What’s a Mere Constitution to One Appointed by God to Govern?

By Derek Matyszak

What is a mere constitution for one appointed by God to govern?

The transcript of the interview granted by Mugabe to the national broadcaster to mark his 91st birthday makes for depressing reading.

ZANU PF’s 6th National People Congress purported to ratify various amendments to the party constitution, including removing a requirement that one of the two Vice-Presidents be a woman. Previously the constitution established a Presidium of four as part of the Central Committee, providing for a President and First Secretary, a National Chairman and stating that there must be

“two Vice Presidents and Second Secretaries one of whom shall be a woman ….elected by Congress directly upon nomination by at least six (6) Provincial Co-ordinating Committees. After the amendment, the same clause was changed to read that there must be:

Two (2) Vice Presidents and Second Secretaries appointed in accordance with the Unity Accord by the President for their skill, experience, probity, integrity and commitment to the party ideology, values, principles and policies.

When asked about this change during the birthday interview President Mugabe responded:

Ah, have we removed it? I do not think we have removed it. We just ignored it for now….

This response is remarkable for several reasons. Firstly, despite having emphatically stated that he remains in charge of the party, Mugabe appears unaware of this important change to the party constitution by his supposed underlings. The second point of note is the unabashed admission by Mugabe of believing himself entitled to simply ignore the rules of the party as set out in its constitution. Since it is Mugabe, and Mugabe alone, who appoints the Vice-Presidents, the “we” who claimed to ignore the constitution is solely Mugabe. Mugabe had also chosen, immediately after the Congress, to ignore the requirement, set out in the same section, section 32, that a National Chairman must be appointed. The requirement in the ZANU PF Constitution that “women shall constitute at least one third of the total membership of the principal organs of the Party…” never seems to have been applied. Yet as part of the same response to the question about the amendment, in almost the same breath, Mugabe also stated:

…you must be a disciplinarian, obedient to the rules of the party. A good disciplinarian is the one who first applies discipline to himself or herself. You apply it to oneself you don’t go against the rules of the party. You follow the rules of the party….

This cameo encapsulates Mugabe’s style of governance – the delegation of duties to his underlings, but with little attention paid thereafter to how those duties are carried out or supervision. His minions are left to their own devices. And the belief that rules, procedures and constitutional requirements, which somehow do not apply to him, must be scrupulously followed by others, when he so demands. No restriction on doing what he deems expedient is even conceived of.

As with ZANU PF, so with the country….


Our lives: Perpetual Hunger Games Episodes

By Caroline Kache

DSTV has been showing ‘The Hunger Games’ a gruesome trilogy movie depicting a dystopia. Set in ‘Panem,’ a country consisting of the wealthy Capitol and 12 other districts with varying levels of poverty, the Hunger Games sees two unfortunate candidates, male and female  chosen from each of the poor districts to participate in a compulsory annual televised death match called the Hunger Games. There can only be one winner at the end and butchering the rest is just part of the game.

Watching The Hunger Games, I began to reflect on how our lives are in a perpetual Hunger Games mode. Every day, for the ordinary Zimbabwean, is a fight for survival. The poor die every day to give the wealthy members in our own Capitol their vantage. For instance, the week beginning 12 January, close to 200 families were evicted from Mazowe to pave way for a sanctuary. The photos of the families weeping, spirals of smoke and the ruins of what they once called home pictured in the soot and ashes were heart wrenching. How those responsible for this devastation can live with themselves is beyond me. Or maybe they just don’t care because as in the Hunger Games, they find other people’s misery entertaining!

In the Hunger Games, Katniss (one of the characters) forms a bond with Rue another character) a young girl whom she views as her young sister. They become like sisters, taking care of each other. When Katniss is injured and unconscious, Rue nurses her back to health. But then Rue dies. The agony of Katniss’ loss at the hands of a cruel establishment is a daily reality for many Zimbabweans.

Many people die on Zimbabwe’s major highways. The Harare-Beit bridge route is a nightmare, recording high numbers of deaths every year. Sisters, aunts, uncles, friends perish; their deaths remain impressed in our memories because they could have been averted. Why nothing is ever done is the big question; is it inability to do something about it, or they are just unwilling? How come the same people who do not prioritise raising funds to repair major roads are fast and efficient when raising funds for a party congress or a tour for the first lady? Millions are raised in a few days and splurged on non-events. If the same passion and effort were put to benefit the nation, would we still be stuck in this perpetual prison of poverty? But then, as in the Hunger Games, they thrive on other people’s misery.

Maybe my expectations for our government are too high, or it is because I am part of the poor districts residents that do not understand life in the Capitol. Or am I simple minded to think that humanity demands that we at least ensure that everyone lives with a bit of dignity?

Evicting the poor people in Mazowe without notice or any relocation plan, forcing the displaced people in Chingwizi to live in those deplorable conditions, promising to create an imaginary 2.2 million jobs, widening the gap between the rich and the poor- our government lives in the Capitol-far removed from the districts. They do not understand how every day is a struggle for those in the districts or how the tax they have imposed to make life in the Capitol more comfortable makes life in the districts more and more unbearable.

Is there a solution?

Maybe it is time for Panem to become a democracy! But even if it does it can only be enjoyed by the young who have not experienced the Hunger Games. Those of us who grew up in that era are scarred for life. We will always remember people and things we lost in the games, but that doesn’t mean we will stop trying to change the status quo. Panem must be free and no one should ever struggle unto death whilst someone else enjoys!

