Zimbabwe: Is Dr. Simba Makoni a puppet?

Is Dr. Simba Makoni, Zimbabwe's former finance minister, a genuine contender for the presidential election in Zimbabwe or simply part of a political ploy to keep President Robert Mugabe in power? Is the electoral process in Zimbabwe ready for a free and fair elections? These are some of the hot issues and questions in the Zimbabwean blogosphere. Zimbabwe presidential, parliamentary and local government elections will take place on March 29 2008.

Kubatana blog argues that the electoral process in Zimbabwe is completely flawed:

Fellow blogger Dewa Mavhinga has discussed Zimbabwe’s unfair electoral environment in his latest postings. Unfair is possibly the wrong word – let’s rather call it completely flawed.

Further evidence of the completely flawed electoral process is illustrated in this recent ZLHR communication which I received today.

The administration of elections in Zimbabwe continues to be a monumental joke and the whole process is buried under a mountain of red tape. After we ran an advert in the local press for persons who have been denied access to registration or inspection of voters roll we have been inundated with distress calls from persons who want to inspect/register but denied the right to do so. For most prospective voters, trying to access the voters roll is an adventure whose success is not guaranteed. Even nominees in the forthcoming elections have been denied access and ZLHR have approached the courts for relief. Such developments in our view testify against the conscience of democracy and rule of law.

The blog outlines steps that need to be taken before the elections:

Firstly, now, before the elections take place, the opposition and independent candidates must declare that the playing field is not level and detail all areas of concern from lack of access to free media, inability to campaign freely, a litany of repressive laws and widespread violence and intimidation. They and civil society must demand that Thabo Mbeki declares his initiative a failure before elections take place and point to the SADC standards and guidelines for the conduct of free and fair elections. Advocacy for regional action must target individual members of the SADC block because there are some culprit governments in SADC that share a passionate dislike for human rights and democracy alongside Zimbabwe and are preventing SADC from taking a more robust stance on Zimbabwe – these are Angola, Namibia and Swaziland. There is some hope in looking to South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania to put pressure on Zimbabwe.

Secondly, SADC should now be dispatching observers to monitor Zimbabwe’s elections and additionally, South Africa should send its own team of observers in order to assist in the post-election period when the legitimacy of the election is called in question. Local groups must also be collecting evidence now of how the election is being rigged and not be sidetracked by the appearance on the horizon of the likes of Simba Makoni. For instance, l am highly suspicious of the figure being peddled in State media that 5.6 million people registered to vote in Zimbabwe, can this figure be independently verified?

It appears that some Zimbabweans are election weary already:

A colleague of mine was talking about how so many seem to be election weary already when the date has only just been announced. He gave the example of a young man that he gave a lift to the other day.
The hitchhiker was a student at NUST, and he wasn’t aware that the election date (29th March) had been set. On hearing the news, the student became tired and defeated. He told my colleague that he had been hoping and praying that the elections would be much later in the year. Instead, he said he now had face the likelihood that his final exams, due for May this year, would be in jeopardy because of the furore that always surrounds elections.

Apparently, elections in Zimbabwe have a negative impact on students:

But why, he asked, if elections are in March does that affect you in May?
The student replied that elections brought massive unrest to the universities. The police became hyper-sensitive to student activities and unfair crackdowns often ensued, proving anger and a state of tension at the universities. He said that previous elections, even when Mugabe ‘wins’, were usually followed by reprisals against those who dared to disobey the regime in the lead-up to the elections. But Mugabe’s men didn’t discriminate and they extended the reprisals to absolutely everyone. He also said that staff, sturggling to earn a living often used election time as a chance to strike for more money.

Mugabe's victory is a foregone conclusion:

“Don’t be stupid, we all know the score! They’ll be stolen the way they always have been; we just need to find a way to get through them so we can continue figuring out how to survive the next day”.

Mugabe Mukaipa writes about Zimbabwe Diaspora Vote Protest:

Calling ALL the Zimbabweans in Diaspora
Join the PROTEST for the right to vote in the elections
Zimbabwe Diaspora Vote Protest
No Diaspora Vote, No Free, Fair or Credible Elections in Zimbabwe
Washington DC February 21 – 22
Contact persons
Canaan Mhlanga 604 461 3072
Zvidzayi Ruzvidzo 614 622 0427
Stanford G. Mukasa 724 467 0001
Handel Mlilo 240 505 0179

Last Rhodesia reports that a large number of political parties are emerging in Zimbabwe since the beginning of the year:

As you might have heard, there is suppose to be an election in March -
An unusually large number of newly-formed fringe political parties
have emerged since the beginning of the year, all promising to turn around Zimbabwe’s fortunes once elected to power.

