Election campaigning vis-a-vis lawfare and media banditry

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By Dr Tafataona Mahoso

“Tinunure, Ah Jehovah,
Nokuti vanotevera Mwari
Nokukoshesa zvinoera
havasisipo pakati pedu;
Tinunure, Ah Jehovah,
Nokuti vanovimbika
Havasisipo pakati pavanhu vako;

Kwasara vanopambadza manyepo
pakati pavanhu vako;
kwasara vanotaura
nemiromo inonyengera;
kwasara vanotaura
zvokubata kumeso;
kwasara vanopika mhiko pamberi pavanhu
vanemwoyo miviri.” — (Mapisarema 12 verses 1-2, Native Version)

‘LAWFARE’ is a strategy of deceit expanded during the US administration of George W. Bush with a view to effecting illegal regime change in Zimbabwe while making it look perfectly legal in the eyes of the majority of the people of Zimbabwe and the nations of the world.
This term is found in the report called ‘Operation Shumba’ which was presented to George W. Bush’s White House by Pentagon lawyers in 2007.
The purpose of lawfare was to mask the illegality and criminality of external intervention and destabilisation by destroying the legitimacy of the institutions and processes of the targeted people while using pseudo-legal procedures, processes and organisations to make the criminal intervention project(s) and action(s) appear legal and legitimate.
The people’s own living law has to be drowned and demonised through the orchestration of legal-sounding noises.
Internally, the tactics used included the filing of large numbers of sponsored lawsuits against national institutions for the purpose of harassing and intimidating them or rendering them bankrupt.
The responses of the MDC formations to the ruling on the 2013 elections by the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe on May 31 2013 were typical of ‘lawfare’.
What the responses confirmed was that the MDC formations, the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) allied to them, and the foreign-sponsored media houses supporting them had all assumed (in terms of lawfare) that the objective of the Constitution-writing process and the resulting new Constitution was to effect regime change, which is to say, the objective was supposed to be to discredit the liberation movement in Government totally and to remove its Government from power illegally but under the guise of Constitution-making.
It was expected within the MDC formations and among their white sponsors that former President Robert Mugabe and the liberation movement would be totally discredited and destroyed through the Constitution-making process and would end up appearing to be the ones afraid of the new Constitution and therefore appearing to be enemies of ‘democracy’ and opponents of ‘change’.
To the surprise of regime change forces, both the Government and the liberation movement, including war veterans, happily facilitated the whole process of Constitution-making up to the referendum which approved the document.
The liberation movement mobilised the people so that they could reclaim the ground which the ‘lawfare’ strategy threatened to yield totally to the foreign-sponsored regime change forces.
The many drafts of the new Constitution were debated and many amendments were made and defended publicly.
It was, therefore, quite strange and incoherent to hear the MDC formations reading the President’s acceptance of the court’s ruling and the call for elections by July 31 2013 to mean that the President was saying he ‘won’t go’; that he would cling on to power indefinitely, as NewsDay tried to say on its front page on June 3 2013!
How could acceptance of a new Constitution and the need for elections be construed as refusal to relinquish power?
Why did those seeking change not use the new Constitution they helped to shape to create the change they wanted?
How could one conclude that the one who wanted elections yesterday was clinging to power forever while the one seeking to avoid elections is the one representing ‘democratic change’?
This was, and this still is, the skewed language and logic of lawfare.
To say former President Mugabe wanted elections then because he wanted to cling on to power could only suggest that the MDC formations feared those elections because they knew they would lose.
Therefore, the MDC formations did everything and anything, including violating the new Constitution and selling our sovereign independence to outsiders, in order to avoid the imminent 2013 elections — just as in 2018 they are doing exactly the same thing without former President Mugabe in power.
The responses of the MDC formations to the May 31 2013 Constitutional Court’s judgment shocked even supporters of these formations because they amounted to a direct attack on the Constitutional Court and an open admission that persistent claims by MDC leaders that they valued the rule of law were merely intended to deceive the people.
The ‘rule-of-law’ slogan voiced by MDC leaders over the years was part of the lawfare language of deceit.
It did not mean ‘rule of law’ then, just as it does not mean ‘rule of law’ now in 2018.
– Former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai led the way by issuing a statement which was full of errors and which accused the Constitutional Court of violating the Constitution by setting election dates, when in fact all the court had done was to agree with the majority of Zimbabweans that elections were long overdue and that the continuation of the so-called inclusive Government after the expiry of Parliament would not only violate the Constitution but would also directly deny the people of Zimbabwe the right to be represented in Parliament by MPs of their choice.
This is exactly the issue this nation faces again in 2018 as Nelson Chamisa’s MDC seeks to destroy the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and prevent it from meeting its constitutional mandate to administer elections.
– Then Chris Mhike, Greg Linnington and David Coltart – three lawyers supportive of the MDC – all issued statements based on political expediency and intended to make Tsvangirai’s clear contempt of court appear to be legal.
– Then, the leader of one of the MDC formations, Professor Welshman Ncube, also issued an attack on the Constitutional Court in which he said the following among other things:
