By Dr Tafataona Mahoso
THE MDC Alliance’s foolhardy approach to the 2018 harmonised elections was based on five actions counting on assumptions which together amounted to a deliberate conspiracy against the voter and the reader/watcher of national news.
l The first was that the Alliance would, and could, trash the voters’ roll and, through media outlets sympathetic to them, get the voters, readers and opinion makers also to trash the same voters’ roll.
l The second assumption was that the Alliance could intimidate the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), demonise its chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba, and get them to start making concessions outside the law which would make voters and followers of news believe that the people running the 2018 elections did not know or were not sure of what they were doing.
l The third assumption was that the MDC Alliance would and could get away with announcing that they were capable of stopping the entire election process.
l This would cause all global institutions which had invested in supporting a free, fair and transparent election process in Zimbabwe to intervene in a manner favouring the MDC Alliance at the expense of the voters and the other parties.The fourth assumption was that, once global institutions got involved in trying to find out what was going on and trying to mediate, they too would come down on the side of the Alliance and ignore the real interests and views of the Zimbabwean voter in the matter.
l The fifth cynical assumption was based on the other four: That the MDC Alliance would announce its own victory and get away with it because the voter, the follower of election news, foreign observers and mediators would all have been bamboozled enough to accept anything, any result, the MDC Alliance would claim.
The problem with this conspiracy was that it ignored other possible scenarios which could unfold through the actions of other players or because of some of the particular actions of the Alliance and its leaders.
In the first place, the approach showed that the MDC Alliance, despite its new youthful leader, had not changed from the old days of Morgan Tsvangirai.
The assumption that both voters and news followers (opinion makers) could be fooled into accepting incredible allegations was in fact old hat.
It came from MDC strategies and tactics already used in 2008 and 2013.
In the second place, the Nazi-like theory of blitzkrieg on which the MDC Alliance’s action plan was based could succeed only if no one else could run ahead of the Alliance; if no one else could anticipate and check-mate the Alliance.
In other words, the whole scheme could work only if voters, other parties, opinion makers and representatives of global institutions were all daft, falling victim to high sounding, media-savvy claims based on ‘knowledgeable ignorance.’
What made this ignorance look really ‘knowledgeable’ were two main factors: the use of sophisticated digital technology to communicate the most backward ideas with the fastest speed; and the domination of the lumpen party, the MDC Alliance, by so-called ‘learned gentlemen’ lawyers.
These learned gentlemen and ladies also added to the escalation of knowledgeable ignorance by filing dozens of frivolous lawsuits against ZEC and other institutions involved in the administration of elections.
But things did not work according to assumptions.
The strategy was actually old hat, rehashed from the days of Morgan Tsvangirai, as we demonstrate in the following paragraphs:
The blitzkrieg approach was developed by Adolph Hitler and the Nazis of Germany.
It has been inherited by the new rightwing movements of the West who now sponsor regime change around the world.
A blitzkrieg approach requires big and fast lies or propaganda; it requires doing and achieving the regime overthrow ‘kaone’, meaning fast and at once.
Everything is done so big and so fast that most countries are unable to pick up the pieces or explain what has actually happened to them until it is too late.
The Zambians are still not sure how they discarded former President Kenneth Kaunda and his United Independence Party (UNIP) so fast.
The Kenyans, in 2007 and 2017, found that everything fell apart so fast that neither a re-run nor a run-off could be undertaken.
In the case of Kenya in 2007, the only thing that was possible was to forget the messed-up elections and go to the negotiating table.
This is what the MDC’s sponsors had prepared for Zimbabwe in 2008. Either the MDC would win an outright victory so fast that by the time everyone got over
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the shock, all the evidence of dirty tricks would have been swept into the rubbish bins; or there was to be so much chaos and mayhem that it would not serve any purpose for anyone to investigate and explain what happened.
In terms of propaganda, dramatic announcements and assaults on the public psyche are supposed to be so big, so shocking and so fast that very few people are expected to have the means and the patience to relate them one to another and make sense of the entire onslaught.
The result of the propaganda blitz is supposed to be shock or hysteria, not rational explanation or understanding.
This approach and its expectations explain why MDC-T and the opposition forces, in general, made so many big and contradictory claims about Zimbabwe’s elections in 2008, 2013 and 2018.
Let us summarise some of these big and contradicting claims, as follows:
l The first big claim was made by the late opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his spokesperson Nelson Chamisa at the start of the elections to the effect that people should expect a Kenya scenario to unfold during and after the Zimbabwe elections.
