Who will bite the dust?
By fstimes On 29 Jul, 2013 At 03:31 PM | Categorized As Columns | With 0 Comments

Mugabe-Tsvangirai_788861cEVEN in Zimbabwe, with its smaller population and a so-so economy, July is still Durban month. Never mind that this rich horse race is held in faraway Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal, Zimbabweans pay it the same attention as do South Africans.

This July was probably not different, except that many Zimbabweans were told that at the end of this month, they would take part in a game as crucial to their lives as the Durban July.

On that day – unless someone changes the date from July 31 – they will be voting in elections that could end one political party’s fortunes for a long time to come.

July, so far, has had its moments: a white man who killed an unarmed African-American, Trayvon Martin, on his way to buy candy at night in a town in Florida, USA, was found not guilty.

Even President Barrack Obama was shocked enough to make a public comment.

There were demonstrations against the verdict and the immediate nightmare speculation was that George Zimmerman would get his comeuppance – one way or the other.

July also saw a Pakistani girl named Malala speaking to the United Nations in New York, about children and their right to education.

She had been shot in the face by the Taliban terrorists for insisting that all girls, Muslim or non-Muslim, were entitled to an education.

July also saw the 95th birthday of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the first black president of a democratic South Africa.

He has been ailing from a lung infection.

There were many celebrations by a world still remembering how Madiba brought to South Africa an end to apartheid, marked by a smooth transition to The Rainbow Nation.

Some African leaders, probably envious of Madiba’s enormous feat compared with their own, scolded him for being lenient with the Boers.

Africa has a plethora of leaders whose leadership credentials fit those of a dictator.

The election campaign in Zimbabwe is now in full swing. The death of one woman at a Mugabe rally might not be a harbinger of things to come.

But it’s early days yet.

One reason for this is the likelihood that neither of the major parties, Mugabe’s Zanu PF, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), would countenance a coalition.

Their practical experience with that unwieldy arrangement from 2008 to the present speaks for itself.

Most analysts put it down to Mugabe’s dictatorial tendencies. At independence in 1980, there was a coalition of Mugabe’s party and Joshua Nkomo’s PF-Zapu.

Both had fought the white settler regime during the armed struggle, before the British government negotiated independence in 1980.

A year later, the coalition fell apart, with Mugabe’s party accusing Nkomo’s PF-Zapu of an attempted coup.

An estimated 20 000 people died in that internecine conflagration, most of them Nkomo’s supporters.

His party was absorbed into Zanu PF, with Nkomo becoming vice-president of both the party and the republic.

Many of his supporters allege he was by then a broken man and his death soon afterwards was not entirely unanticipated.

But Nkomo was buried at Heroes’ Acre, probably softening his supporters’ pain.

It was not until 2000 that Mugabe’s hold on power was shaken to its roots by a new party composed of trade unionists, students and intellectuals, all disillusioned with his party’s one-party obsession.

Tsvangirai’s emergence as the leader of the MDC shocked Mugabe.

Some say it was because Mugabe had become politically smug.

When he lost 57 seats in the 2000 parliamentary elections to Tsvangirai’s party, he blamed The Daily News, an independent newspaper which began life with a circulation of 33 000, but soared to 120 000 at its peak.

The paper was banned in 2003.

Nobody doubted the reason.

Today, the same MDC threatens to annihilate Zanu PF, in free and fair elections.

Mugabe might yet bite the dust.

He has been in power since 1980. What he has to show for all those years might persuade voters that it is time for a real change.

The MDC won’t rely on a newspaper this time.

It has learnt many tricks – from Mugabe and Zanu PF.


Bill Saidi is a writer based in Harare.


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