Zanu PF's harvest of fear

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s  Zanu PF is embarking on a more sophisticated and multi-pronged approach to cover its terror tactics in order to regain political legitimacy, a leading analyst has said.

Phillan Zamchiya, outgoing regional coordinator for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said in a new report that the reign of terror unleashed by Zanu PF in the run-up to the June 27, 2008 election undermined the party’s legitimacy in the Sadc, African Union (AU) and internationally.

“Hence, physical violence in 2013 will not be as blatant and as extreme as in the previous June 27, 2008 ‘election’,” Zamchiya says in his 27-page report dubbed ‘Pre-election detectors — Zanu PF’s attempts to reclaim political hegemony.’

“Zanu PF is aware that naked physical violence will not be accepted by Sadc and yet at the same time a relatively free and fair election might undermine its electoral chances.”

Caught between a rock and a hard place, Zamchiya says the party will use “psychological warfare premised on manipulating the fear inculcated in communities over years among other strategies.”

“These include partisan registration of voters, ideologically appealing to popular groups; State-financed patronage, control of State-controlled media and targeted persecution (devoid of physical harm) against civil society leaders and opposition supporters,” the report says.

Zamchiya says Zanu PF would prefer a psychological warfare as compared to a physical warfare, with the broader intent summarised as a “harvest of fear.”

“It is a plan to intimidate and threaten citizens with violence by drawing on past memories of the June 27, 2008 election,” he said.

“This plan is already unfolding in targeted constituencies.”       
            
“Whether these political strategies will work in favour of Zanu PF only the next election will tell.”

The latest poll by the Mass Public Opinion Institute, a Zimbabwean organisation that conducted the fieldwork for the poll commissioned by Freedom House, a United States-based group, showed the resurgent Zanu PF on 33 percent with support for the MDC, dropping dramatically to 31 percent.

The survey of about 1 200 Zimbabweans, shows that the collapse is the most dramatic of the MDC in its 14 years in existence.

But Zamchiya argues that Mugabe’s gain in electoral support does not translate into a clear victory, discrediting analysts who claim Zanu PF will go for a democratic election.

“As I have argued earlier, one requires 50 percent+1 vote to be president,” Zamchiya says.

“The second reason is that the cost of losing is too high, given the allegations of gross human violations and corruption by the incumbent and those who surround him.

“The third reason is that the cost of manipulating the vote is low as long as it is not visible. For these reasons the election will not complete the chain of democratic choice.”

Zamchiya said the second myth was that Zanu PF will go for a closed authoritarian election.

Pessimists claim Zimbabwe will witness a “blood-bath” in this election synonymous with the June 27, 2008 election.

Theresa Makone, the co-minister of Home Affairs, speaking on March 8 on the recent arrest of human rights activist Jestina Mukoko, said: “I said it before and I will say it again…this time we are in for a blood bath. Some people believe they have the title deeds to Zimbabwe and its wealth. Period.”

Earlier,  Tendai Biti, Finance minister and secretary-general of the mainstream MDC, claimed on February 24 in Chitungwiza that Zanu PF was plotting to assassinate the MDC leadership.

“They cannot win any elections without using violence but we are not afraid of anyone,” Biti said.

But Zamchiya believes Zanu PF will not engage in such blatant violence, given that Sadc is engaged on the Zimbabwean issue.

“Given the context some tactics are most likely to have more consequences than others; they affect the acceptability of the result and the legitimacy of the government,” he argues.

Zamchiya said while Zanu PF is conscious of the real possibility that it will not get a two thirds majority in the House of Assembly, its strategy is to win a simple majority.

“From our study, Zanu PF is determined to defend its seats in the swing arena and claim the MDC swing constituencies,” he says.

A swing constituency is defined as a constituency where the difference in votes tallies between the MDC and Zanu PF in the March 29, 2008 election was five percent or less and there are 20 swing constituencies countrywide.

“The first tactic of electoral alchemy in the swing constituencies is the postal votes,” the report says.

“It is most likely that postal votes by members of the disciplined forces absent from Zimbabwe and those in the service of the Government of Zimbabwe will be deposited to swing constituencies where the MDC won by a narrow margin.”

Zanu PF will also target swing constituencies in terms of voter intimidation and bussing in people to register as a way to regain majority in the House of Assembly and hence claim its political hegemony, Zamchiya’s report says.

Zanu PF will also try “candidate manipulation”, or attempting to buy MDC candidates to withdraw at the last minute, he claims.

For the presidential crown, Zamchiya said Zanu PF is depending on maximum turn out in its perceived electoral strongholds.

“In order to maintain its turnout Zanu PF will create electoral buffer zones in these provinces, that is make it difficult for the opposition to campaign,” Zamchiya argues.

He says intertwined with the above strategy is a concerted effort to re-invent the image of Mugabe.
 
“President Mugabe is no longer viewed as unacceptable and as demonic as he was in 2008 following the violence,” the report says.

Zanu PF was also drumming up support through the church, which is an important organised constituency given that more than 70 percent of the Zimbabwean population are Christians, according to the 2012 population census.

“Zanu PF is determined to take advantage of this organised constituency and turn it into electoral support in the forthcoming election,” Zamchiya says.

Some church leaders have pledged support to Mugabe including Bishop Johannes Ndanga, the current president of the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ), a conglomeration of over 620 churches, Noah Taguta Momberume of Johane Marange, Paul Mwazha of the African Apostolic Church and Obadiah Msindo of the Destiny for Afrika Network.

The appeal to popular groups is not limited to the church, as Zanu PF is also appealing to other popular groups like youths and women.

It is also doling out grain and other farming inputs. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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