Psychology Maziwisa

Psychology Maziwisa is a former student leader and Harare-based legal advisor, political commentator and analyst. E-mail him:

Post 2008, Zimbabwe’s electoral landscape has shifted

Election showdown … MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai

PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai may have come within a whisker of winning the presidential election in the economic turmoil of 2008, but in 2013, when Zimbabweans are expected to choose between President Robert Mugabe and the Prime Minister in entirely different economic circumstances, it seems very unlikely that history will repeat itself.

Moreover, Tsvangirai’s implacable belief that all he needs to become Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces is a free and fair election seems wholly misguided.

Let’s take a look at some of the key reasons why voters are likely to consider Tsvangirai to be unfit for purpose in the next election. At the top of the list is the obvious fact that a lot has changed between 2008 and now. It is not properly appreciated by the Prime Minister, and by extension, the Movement for Democratic Change that he leads, that 2008 was a year of desperation.

With a record hyper-inflation of the kind last seen in the Weimar Republic of the 1930s, extreme poverty, widespread joblessness and the unavailability even of the barest necessities (all of which was blamed on Zanu PF, fairly or unfairly), the choice in that election came down to who was the lesser of two evils. It was a case of desperate times calling for desperate measures.

That distress appears to have subsided, however, following the formation of a coalition government in Zimbabwe in 2009. Annual average inflation has been reduced to about 5 percent. Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product grew by over 20% between 2009 and 2011. Small businesses are thriving, in part because of Zanu PF’s indigenisation exercise, an economic strategy vehemently opposed by Tsvangirai’s MDC-T but which has nevertheless been able to persuade banks to extend loans to locals and, in some cases, even in lieu of collateral.

The most vulnerable population in Zimbabwe, the rural community, seems to have awakened to the reality that the land they acquired during President Mugabe’s land reform programme is perhaps their only means of survival. Most of them have resorted to small-scale tobacco farming and in 2011 alone, were able to contribute over $500 million in revenue.

The indigenisation programme, through its community-based share schemes and the provision of youth funds, has also helped ease some of the adverse effects of unemployment. Lamentably for Tsvangirai, many Zimbabweans associate this economic development with President Mugabe’s Zanu PF.

Nor is that all. Tsvangirai’s biggest vulnerability is that he is bereft of ideas and programmes. Many voters in Zimbabwe know what their Prime Minister is against, but very few really know what he stands for. Yet elections are not won on the basis of opposition. They are about policies and programmes. They are about what direction a candidate wishes to take the nation. And the importance of clear programmes of action in a country like Zimbabwe cannot be overemphasized.

For instance, young people who constitute a significant chunk of the country’s population and so the electorate, are desperate to know what opportunities there are for them and where the jobs will come from.

The fact that Tsvangirai has been in the government of national unity for four years but has failed to create a single job does not help matters. The danger for him is that any further promise to create jobs, however well-meaning, is likely to be viewed as propaganda and merely as a way of serving his own political purposes.

But there is another equally damaging issue for Tsvangirai. At the heart of his election manifesto in 2008 was the promise that his party would present a totally new way of doing things: national service, decency and honesty. Yet events of the past four years expose that claim as cynical and demolish any assumption that Tsvangirai’s boys in government are honourable people.

The fact is that Tsvangirai is the head of a profoundly dishonest party whose officials have cheated, lied and defrauded the nation of huge sums of money in order to feather their own nests. To be sure, the Prime Minister carried out an independent investigation into the shameful conduct of his officials and eventually dismissed some of them from their positions. But Tsvangirai’s tragedy is that his move came too little too late, he was merely attempting to put toothpaste back in the tube. The damage had already been done.

More troubling by far, however, is Tsvangirai’s deeply flawed character which I believe in due course will prove to be his greatest undoing. His love for women is seen by many as irresponsible and an affront to the dignity of women. Of course it may be a little unfair to morally judge the Prime Minister’s sexual propensities, but it is difficult to imagine that any man so evidently unable to control his own penis could be entrusted with the control of a whole nation.

And then there is the issue of Tsvangirai’s opulent lifestyle. As with the case of corruption, the Prime Minister joined the coalition government vowing to be on the side of the common man. Yet evidence of the premier’s standard of living flies in the face of any pretence that he had the faintest idea of what he was talking about when he made that pledge.

Our hypocritical Prime Minister is enjoying the luxury of occupying a private residence estimated at nearly US$4 million and at the same time feigning concern for the thousands of families living in squalid conditions in Mbare where one of his officials is a Member of Parliament. His children have studied abroad at some of the world’s most expensive colleges. And the fact that he might soon part with hundreds of thousands of dollars as part of an out-of-court settlement deal with one of his wives, Locardia Karimatsenga, is ample evidence of just how deep his pockets have become. In short, Tsvangirai is enjoying the high life.

And so while the last four years have helped stabilise an economy that had gone to the gutter, they have also helped expose one of Zimbabwe’s well known politicians.

Morgan Richard Tsvangirai has been uncovered as a dishonest, extravagant and amoral politician capable of the most venal behaviour. He has been shown to be out of his depth when it comes to addressing some of the toughest economic issues of our time and it is not going too far to calculate that, come next election, voters will ask whether the MDC-T leader is a fit and proper person to run any organisation let alone the country.