We have the United Democratic People’s Constitution (UDPC), Zimbabwe Integrated Party (ZIP), Voice of the People/Vox Populi (VP), the Zimbabwe Development Party (ZDP), Progressive Anarchy Party (PAP), Let’s Party (LP) etc etc.
The latest on the scene is – I Have No Party (IHNP), which, as we have just learnt, is run by a stray cat called Simba Mukoni…
There might not even be an election in March. Well, not until terms have been well hammered out…
Just in case there is an election, Bob has been handing out loads of presents to the top boys in the police and army.
Zimbabwe’s police chief Augustine Chihuri this week told senior
officers to back President Robert Mugabe reminding them the veteran leader had given them farms, resources and other perks, authoritative sources told ZimOnline. According to our sources one officer, Nonkosi Ncube, who is in charge of police in Mashonaland East province, turned down a white truck she had been allocated insisting she preferred the truck black. She was assured she would receive a car with the “right colour” next week when middle-ranking police commanders would receive their vehicles.

Is Dr. Simba Makoni Genuine?

The recent announcement by the former Finance Minister, Dr. Simba Makoni, to challenge Robert Mugabe as a private candidate has received mixed feelings in the Zimbabwean blogosphere. Kubatana blog writes:

The only people who don’t seem vaguely fazed by Simba Makoni’s election bid are the beauticians in Cleopatra’s Beauty Parlour next to my office. They seem to have fallen asleep face first in their towels. Yesterday, a friend of mine called Anna, told me that its a good thing that Simba is posing some sort of challenge to Mugabe because, in her words, “Mugabe is an old man and doesn’t listen to the people”. There’s truth in that.

Dr. Makoni's victory will be a miracle:

It appears to me that there is much excitement around Zimbabwe’s forthcoming elections, and even naive hope that Simba Makoni may somehow, by some miracle, defeat Mugabe at the polls. People seem to have forgotten that democracy and good governance are not part of Zanu PF’s political DNA. President Mugabe was not elected by his party to be Presidential candidate – in fact l believe that if the matter had been taken to the vote then Mugabe would not have been the candidate – but through hook and crook Mugabe emerged as Zanu’s sole Presidential candidate. The same thing is likely to happen with presidential elections, that Mugabe will somehow claim victory, regardless of the credentials or stature of candidates running against him. The electoral field does not allow for any other outcome. Already, pseudo-war veterans are threatening to deal viciously with Makoni.

Is Dr. Makoni a last minute spoiler?:

In our office Dennis suggested that Simba’s entry into the race is a ploy by Mugabe to steal votes from disillusioned MDC supporters.
Yes, it’s quite likely that Makoni will attract a large number of Zimbabweans who would have voted for Tsvangirai. If Makoni does attract this support it means that Zanu PF’s chunk of the vote, one way or another, gets bigger. So how independent is Simba? How genuine is his bid? Is he a late minute spoiler, or Mugabe’s running puppet?

Zebra-Mbizi is not sure how significant his candidacy will be:

Having said all this we are rather amused to see now that Zanu PF has split. A faction headed by Simba Makoni, a former finance minister has seized the initiative and had entered the presidential race. We are as yet not sure of the significance of this entry all we do know is that Morgan Tsvangirai the leader of the Movement Democratic Change may well lose support. A breakaway faction of the MDC, the Mutumbara faction (Senator Arthur Mutumbara) has already declared its suppoort for Simba Makoni. Makoni appears to have a radical programme, to reconstruct the nation but he has surrounded himself with some of the dregs of the old regime: General Mujuru, Jabulani Moyo just to name two of his supporters; these men are not known for their democratic credentials and were principal supporters of the old regime.

It is strange, writes The Bearded Man, that Mugabe has been so silent on Makoni's candidacy:

Once again I question Mugabe's silence on the Makoni participation in the Presidential ballot. Whilst ZANU PF has expelled Makoni, Mugabe himself stays mum on the matter. He has informed the watching world that he is ‘raring to go’ and only seems intent on beating the MDC (with votes – as opposed to physically beating them), and has stated that he will not recognise any result unless it is a ZANU PF win.

Does Makoni count as ZANU PF?

Why is Mugabe reluctant to comes out fighting in his normal belligerent style?

Yes, Makoni may beat Mugabe – but that would only be for the top job. The ruling party may win the lion's share of seats, leaving Makoni effectively marooned on a ZANU PF desert island.

What then?

