- Last Updated on 05 April 2012
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The call to have by-elections in the 28 vacant parliamentary and senatorial seats before the general elections in Zimbabwe as being advanced by the organic intellectuals in ZANU PF led by professor Jonathan Moyo needs to be interrogated in the bigger and broader electoral stratagems of the regime. By organic intellectuals, I mean those intellectuals who work as agents of class projects in this case the ruling elite of ZANU PF. The critical role of such intellectuals as Professor Moyo is to advance the position of the ruling class in this case a political class that faces collapse and consequently loss of power in any democratic political process bar the use of coercion.
What these ZANU PF regime intellectuals fail to appreciate is that of all different types of regimes that have emerged in the course of human history from monarchies and aristocracies, to religious theocracies, to fascist and communist dictatorships this far, the only form of government that has survived intact to this day has been liberal democracy bar its imperfections.
Democratic theorists such as Fukuyama further argue that for a large part of the world there is now no ideology with the pretentions to universality that is in a position to challenge liberal democracy and no universal principle of legitimacy other than the sovereignty of the people.
The respect for the sovereign will of the people that are exercised through credible electoral processes and outcomes should be the guiding principle in resolving the current problems in Zimbabwe.My hope is that the current transitional arrangement in Zimbabwe is ceased with such ideas as political parties especially ZANU PF talk about having elections to end the inclusive government.
I posit that the call to have by-elections by ZANU PF hardliners is an attempt to defy the socialization of human rights and democratic reforms in our body politic ahead of the general elections. It is also any attempt by the regime's criminal cabal to test some of its strategies ahead of what could be a decisive election. During the course of the inclusive governmentwhich came after ZANU PF's historical electoral losses in rural, urban and legislative elections in March 2008 as well as the first presidential loss by Mugabe since Independence in 1980, the regime has been re-aligning its strategies and policies.
At the level of political method, the organic intellectuals in ZANU PF working with the coercive elements in the security establishment would want to see whether use or none use of violence remains fashionable, acceptable and produce the results as they did in the June 2008 presidential election runoff. Never mind the illegitimacy of that electoral sham that brought about President Mugabe's disputed victory. Ahead of an election that the regime knows it has no chance to win if they were to be free and fair, a method should be devised. The by-elections would be testing ground for those methods.
The by-elections would also assist ZANU PF to see the battles ahead, perfect its methods ahead of the bigger and defining electoral battles in the horizon.
There is empirical political precedence for this. Ahead of the June 2000 elections, Zimbabwe held a Constitutional Referendum in February 2000 in which the combined forces of the political opposition and civic groups under the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) defeated the Justice Chidyausiku Constitutional Draft fronted and supported by ZANU PF.
After that defeat, the first by ZANU PF in a national plebiscite, Mugabe postponed elections that were meant for March 2000 to June 2000 and all hell broke out in both rural and urban Zimbabwe as the regime sort to regain lost ground through violence sanctioned and funded by the state and led by the security apparatus. The jambanja fame with all its political and economic mayhem was the political talk. Its message was clearly power retention at all costs.
The margin of victory in the June poll was narrow. ZANU PF got 62 seats, MDC 57 while ZANU led by the late veteran nationalist Reverend Nbabaningi Sithole got one in a national assembly of 120 elected members of Parliament. In accounting for ZANU PF's narrow victory, the late veteran academic and political scientist Professor Masipula Sithole said the margin of terror made the difference. The same could be argued in the 2008 elections. The regime resorted to its winning method: the margin of terror not error.
After President Mugabe lost to Morgan Tsvangirai in the March 2008 presidential poll, he unleashed violence throughout the country run by the security apparatus and funded by the State. Interestingly both violent elections in 2000 and 2008 were run in June. I would not be surprised to hear the criminal cabal in ZANU PF calling for elections in the same month for psychological reasons this year.
The other bigger picture that the ZANU PF organic intellectuals and political strategists have in mind is to test the resolve of SADC and the AU the guarantors of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) position to electoral malpractices ahead of the main poll. A muted response by SADC, AU and the rest of the international community to electoral transgressions such as political violence and generally the holding of elections without reforms will encourage ZANU PF to rig the next election and even to have a bloody both poll.
This could explain the resurgence of vigilante groups such as Chipangano and the Chinhoyi Top Six - the infrastructure of violence that was in political hibernation that has now risen to begin coercive work. At the local level, the regime would also want to see how prepared its supporters and systems are for the bigger battle.
Going to a critical poll without this empirical knowledge would surprise the regime as was the case in March 2008 when they woke up to an electoral defeat at all levels of governance and had to resort to stone-age political violence. The regime could also use this opportunity to see how the MDC formations perform and whether their involvement in government has aided more to their electoral chances of a decisive victory in the next poll.
This sounds a plausible argument given a situation where ZANU PF and the MDC formations could be fronting the Constitutional Referendum together against civic opponents of the negotiated document masquerading as people-driven. It could also be a way to see whether the economically misguided policies of the regime such as the indigenization policy which is turning to be a Zanufication of the economy has national appeal.
It has been argued that for the last decade ZANU PF has invested heavily in recruiting organic intellectuals for its consensual element to political hegemony which can be seen by the role that cultural consumption though the media has been enhanced in supporting ZANU PF projects such as the land reform program and the indigenization agenda.
This is one aspect that the MDC formations have been outfoxed by the regime and its organic intellectuals, the lack of intellectual nuances, discourses and investment in the democratic camp to also create a counter hegemonic project at the level of ideas. However, I am persuaded to argue that whatever role the organic intellectuals, the consensual elements of hegemonic apparatus of the Mugabe regime have played, the results have been limited. Despite their propaganda and control of State media institutions, the regime lost past elections.
The regime has always resorted to coercion as the determinant. Yes, stratagems by Moyo and company can be done but violence makes the decisive difference. This is not to discount the role of the Registrar-General and the weakened, compromised and militarized Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC). Remember the purpose of a hypothesis is to confirm or infirm a theory. That's what the organic intellectuals and the political strategists in ZANU PF are doing ahead of the general polls whenever they happen.
Counter strategies are required as well. Reactionary politics will not assist democratic causes.