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By James Wan (Editor of ThinkAfricaPress)



With the dust settling in Zimbabwe following the heavily disputed elections, Zimbabweans are getting used to the idea – whether in hope or despair – that President Robert Mugabe will be in power for some time yet and that there is now a rejuvenated ZANU-PF with a super-majority in parliament.

This much is clear. But much remains unclear. What will become of defeated opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC? What will ZANU-PF seek to do with its super-majority? Where does this leave Zimbabwe’s relations with the rest of the world?

In order to shed light these on these questions, Think Africa Press asked a range of experts: “What will five more years of Mugabe and a super majority for ZANU-PF mean for Zimbabwe going forwards?”

Stephen Chan, Professor of International Relations, School of Oriental and African Studies

There are two curious things that will emerge from this stolen election. The first is that a majoritarian government no longer needs to be an authoritarian one. There may be some lightening up of the ZANU-PF heavy-handedness – especially as corrupt people begin to launder and sanitise their profiles to become the Zimbabwean Rockefellers of the future.

The second is that this is an historic election in that it will be both Mugabe’s and Tsvangirai’s last – Mugabe because of age and illness and the battle lines already well drawn regarding succession; and Tsvangirai because no-one can lead a party into three election defeats, no matter how those defeats occurred, and survive. The MDC actually fought a very tepid campaign that was unimaginative and almost seemed to be conceding defeat at the outset. The party needs new leadership and new inspiration.

For the time being, opposition becomes what ZANU-PF wants it to be – a showpiece and exhibition that Zimbabwe is ‘democratic’, but not one that can do anything serious. A lot of foreign money will also now seep out of the Zimbabwean democracy effort. This will render the MDC even less effective at first, and will be disastrous for many civic action groups.

In this context, ZANU-PF can posture as the reasonable government that the West must deal with, because there is no-one else and because the West has no choice in the matter. SADC and the AU have already decided it has to take Zimbabwe into the future with the rest of Africa. Meanwhile the West – with Egypt and Syria on its plate, unreconciled fears over Iran, real concerns over North Korea, and fractiousness in its relations with Russia – will be working out ways to re-engage with Zimbabwe by Christmas.

Munyaradzi Gwisai, general coordinator of International Socialist Organization (Zimbabwe) and former MDC MP

The message from the elections is clear. For working people there is no future with the MDC and Tsvangirai. Lacking a pro-poor ideology and strategy, the MDC will not rise from this disaster. The workers’ leaders of yesterday have become the poodles of the capitalists today. Against all of Africa, the MDC sings from the same hymn book as its masters in Washington and London, sucking their poisonous neoliberal juice, and hoping to precipitate economic crisis. However, unless there is global recession, economic meltdown is unlikely.

Whilst probably expecting a Mugabe victory, the West are stunned by the overwhelming landslide, and for now withhold recognition to send a message to Mugabe not to dare pursue the aggressive nationalist agenda he promised in the elections. The West is particularly worried about Mugabe’s resounding victory having a contagion effect across the Limpopo, massively boosting Mugabe copycat Julius Malema and his Economic Freedom Fighters. This could mortally threaten not only the ANC’s hitherto unchallenged hegemony but also the continuing apartheid economic structure on which Africa’s largest economy remains based.

With his survival guaranteed, Mugabe, whilst pursuing with his vote-catching nationalist agenda, will likely moderate and strike some compromise with banks, big business and the West to avoid an open strike by the capitalists and West that may bring down the economy. He is likely to pursue an agriculture and mining-anchored economic growth agenda geared towards China, India, Russia and Brazil.

With an eye to 2018, ZANU-PF will continue with its empowerment agenda to eat away at MDC’s urban strongholds. Without a massive ideological and strategic overhaul, MDC cannot counter this. Also without an alternative from the radical left emerging, the danger deepens that the working classes will continue to fall into the hands of a repressive bourgeois nationalist dictatorship that only opportunistically sings their song, and which will sooner or later attack the poor in the service of the system that it ultimately serves – namely capitalism.

The way forward for working people is to break from MDC and lay now the foundations for a new working people’s movement to continue the struggle against the regime. A movement that does not replicate MDC’s right-wing ideological bankruptcy but positions itself left of ZANU-PF on an anti-capitalist, democratic and internationalist basis.

Dewa Mavhinga, Senior Researcher on Zimbabwe, Human Rights Watch

The elections, marred by reports of gross electoral irregularities and fraud, further polarised relations between the UK, US, Australia and the EU on the one hand and the AU and SADC (with the exception of Botswana) on the other hand. Looking ahead, there is unlikely to be a change to this status quo as Western governments are likely to retain sanctions against Mugabe and his party in condemnation of the irregularities, while SADC and the AU seek to legitimise Mugabe’s presidency by continuing to call for the lifting of the sanctions.

