The Herald (Harare)

3 February 2005

Zimbabwe: Boycott: Strategy of Cowards

opinion

Harare — WITH the Zanu-PF primaries now out of the way, it is back to the campaign trail as the ruling party approaches its sixth parliamentary elections since independence. Its major opponent, however, is still wondering whether or not to participate in the polls.

It is a paradox that the MDC, which democratically won 57 seats during the 2000 parliamentary elections, now wants to boycott the forthcoming polls because it alleges that the environment in the country is not conducive for free and fair elections.

Exactly how the 2000 electoral system differs from this year's is a mystery. However, one should note that it is typical for an opposition to claim that elections are not free and fair in Africa.

In 2004 alone, the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) witnessed several elections all of which were won by the ruling parties in the respective countries; and all of which were treated with disdain by the opposition parties, who cried foul and suggested that the vote was manipulated.

To note a few examples, in Malawi, a convincing win by the ruling party inspired the opposition to claim that the vote was rigged; in South Africa, the resounding victory by the ANC incensed the ever bitter and perpetual loser Tony Leon and his so-called Democratic Alliance to claim that the vote was unfair; in Namibia, the ruling party's landslide victory irked the opposition to cry foul; and, likewise, in Mozambique, the ruling party's victory resulted in the opposition condemning the vote.

This opposition syndrome of remaining fixated in a denial phase is arguably being manifested by the MDC in Zimbabwe. The question is: How long will the MDC remain in its daze?

It is tempting to suggest that the boycott reflects an element of cowardice on the part of the opposition. To paraphrase the Shakespearean expression in Hamlet: "To be or not to be that is the question, whether it is nobler in the Zimbabwean public's eye to participate in the election or not, to participate perchance to loss and sink into oblivion, aye therein lies the rub."

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was recently quoted as suggesting to Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa that the polls be postponed to June because of an allegedly flawed electoral system in Zimbabwe. How Mr Mwanawasa is expected to change our electoral system is best known to the MDC leader, who constantly forgets that he is not a policy maker within or without Zimbabwe.

Indeed, having lost two national elections - in the 2000 parliamentary elections for the Buhera seat and the 2002 presidential elections - it is Tsvangirai of all the MDC members who stands to lose the most in the 2005 elections.

First, it should be noted that he is most likely to lose for the third consecutive time if he individually stands for an election; second, in the event of the likely March election defeat, Tsvangirai will not be able to retain his position in the MDC when the party holds its congress in April; third, standing for the elections means coming up with a sound alternative socio-political and economic programme to use for the campaign, but it is apparent that it is beyond the capacity of the MDC leader's wits to concoct such a programme; fourth, there is no opposition in the Sadc region 2004 polls that won a national election, thus regionally by the law of averages the MDC will be walloped in March.

So given such odds, Tsvangirai would rather emulate his Sadc opposition counterparts and blame his lack of victory on an electoral system which has successfully conducted five national elections but, according to him, cannot transparently conduct a sixth. In English they say: "A bad workman blames his tools."

The contemplated boycott has the depressive effect of inflicting a severe crisis of expectation on MDC supporters who will be left in the cold when the day to vote comes. Of course, the MDC has a peculiar legacy of misfiring and ineffective clamouring, ranging from the abortive stay-aways to futile attempts to disrupt the launch of the Homelink scheme by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, to even calling for cricket teams to boycott coming to Zimbabwe.

The rambling, of course, shows that the MDC will stop at nothing except participating in the national elections, which is weird when one recalls that during one of his ludicrous speeches, Tsvangirai said he would remove President Mugabe violently if he did not step down peacefully, but come 2005 the very same Tsvangirai wishes to remove President Mugabe through an election boycott, one wonders what next. A constant characteristic of Tsvangirai is his wishful thinking and a shoddy grasp of reality which frequently leads him into the recalcitrant illusion that he can speak on behalf of all Zimbabweans by flying to countless foreign countries to apparently educate foreign leaders who are still ignorant of the goings-on in Zimbabwe.

Judging by the frequency of his gallivanting, his constituency as an MDC leader is every foreign leader who has time to listen to his drivel. Needless to say, the only things he has managed to achieve are sanctions and a heinous image of Zimbabwe.

It is clear from his love of boycotts that the MDC leader has not matured beyond the days of trade unionism when boycotts where his only tactic. Now he threatens to down the entire opposition in his stupor, for whether they participate in the elections or not, it will still be an election.

It is common knowledge that "those in the absent are always wrong", thus a ballot paper without the MDC is still a valid ballot paper in as much the absence or presence of foreign observers is immaterial as was proved by the so-called champion of democracy, the United States, which had no foreign electoral observers and conducted an election which was littered with incidents of scores of ballots that went missing, yet the poll was declared free and fair.

Now if a country that has never had a black president despite the presence of several capable candidates, a country that is still steeped in the barbaric and imperialistic age of unilaterally invading other sovereign countries for the sake of defending overt economic interests, can conduct free and fair elections, then Zimbabwe can easily do better.

As one Shakespearean character says "cowards die many a thousand deaths", the MDC will do likewise for it will not "beware the Ides of March".

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