On seeing the orgy of masturbatory self-congratulation and the pandemic of kuzvifonera that engulfed the MDC Alliance and its allies in civil society over the election victory of Zambia’s United Party for National Development (UPND), one might be forgiven for believing that it is Zimbabwe’s Nelson Chamisa and not Hakainde Hichilema who will be inaugurated as the next president of Zambia.
True, UPND and Chamisa’s MDC are “sister parties” so one expected some celebration. What is worrying however is the myopic complacency with which the MDC Alliance seems to believe that the Zambia outcome makes the 2023 election a foregone conclusion in Zimbabwe.
Also troubling is the navel-gazing assumption that the MDC is the only party that is drawing lessons from UPND’s recent victory. Make no mistake: it is not just the MDC Alliance alone that is drawing lessons. Zanu PF is watching and learning as well; learning, refining and calibrating its machinery to ensure that it remains in power in 2023 and beyond.
Nothing that Mnangagwa’s government is doing, from issuing empty awards to acolytes to largescale looting at a rapacious speed that would be the envy of starving army worms in a field of maize, suggests that the ruling party is desperate to swell the ranks of the opposition.
Those who follow George Charamba’s Twitter handle @Jamwanda2 were left in no doubt as to how the Deputy Chief Secretary, Department of Presidential Communications, and his ruling party saw the Zambia election. In a series of snide and distinctly unpresidential tweets, the Presidential Spokesman issued a number of salvos that suggest that the election in 2023 is unlikely to go in what one might call the Zambia direction.
The MDC campaign is focused on increasing voter registration in the urban areas. Zanu PF will simply match this by ramping its election machinery into overdrive in the rural areas: for every potential MDC voter that registers, you can be sure that at least three certain ruling party voters will be registered.
The MDC Alliance believes it has learned from Zambia how to defend the vote. Zanu PF is learning how to get to a stage where the possibility of defending an MDC vote will be such a remote possibility as to be unlikely.
Talk in the corridors of Shake Shake Building in 2018 was that Mnangagwa was enraged by his narrow victory in the last election, and was furious that his party did better in the parliamentary election than he did in the presidential. You can be sure that Zanu PF will learn from Zambia how to turn any larger voter turnout into a convincing win for Mnangagwa.
The point of this comment piece is not to discourage people from voting but simply to temper the expectation that what happened in Zambia will happen in Zimbabwe. The histories of the two countries, and the role of the military in each, are completely different.
The recent death of Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s founding father, puts the differences between the two countries into focus. By the time Kaunda died, Zambia had had six presidents. Hichilema will be the seventh. Meanwhile, south of the border, the ruling party deposed the country’s founding father in a coup. “Our votes must go together with our guns”, Mugabe once said.
If Zanu PF and its military muscle were willing to turn the guns on Mugabe, what makes you think they are prepared to measure Chamisa’s picture for presidential portraits, and roll out the red carpet for him while the Police Band plays “Manhanga Kutapira”?
It would be pathetically immature for the MDC Alliance leadership to be salivating over ministerial positions and shiny vehicles on the back of Hichelema’s victory. Unless something truly radical happens, Zimbabwe will not go the Zambia way. It will simply go the way it has always gone and that is the Zanu way. – Kukurigo