JOHANNESBURG – Following a violent and tumultuous election period, weary Zimbabweans began a new week on Monday wondering what lies ahead for their country as Zimbabwe’s future largely depends on it overcoming its fractious politics and addressing the economic problems it faces.
On Sunday, President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa, from the ruling Zanu-PF party, was inaugurated after Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s petition last Friday to overturn the July 30 presidential election results on the grounds of fraud was rejected by the Constitutional Court.
But on Monday, a defiant Chamisa publicly challenged the ConCourt’s ruling, saying he had a legitimate claim to lead the southern African nation after rejecting the ruling that confirmed Mnangagwa as winner of the presidential elections, begging the question as to whether the two can work together, putting the good of the country before their personal political ambitions.
International observers of the elections stated that although the electoral procedure was tilted in favour of the ruling party it was in the country’s interest for the opposition to accept the ConCourt’s ruling.
Analysts say rehabilitating Zimbabwe’s decimated economy is imperative for the country’s future. But this will involve attracting foreign investment which is dependent on a reformed political environment if the country is to escape its international pariah status.
Despite high hopes of political reform in the wake of the military coup last year which overthrew Robert Mugabe’s repressive regime, many remember that Manangagwa was Mugabe’s right-hand man in the Gukurahundi, a series of massacres of Ndebele civilians carried out by the Zimbabwe National Army from early 1983 to late 1987.
And despite a new dawn, violence reared its head again when opposition protesters were among six people killed by security forces in post-election violence.
According to Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa director for Human Rights Watch, the post-election crackdown by the security forces “marked a turning point” in Zimbabwe’s nascent democracy.
“The military is the power behind Mnangagwa’s throne, and could be an obstacle to the democratisation project, notwithstanding Mnangagwa’s declared desire for a new dispensation,” Mavhinga told Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, Chipo Dendere, a visiting assistant professor in the political science department at Amherst College in Massachusetts in the US, has pointed out how the opposition miscalculated its strategy during the pre-election period and how it could lift its game in the future to successfully challenge Zanu-PF.
“The results show that Zimbabwe is deeply divided between the rural and urban constituencies,” said Dendere in her ‘What next for Zimbabwe’s opposition?’ piece on the Al Jazeera website.
While conceding that Chamisa had done well in traditionally strong Zanu-PF areas and that there could have been vote rigging – which was hard to prove – Dendere said the opposition needed to decide on how to engage in a system that was not designed to see an incumbent lose and to address their internal challenges that also cost them this election.
“While the election was deeply flawed the opposition also missed a few opportunities to broaden their support beyond urban areas. A divided opposition cannot unseat a dominant incumbent party in Africa or elsewhere,” said Dendere
The assistant professor explained how in the wake of Morgan Tsvangirai’s death, Chamisa’s controversial ascension to the party presidency caused another split with vice president Thokozani Khupe.
“Sexist attacks against the female-led Khupe faction and Khupe’s unwillingness to re-engage with the coalition killed any possibility for a united opposition.”
In the crucial Matabeleland region, the Khupe and Chamisa factions split opposition votes among themselves, providing ZANU-PF with an easy win in an otherwise anti-establishment region, said Dendere, adding how MDC could have won additional parliamentary seats in various areas.
“The MDC coalition failed to build bridges with the other 22 presidential candidates and independent candidates running for legislative and local seats,” she added.
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