruption &amp;amp; incompetence
Whilst MDC was quickly losing credibility with workers and small-scale farmers, it also managed to alienate many of its urban supporters in cities where it had scored massive victories in the 2008 elections. In March 2009 Transparency International Zimbabwe called for an urgent forensic audit into rampant corruption by the senior staff of the Harare Municipality. Although some half-hearted attempts were made to address the problem the new councillors proved unable to contain their officials as, in particular, corruption in allocation of stands festered.
Service delivery of water and sanitation that had turned abysmal under Zanu (PF) continued to deteriorate resulting in a typhoid outbreak in Harare in January 2012. At the same time, residents received unrealistically high bills for services that often had not been rendered and were even threatened with eviction.
Populist charm offensive
Of course, Zanu (PF) politicians at all levels had not transformed into saints overnight, on the contrary. But, whereas MDC remained plagued by internal power struggles, Zanu (PF) became more and more united and focused (“bhora mughedi”). Zanu (PF) also surpassed MDC in keeping its deeds under the radar, assisted by its continued absolute dominance over the media . This enabled it to promote its nationalist agenda and widely report real or perceived gains to the masses.
Not only had Zanu (PF) managed to keep a tight grip on the media and security forces, it also controlled the country’s natural resources within the agriculture and mining sectors through the GNU-allocated Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Mining.
The Chiadzwa diamond scandal damaged Zanu’s image, but considering the enormous proceeds and the localised nature of the conflict, it was probably worth it. In sharp contrast to its actions in Chiadzwa, the Ministry of Mines set out to legalise and support artisanal mining – earning considerable goodwill from small-scale miners. The formal mining sector in the meantime grew rapidly, from less than 3,000 workers at the height of the economic crisis to some 43,000 in 2013, providing much sought-after employment.
Then, in January 2010, the Zanu (PF) Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment, Saviour Kasukuwere, stepped up the indigenisation drive. After a prolonged battle, in January 2013 Impala Platinum (Implats), the world’s second biggest producer of platinum, complied with government’s demands and ceded 51% of its shares to black Zimbabweans. Although in practice the black elite will probably once again get most of the bootee, the setting aside of shares for employees and communities by the legislation raised the hopes of many a worker and rural dweller to at least get some of the pickings. In contrast, MDC-T stated unequivocally during the election campaign, that if elected the MDC-T would remove policies such as indigenisation .
Fast track land reform
The land redistribution exercise that had been delayed for the first 20 years after Independence showed similar nationalist and black empowerment trends. While many aspects of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (the violence, the Zanu (PF)-connected elite getting the juiciest spoils, etc.), have been rightfully though one-sidedly criticised, the latest figures show that not only had the elite benefitted but also around 200,000 communal farmers had been resettled on new land.
Even though little support has been given to the resettled farmers, one can imagine that these farmers would not be happy having to return the land to the former owners. In 2011 the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association registered 67,000 tobacco growers resettled on former white-owned farmland.
Although in 2006 MDC had formally stated that it did not want to reverse land reform, it generally failed to convince small-scale farmers otherwise and Tsvangirai had to placate his rural audience in this respect time and again during his 2013 election campaign.
Of course, some commendable work was done, in particular by the MDC Ministries of Health and Education. In the final account, however, Zanu appears to have been the true master in claiming credit for the (little) progress made under the GNU while laying the blame on MDC for the continuing hardships. – (Martens is an activist who has lived and worked in Zimbabwe and the SADC region since 1984. He is presently employed by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, Southern Africa Regional Office in Johannesburg)
How would you have voted?
But would MDC have won the 2013 elections if no rigging had taken place? How would you have voted if you had been that communal dweller who had received a fertile piece of land; if your small mine claim had just been registered; if you were a jobless ex-farm worker; if your small business was gradually getting off the ground (whom would you credit?); if you had lost your livelihood under Murambatsvina in 2008; if you had just received $1,500 dollars at the tobacco auction; if you had been struggling with corrupt MDC council officials about a plot for your house; if you had a job in a mine and were hoping to get a share of it?
But even if you had no positive reason to vote for Zanu, you might still do so, fearing another wave of violence against MDC-voters, as happened in 2005 and 2008.