A major concern, based on their past patterns of repression, is that Mugabe and ZANU-PF will use their parliamentary super-majority to amend the new constitution to shut down democratic space and make it difficult if not impossible for local human rights and good governance groups to function. At its December 2012 annual conference, ZANU-PF resolved to “instruct the party to ensure that government enforces the de-registration of errant civil society organizations deviating from their mandate.” Various human rights and democratic reforms undertaken over the last five years may be reversed with no expectation that outstanding reforms, including legislative reforms to repeal repressive laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Criminal Law (Reform and Codification) Act will take place in the foreseeable future.

There now will be even less likelihood of domestic justice and accountability for those responsible for widespread human rights abuses, particularly election-related abuses, as many of the perpetrators are aligned to ZANU-PF. The greatest fear is that the ZANU-PF victory will return Zimbabwe to a de facto one-party-state under which key state institutions, including the army, the police, and sections of the judiciary, continue to be openly partisan and aligned to ZANU-PF. The security forces have a long history of partisanship on behalf of Mugabe and ZANU-PF. Since independence in 1980, the army, police and Central Intelligence Organization have operated within a system that has allowed elements within their ranks to arrest, torture and kill perceived opponents with impunity.

Peter Hain, British MP, former UK Africa minister and anti-apartheid activist

Until Robert Mugabe almost single-handedly transformed Zimbabwe into a basket case, it had been Africa’s jewel in the crown. And, as neighbours such as Mozambique and Zambia forge ahead in what could be Africa’s century, I see no happy future for the country under the continuing despotic, destructive rule of his ruling elite.

Mugabe and, above all, the political-military governing cabal around him will continue to loot the country. Hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues from Marange’s blood diamonds will line their pockets as has been happening these past few years. Instead of going to the Zimbabwe Treasury, the enormous resources of Marange were ruthlessly deployed to steal and rig the recent election in direct breach of the Kimberley Process designed under an international treaty to ensure a legal and transparent diamond trade.

Sadly, the opposition MDC allowed itself to be naively manipulated into imagining that election could be free and fair. And, having first been sucked into coalition to save the economy from meltdown after the previous stolen election, and then been suckered again by Mugabe as he had done to Joshua Nkomo’s ZAPU before, it is not clear what role the MDC now has.

Nor, with SADC neighbours like South Africa complicit in the whole travesty – which has witnessed the prostitution of the original Zimbawean freedom struggle – does the MDC or indeed the Zimbabwean people have the allies they need.

The African countries like Ghana that are succeeding today have good or improving governance and skills. Revenues from their resources are invested in infrastructure, jobs, growth and public services.

Does anybody seriously think this will happen now, under still more of the same failed policies, corruption and despotism in Zimbabwe?

Roy Agyemang, director of Mugabe: Villain or Hero?

British and American influence in Zimbabwe has been dealt a major blow in this election. ZANU-PF’s racially polarising policies are something the Western world cannot comprehend. The party has reversed the injustices inflicted upon the Zimbabwean people through redressing the land issue, and will now attempt to correct the historical economic imbalances prevalent in Zimbabwe.

With a two-thirds majority in parliament, the Zimbabwean people have given ZANU-PF a clear mandate to indigenise the economy and take a controlling stake in their natural resources. If ZANU-PF succeeds, it could form a blueprint for economic emancipation of the black people in Africa more broadly, something the West in not ready for given their stronghold on African assets.

This potential to reverse what has been the status quo for generations will mean that the UK and US will not make it easy for Mugabe and ZANU-PF, neither will they let them operate freely in the international market place.

If a ZANU-PF government can make the next five years a transparent and inclusive process, and stabilise the economy through their empowerment programmes, they will have proven yet again that the Zimbabwean people are able to fight against the tide and chart their own destiny, as they have shown with the growing success of the land reform programme.

Simukai Tinhu, political and economic analyst

Mugabe’s win in this election has cast a shadow on seemingly cordial relations that the previous coalition government had built with the West. However, though this might appear like the case, this upward trend in the relationship is unlikely to change for a number of reasons.

Firstly, President Mugabe is likely to resign (or could pass away) before the end of the first term, leaving the leadership to either Deputy President Joice Mujuru or Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa. And because Zimbabwe’s economic and political troubles have so heavily been blamed on his rule in international media and rhetoric, maintaining Zimbabwe’s isolation when Mugabe is no longer at the helm might prove hard for the West to defend.

Already the international community has shown that it might struggle to maintain a united front against Zimbabwe. Indeed, in contrast to a decade ago, major Western nations have responded differently to Mugabe’s win. Australia has taken a hard-line stance and called for a rerun; the UK, US, Canada and Germany have expressed grave concerns; while Belgium and New Zealand have been largely silent. These varied responses, something that would have been unthinkable a decade ago, is the most clear sign yet that the old consensus in the West on Zimbabwe might be fraying.

In addition, the EU and US would also not want to be seen to be undermining the AU and SADC who had observer missions in Zimbabwe. The two regional bodies have provisionally given the election a clean bill of health.

There is no doubt that ZANU-PF is taking this election as a victory against the West, but at the same time they will try to reach out to the UK; continue with a strident defence of its land and indigenisation programmes; and intensify the ‘Look East’ policy, consolidating its relationship with China, Russia, Africa, Latin America and the Nonaligned Movement to balance the interests of the US and EU.