2013: Zanu PF's win or die election

HARARE - For 89-year-old ailing strongman President Robert Mugabe and his band of former guerrillas in Zanu PF, the coming general elections are a matter of life and death.

History is replete with examples of nationalist movements that died a natural death as soon as they lost power and we need not go any further than Zambia up north.

Mugabe and Zanu PF are well aware of that and they would by all means try and avoid losing elections as this might spell their demise as a vibrant party.

Zambian founding father President Kenneth Kaunda’s United National Independence Party (Unip) is either a pale shadow of its former self or has been consigned into the dustbin of history the moment Kaunda suffered his first and only electoral loss at the hands of unionist Frederick Chiluba.

In December 1990, at the end of a tumultuous year that included riots in the capital and a coup attempt, President Kaunda signed legislation ending Unip’s monopoly on power.

The changed constitution allowed for more than one presidential candidate who no longer had to be a member of Unip.

It lost power to Frederick Chiluba of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) in 1991.

In the intervening years, Unip has become increasingly marginalised as a party in Zambia.

This is due in part to Unip’s boycott of the 1996 elections, called in protest of a constitutional amendment that was passed to bar former president and party head, Kenneth Kaunda from running in the presidential election.

The consequent election resulted in an absolute majority for MMD in Parliament and the virtual exclusion of Unip from government for five years.

Mugabe and his running mates know this and are aware that this might very well be their “Last Supper” or final hooray on Zimbabwe’s treacherous but exciting political terrain that they have straddled for an unbroken half a century.

It could be their proverbial political waterloo.

They would therefore try by all means either to avoid it or win at all costs. This is not a battle for Mugabe — it is the personification of the struggle. It is war.

The stakes are so high that Mugabe could be imagining the scenario he had in 1980 when he stood against the Rhodesians.

And Zimbabweans will not forget that Zanu PF threatened to “go back to the bush if we lose” mantra that arm-twisted the international community to declare the elections free and fair despite unmitigated evidence to the contrary.

Mugabe got away with murder and has done the same ever since.

Mugabe’s former bosom-buddy, the peerless Malawian dictator, Ngwazi Hastings Kamuzu Banda is another example whose demise could be a horror-musical video playing in Mugabe’s eyes as he walks everyday.

His Malawi Congress Party brought majority rule to Malawi before presiding over the southern African country for over three decades until its fall from grace at the hands of one Bakili Muluzi.

Daniel Arap Moi up in Kenya will tell another story and his party had to re-invent itself and join other parties that did not participate in “the liberation struggle” to survive.

The party split into two factions.

The larger one, headed by Uhuru Kenyatta, formed a short-lived opposition coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party of Kenya, in a coalition called the Orange Movement which successfully campaigned for a No Vote in a constitutional referendum in 2005.

Zanu PF may not survive an electoral loss and Mugabe has all but confirmed it by refusing to retire “because the party will disintegrate”.

For Mugabe and Zanu PF, it is now or never!

President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF will by all means try to avoid losing elections as this might spell their demise as a vibrant party.

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