“Some of us are very worried that the Constitutional Court…did not feel it necessary to protect and defend the rights of Zimbabweans who were supposed to be given a 30-day window to register by the new Constitution as voters.
They completely ignored that in their ruling… The attitude which has been displayed by the Constitutional Court towards the new Constitution is very worrying and we doubt whether this Constitution will be protected by a Constitutional Court which has decided in this manner.”
Ncube claimed the people of Zimbabwe would not have the 30 days they needed to register because the Constitutional Court ruled that elections needed to be held by July 31 2013.
He further claimed that there was need for media reforms outside the new Constitution and in terms of the 2008 inter-party agreement often misnamed the Global Political Agreement (GPA.)
In 2018, despite the long passage of time in which the MDC formations should have pursued ‘reforms’, we are again being told that the 2018 elections also should not go ahead because of need for ‘reforms’.
This is the language of lawfare, making the GPA superior to the Constitution and making the demands of one party superior to all the electoral laws of Zimbabwe.
I use the term ‘media banditry’ to refer to verbal and written attacks launched against legitimate national institutions for the purpose of fomenting public violence and contempt against such institutions. The media outlets used include those licenced and those not licenced.
For months before the 2013 elections, MDC-T leader Tsvangirai and South African President Jacob Zuma’s international relations advisor Lindiwe Zulu were engaged in media banditry against legitimate Zimbabwean institutions and objectives for the purpose of inciting public violence and contempt which were expected to disrupt and condemn the country’s 2013 harmonised elections.
Readers would have seen Denford Magora’s well-thought-out article in The Chronicle of August 5 2013 titled ‘Tsvangirai’s vote rigging accusations delusional’.
While Magora correctly demonstrated that Tsvangirai had no case against ZEC and other institutions which he was assaulting, it was, however, incorrect to call the accusations delusional.
The accusations were part of an orchestrated plot to tarnish the elections at any cost and from any and all available platforms.
I call lawfare and media banditry twin evils because their effects on the general climate of election campaigning are meant to reinforce each other by producing a toxic atmosphere against the will and wishes of the majority.
Rather than allow the elections to proceed to the sure defeat of those forces behind the lawfare and the media banditry, the aim of those behind these twin evils is to nullify the vote of the people by prejudging the process and its result as illegitimate, rigged, flawed as well as not free and fair.
Lawfare arguments and strategies
Lawfare arguments and strategies against the 2018 harmonised elections become easy to understand if we compare the run-up to the 2013 elections:
-In 2013 the anti-democracy forces calling themselves ‘democratic’ demanded the indefinite postponement of elections by saying that the result would prolong former President Mugabe’s rule.
In 2018, they are against the holding of elections because they believe Mugabe’s successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, will win and the result would confirm that ‘Operation Restore Legacy’, which made succession possible, was indeed strategically sound and in the national interest.
– In 2013, the anti-democracy forces used lawfare when they tried to make the so-called GPA, which had long expired, superior to the national Constitution.
They fought for extending the GPA and the so-called Inclusive Government for another five years against the Constitution, against the Zimbabwe Electoral Act, against decisions of ZEC and against a ruling by the Constitutional Court on May 31 2013 that election be held by July 31 2013.
Likewise, in 2018, the same forces began by asking former President Mugabe’s successor to scuttle the succession procedures and instead create another Inclusive Government for another five years against the national Constitution, against the Zimbabwe Electoral Act and against ZEC.
To say former President Mugabe wanted elections because he wanted to cling on to power could only suggest that the MDC formations feared those elections then because they knew they would lose.
Consistently, the MDC formations will do anything, including violating the new Constitution and selling our sovereign independence to outsiders, in order to avoid imminent elections. This was true in 2013.
It remains true in 2018.
Media banditry
Media banditry is perpetrated when those who would like to see violence and terror stop or mar an election realise that the institutions of law, order and security will not allow anyone to unleash violence and terror on people and their institutions.
The result is that people will see ‘terror’, ‘bloody election trails’, ‘outrage’, ‘tension’ and ‘mayhem’ in paper headlines and headlines of on-line publications but not on the ground.
In other words, the anti-democracy forces will be forced to use papers, on-line publications and rallies to create or imagine a war-like situation which cannot be confirmed on the ground.
They will also be trying to invite and encourage angry mobs and all violence-prone organisations and hooligans by priming and inciting them.
In January 2003, for instance, some anti-Zimbabwe elements here concocted and published a document for Genocide Watch which was titled, ‘Is Zimbabwe on the Brink of Genocide?’
They proceeded to answer their own question in the affirmative, on paper, arguing genocide in Zimbabwe was already in progress nationwide!
Since the first week of July 2018, many newspaper headlines have been churning out news headlines which clearly fit the characteristics of shameless media banditry.
The focus, this time, is to try to destroy ZEC in the same way as if it were a victim of terrorism.
The only difference is that there is law, order and peace.
So the terror had to be enacted and sold through reckless media headlines based on big lies.

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