I remain a little concerned that Mugabe keeps quiet. The main worry I have is that the ruling party is selling the population a dummy. What if the Makoni candidature is really orchestrated by the ruling party? Offering a wolf in sheep's clothing. An alternative to Mugabe, knowing full well that the offered alternative is really much of the same?

Why else would Mugabe chose to keep quiet? He is renowned for his withering speeches and his handing out accusations as if they were confetti…

Zvenyika E Mugari at TalkMedia, a blog of media scholars and academics at Midlands State University, defends Dr. Makoni:

Like it or not Makoni is now man of the moment. Let people not waste their precious time speculating about the appropriateness of the timing or wheter this or that force is behind the man. Zimbabwe deeply needs a respite from the binary nature of the political talk that had come to characterise Zimbabwean politics, the Mugabe good Tsvangirai bad kind of talk. The Makoni factor simply makes such talk irrelevant. His bold step challenges us to step forward, set aside our petty differences and rededicate ourselves to the service of our beloved country. What can be more patriotic?

Zimbabaloola asks, “Is he a competitor or part of of the devious plan by ZANU PF?”:

Everyone is talking about Simba Makoni. It’s a measure of how sclerotic Zimbabwean politics has become that this 57 year is considered a youthful challenger. But then our president is 84, and most of his closest colleagues are in their late 70’s and early 80’s, so by current standards Simba is indeed the Young Lion.
The big question is this: is he a serious competitor to the existing order, or is this all part of a devious plan by ZANU PF to further muddy the waters of the election that is now less than 50 days away?
The optimists argue that Simba has powerful backing, probably from Solomon and Joice Mujuru – she is Vice President, he is former head of the armed forces, and both are known to have run out of patience with Mugabe. It looks like Simba may also be backed by Vitalis Zvinavashe, Solomon’s successor as head of the armed forces, and that there is a cadre of what might be called “ZANU PF Lite” lining up behind him.
This is the word on the street, and around the dinner tables of smart Harare. Problem is that, as of today, the only people who have actually DECLARED their support for him are a retired Major in the army who is known to have links to General Zvinavashe; and Dr Ibbo Mandaza, an academic, author, and one time newspaper owner.
Of course it is a dangerous game, standing up against President Mugabe. Zimbabwe’s recent history is littered with the remains of those who have turned against the old man, and subsequently had fatal accidents, or found their businesses dismantled, relatives arrested, passports revoked…. This is, after all, a dictatorship, despite the regular round of elections.
But the electorate are angry. And hungry. And fed up. And very ready for change.

According to Zimbabaloola, Mugabe might win without even the need for rigging:

But now, with two MDC candidates competing against each other, and Simba Makoni rounding up the undecideds, Mugabe only has to win a million votes – 15 percent of the electorate – to walk back into State House on April Fool’s Day; and he probably doesn’t even need to cheat.
OK, maybe I’m being cynical. Maybe in the next few days and weeks there will be a groundswell of support for Simba. Maybe Mutambara and Tsvangarai will decide to put aside their personal ambition for the good of the country. Maybe ZANU PF’s grassroots party structures will swing behind Simba, leaving a few scared, angry old men to stand beside Mugabe as his election victory vanishes.

Dr. Makoni's life might be in danger, writes Zebra-Mbizi:

We do feel however, that to put oneself in opposition to Mugabe and Zanu PF does take a certain amount of courage. The regime despises opposition and Simba Makoni’s life may well be in danger as indeed is anyone who opposes Mugabe.

The Role of Citizen Media

As it happened in Kenya recently, citizen media in Zimbabwe is set to play a key role in reporting and monitoring the electoral process. Kubatana will run an SMS Election Information Service during the elections:

Kubatana will be running an SMS Election Information Service during Zimbabwe’s March 2008 election in an effort to keep citizens both informed and inspired. I’ve just been told that both The Herald and The Sunday Mail newspapers have rejected Kubatana’s classified advertisement publicising this service to Zimbabweans. This is just one example of how Zimbabweans access to information is being curtailed.

If this makes you feel agitated and outraged than please email the editors of these two Mugabe mouth pieces and criticise their behaviour. You can reach The Herald at theherald@zimpapers.co.zw and The Sunday Mail at sundaymail@zimpapers.co.zw and to make sure that we record their abuse of power please send a copy to Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on: press [at] zlhr [dot] org [dot] zw

The organisation also has a special index page of aggregated information on Zimbabwe Elections 2008:

Another organisation, Zimbabwe Civic Action Support Group (Sokwanele), has set up a Zimbabwe Election Watch.


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