ZEC had to reprimand the MDC for appearing to wish on Zimbabwe the disaster which had befallen Kenya in 2007 and for violating the code of conduct which all parties had agreed to abide by during the elections.
l The second major claim was that the programmed activities of the incumbent President in the pre-election period constituted ‘rigging’ because they made the incumbent look good in the eyes of the population and they therefore would influence the voters.
This claim was also made on foreign TV channels and it seemed to suggest that the Government of Zimbabwe should suspend long-term and on-going activities and programmes until after elections, for fear that these would be construed as rigging.
This was an astounding claim because the MDC was a party to the drawing up of the laws and the rules governing the conduct of elections before, during and after the voting.
There was nothing in the laws or rules to bar on-going Government projects, programmes and ceremonies for fear that they might be misconstrued as ‘rigging’.
Yet the MDC made so much media noise about these claims that one would think there was a massive crisis.
This approach was repeated in 2013 and 2018.
l The third major claim in 2013 and 2018 was that the Government of Zimbabwe was massively recruiting and training ‘militias’ to be used to intimidate and even liquidate the opposition and avoid defeat for the incumbent.
The only mobilisation of security personnel which was taking place was consistent with the need to guard polling installations and to assist election officers, election monitors, election observers and voters. Yet, over several days, the MDC continued to claim that there was an extraordinary and inexplicable mobilisation of security personnel and security recruits intended to enable the President to steal the election.
In 2018, this claim seemed to be an attempt to hide intra-party violence within the MDC formations themselves.
l The fourth major announcement was equally big and fast. The MDC Tsvangirai in 2008 announced its own results to foreign media.
It said it had won all the polls, including the presidency. MDC members began to celebrate.
MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai was duly congratulated by diplomats representing the sponsors of the opposition at Meikles Hotel in Harare.
The MDC’s announcement of outright victory was followed by supporting statements from other opposition candidates, including Dr Ibbo Mandaza and Denford Magora who represented independent presidential candidate Dr Simba Makoni.
The two claimed that President Robert Mugabe and the ruling party ZANU-PF had been completely eliminated from the Zimbabwean political scene. From that time onwards, the only important players in Zimbabwe’s politics would be Simba Makoni and Morgan Tsvangirai.
This big and fast announcement completely contradicted all the previous ones. If the election process was so flawed as to be unacceptable to the MDC, how come the same party was now celebrating outright victory and taking itself to be legitimate winner of a legitimate election through a legitimate process?
If President Mugabe had already ‘stolen’ the election before voting started, how did the MDC pull its victory in an election already stolen?
So, when in July 2018, Nelson Chamisa said he would announce the result of the 2018 election, this was nothing new.
It was a tactic used in 2008!
l The fifth big announcement was that both the MDC and ZANU PF expected to go through a run-off election for the presidency because neither believed it had garnered the required 51 percent vote in the 2008 election to avoid a run-off.
This position was relayed to the SADC convener of dialogue talks between ZANU PF and MDC, South African President Thabo Mbeki.
President Mbeki proceeded to assure those foreign sponsors of the MDC that both ZANU PF and the MDC, in terms of the law, neither of them had garnered more than the 51 percent of the presidential vote required to assume office.
l But immediately after the fifth announcement there followed a sixth one which completely contradicted the previous one.
The MDC went to court to force the ZEC to release the result of the presidential poll as a matter of urgency. The MDC did this against their own previous claim that they had won an outright victory and that they had the right to announce it without the ZEC!
When the court accepted the urgency of the matter but deferred judgment to Monday April 14, the MDC did not sit and wait for the judgment.
It proceeded to appeal both to the UN Security Council and the SADC Heads of State to intervene in Zimbabwe.
In Tendai Biti’s words, any delays in such international intervention would bring about a tragedy far worse than the genocide in Rwanda in 1994!
l The seventh claim was that ZEC’s delay in announcing the results of the presidential poll was meant to assist President Mugabe to remain in office illegally. The President should step down. ZEC replied that the delay was now the direct result of the MDC’s rush to court which made the matter now sub judice.
From this short narrative, it is clear that the MDC Alliance’s approach to the 2018 elections has been rehashed and recycled from 2008 and 2013, thereby disregarding the effects of Operation Restore Legacy, disregarding the new dispensation and disregarding the donor community’s assessments of the performance of the MDC formations since 1999.
In reality both the voter and the astute follower of news have experienced the real changes which make 2018 different from both 2008 and 2013. It is impossible to erase, through blitzkrieg lies, the real knowledge and experience of the majority of the people arising from those changes.
What stands out from the efforts of the MDC Alliance so far is the party’s contempt for democracy, contempt for the voter and contempt for the reader of national news.
What stand out also is the glaring fact that there are still some media houses and players who, for the sake of bribes and ideological corruption, are willing to amplify the MDC Alliance’s campaign against the voter and the follower of national news on elections.