THE contrived political mayhem which has erupted in the ranks of the opposition is a stark reminder of what Professor Brian Raftopoulous has previously described as Zimbabwe’s “politics of despair”.
Do you notice how the Zanu PF regime has largely succeeded in deflecting attention away from the shambolic August 2023 elections?
Nobody is talking about the stolen election anymore. Zanu PF is winning the propaganda war. But it is a pyrrhic victory.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa lacks not only political legitimacy but also performance legitimacy. Mnangagwa will not be judged on the basis of a hollow propaganda scorecard but on his practical delivery on the governance front. Prices of basic commodities have doubled in January alone, plunging more Zimbabweans into poverty.
Despite the ritual of elections conducted every five years, Zimbabwe remains trapped in what the political theorist Achille Mbembe describes as Africa’s “endless cycle of vulnerability”.
A desperate ruling party peddles false consciousness to hoodwink the gullible while riding roughshod over the national constitution and subverting state institutions. Zanu PF does this with an overwhelming sense of impunity.
The August 2023 general elections were so shambolic that — for the first time in history — the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) condemned the Zimbabwean polls as falling far short of the requirements of the national constitution, the Electoral Act and Sadc Principles and Guidelines on Democratic Elections.
Sadc was not the only institution to release an adverse election observer report.
The African Union and the European Union (EU) also expressed disquiet. In a dramatic turn of events, the EU announced that it was withdrawing US$5 million in financial support to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) because of what it called a lack of independence and transparency in the country’s disputed August polls. Electoral theft endangers national survival.
As a direct consequence of the sham elections, the citizens’ desperation to leave Zimbabwe has escalated. A total of 92 313 Zimbabweans applied for e-passports between 1 December and 31 December 2023, according to official statistics.
Here is the brutal reality: the Zimbabwean government is now profiting from its own bad governance record.
With the ordinary passport fee pegged at US$120 last year, Treasury would have raked in a massive US$11 million in December 2023 alone.
But the passport “business” has become so lucrative that the Finance ministry has since increased the ordinary passport fee to US$170 with effect from 1 January 2024. If you want an “express” passport which is processed in a couple of days, you fork out US$250, up from US$200.
To millions of jobless and poverty-stricken Zimbabweans, holding a passport is the quickest way of escaping the country’s never-ending economic and political crises.
If the pointless ritual of elections cannot bring much-needed economic, social and political change to Africa, what is the future of democracy? The opposition CCC has not helped matters, committing a litany of unforced errors, much to Zanu PF’s benefit.
Infiltration is real, of course, but it is not uncommon for political opposition groups to face sabotage by government agents.
Since 1980, we have witnessed the devastating impact of the Zanu PF regime’s infiltration tactics which include placing moles within the opposition, using surveillance and snooping to gather information, and spreading disinformation to sow discord within the opposition ranks.
To prevent infiltration in the future, the opposition can take several measures to ensure robust internal security. Thorough background checks must be conducted on new members, encrypting communications, and establishing secure channels for discussing sensitive information.
The opposition has tended to lack a culture of trust and transparency. By fostering an environment of open communication and trust among members, the opposition can help detect and address any signs of internal discord or suspicious behaviour.
The CCC’s failure to develop a strong leadership structure based on constitutionalism has fatally weakened the party. Having a clear leadership structure with accountable and trustworthy leaders can help prevent internal disarray and susceptibility to state infiltration and capture.
In this season of anomie, real leaders must stand up and be counted.