Clutton Patsika | Zim not open for business at all
You cannot kiss a cobra and get away with it!
This came to mind earlier this month as we watched from the terraces, an election going wrong in Zimbabwe.
Not that things going wrong in an election is anything new in Zimbabwe – the teapot shaped Southern Africa nation; the horror that unfolded was quite unexpected of a government that had endeared itself to the masses following the resignation of long-time Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe.
In a matter of seconds, a trigger-happy army had unleashed the most deadly arsenal on a small civilian population, who were only demonstrating to have the election results announced without delay.
Six people were gunned down in a show of force that shocked the world – millions glued to various media platforms, watching or listening to live broadcast of the events.
As the horror played itself out on the streets of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, an equally dramatic soapie was playing itself out on social media platforms – in the form of an election commission failing to announce the outcome of the results –live on camera.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chair was visibly in a sweat as she tried to calm nerves and announce results.
For hours, no justification on the commission’s part could convince the public – and waiting media – why they could not be announced.
Understandably, the citizens’ actions on the streets warranted some reasons being given for the delay. They recalled 2008 when it took several months before the election results were announced.
Fast forward November 2017, when the military persuaded then nonagenarian leader Mugabe to cede power, acres of hope were created, with the general public going into a euphoria only seen in 1980 when Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain.
It was a celebration that touched the hearts of the world. At last the “emperor” Mugabe had fallen – and in a peaceful way. What a charm offensive from the army.
For the first time the public interacted with probably one of the most feared armies in the world – the Zimbabwe Defence Force – with some of the citizenry even taking selfies with soldiers. The force had become an instant darling of the masses – and rightly so – no one in their right frame of mind would have chided them for getting rid of Mugabe.
The nonagenarian is credited for running down a oncethriving Africa bread basket into a basket case – leaving Zimbabwe with no currency of its own and an unemployment rate of above 95%.
The diaspora, especially those who had emigrated from Zimbabwe in a hurry while new leader Emmerson Mnangagwa went about appeasing the masses under the new mantra of “Zimbabwe is open for business”, remained wary and very few bought into this hype and frenzy.
And with reason. Mnangagwa possessed too questionable a human rights record to allow the diaspora to be excited about the possibility of change in Zimbabwe.
Still, some hope was raised that a more enabling environment would be realised, come election time. With observers from distinguished world bodies invited to the recently ended election on July 30, excitement reached a crescendo and, while Zimbabweans abroad were excluded from participating, under a new constitutional requirement, there was little or no hullaballoo about that issue. Sadly, this whole drama was in deed a moment of “suspending belief”.
The masses had been hoodwinked into thinking the army was now acting in their best interests. It was a case of kissing a cobra and getting away with it.
Mnangagwa, it would seem, had done his homework well and, like a suitor, won the bride’s hand in marriage.
And the biggest dummy the world was sold projected Zanu-PF as a united party – so united that it even won in areas where its former leader had had a stranglehold.
It was quite surprising that such resounding support in these strongholds had swung in favour of “ED”, as Mnangagwa is affectionately known; effectively showing that Mugabe, the former Zanu-PF founding father, no longer had any residual support. Other Zanu-PF drop-outs such as former deputy president Joice Mujuru yielded little or no support as well, and they literally had no electorate leg to stand on.
The world, however could not be fooled into believing that this was no longer a brutal junta. In a few minutes six people had been slaughtered in cold blood. They were allegedly shot in the back, meaning they were not confrontational, but scared citizens who had run for their lives.
Their crime was to demand a free – and credible – election. They were full of hope for the future. A hope ED could have delivered only if he had kept his “dogs” on a leash.
But, alas, his theatrics have failed to convince the world.
In fact Zimbabwe is not open for democracy after all.
It was a brutal reminder to the world that you cannot kiss a cobra and get away with.
Clutton Patsika is a retired Zimbabwean journalist and Tiso Blackstar sport sub-editor