Wisdom says the only constant thing in life is change. I would urge our leaders to remember that. In the genius words of Leonard Zhakata who summaries everything so neatly in his song Mugove he says;

vakuru woye ndipeiwo kamukana kangu
ndinyevere vaye vaye
vakawana mukana wekuvepo pamusoro
vakaite mhanza yekukwirepo pamusoro
kwakuchitora mukana uyu sehuchenjeri
wotanga kutsikirira vari pasi
votanga kuchipfira mate vari pasi
kuzvirova dundundu nekuzvitutumadza
ndoti kwete apa vachenjeri marasika

kana wakaberekwa semunhu wese iwe
kana wakadonhawo rukuvhute semunhu wese
pamisoro yose yakati tseketseke nenyika iyi
usazvinyepere usazvifadze nenhema
usazvinyepere usazvifadze nenhema
usazvifurire uchizviita makoya zvese
usazvifurire uchizviita shasha yevose

vaye vaye vaunodzvinyirira
vaye vaye vaunotsikirira
kuchema kwavo munamato mukuru kumatenga
tenzi hakuna anoziva mhinduro
nyangwe nemusi waichauya

deno ndaive ini ndigere paye
deno ndaive ini ndiripo paye
ndairidza huwi
ndodaidzira vamwe vangu
kuno kwabika dopiro vakomana
huya mose huyai munombore

kana paine pamakandichengetera baba
ndinokumbirawo mugove wangu ndichiri kurarama tenzi
tarirai ndosakadzwa sechipfeko nevane mari
ndisina changuwo
ndinongoshandiswa nhando

Silenced voices at home; orators abroad-the universality of justice

By Kuda Chitsike

One of the major reasons, leading to the negotiation of the Global Political Agreement was that violence during the run off period had reached unprecedented levels. Approximately 200 people were killed, thousands displaced and assaulted, but there was no mention of the rape that women suffered. It is well known that there was widespread violence, but what is less known is that sexual violence was perpetrated against women as a political strategy.  Previously, there was a lot of anecdotal evidence but no proper documentation was available in the aftermath of the election. Civil society organisations, including women’s groups were hesitant to talk publicly about politically motivated rape, even though survivors were seeking refuge in their organisations and their horror stories were known. The silence of the women’s groups muted the voices of the survivors; if well-established organisations were unwilling to speak on their behalf, who would listen to their individual voices? But as time went on the survivors of rape became bold, began speaking out about their experiences during the election period, and demanded to be heard and taken seriously.

The first public report on sexual violence in Zimbabwe during the election period was written by an American-based organisation, AidsFreeWorld, ‘Electing to Rape: Sexual Terror in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.’ This report was released in December 2009 and it was based on 70 affidavits collected from women who were survivors of rape and were living in South Africa and Botswana where they felt free to speak.  A second report was produced by the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) and the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) in 2010, entitled, ‘No Hiding Place: Politically Motivated Rape of Women in Zimbabwe.’  In these two reports, women reported that they were repeatedly raped and beaten for their support of the MDC, whether perceived or real, as the perpetrators told them so during the ordeal. Some stated that this happened in front of their children and family members, and, as a result of the rape, their marriages broke down. Most of the women did not receive appropriate care for the trauma that they had experienced. The women exhibited high levels of sleeplessness, nightmares, flashbacks, and hopelessness: symptoms, which are commonly associated with experiences of trauma.

These two reports gave credence to the claims that the women were making about politically-motivated sexual violence, and the issue could no longer be ignored.

The recently released findings of the Khampepe report supported what Zimbabwean organisations have been saying for the last 14 years, violence and intimidation are part and parcel of elections.  This report has implications for Zimbabwean women who lodged a case in 2012 in the South African courts with the support of AidsFreeWorld. The women brought their case to a South African court because they had failed to get any recourse in Zimbabwe. When they tried to report their cases to the police they were either turned away, told that the police were not dealing with political violence cases, or told by the police that they gor what they deserved. Sometimes the police outrightly  refused to open dockets, which effectively meant the women were unable to go for medical examinations.

AidsFreeWorld submitted an amicus brief to the South African courts after a case was brought by the Zimbabwean Exiles’ Forum and the Southern African Litigation Centre in 2008 on behalf of MDC supporters who alleged that they were tortured by ZANU PF supporters and state agents. On 30th October 2014, the Constitutional Court in South Africa ruled that the South African Police Service (SAPS) is obliged to investigate crimes against humanity “where the country in which the crimes occurred is unwilling or unable to investigate.” The ruling is based on the fact that South Africa is obliged to investigate because it signed and domesticated the Rome Statute on the establishment of the International Criminal Court.

This ruling has given hope to the Zimbabwean women who were brave enough to tell their stories. Unfortunately not all perpetrators will be brought to justice, but it sends the right message; that sexual violence will not be tolerated in any society for any reason.

Had the election report, which was compiled by the high court judges Sisi Khampepe and Dikgang Moseneke, been released when it was compiled it is highly probable that 2008 might never have happened as a government of national unity could have been negotiated in 2002. The Kamphepe report supported other observers’ groups that stated that there was serious election violence and it would have added to international pressure to end the Zimbabwean crisis.

As we commemorate the 16 days of gender activism, there is hope that justice will be delivered and that the victims of election violence, particularly the victims of rape that have not been acknowledged will get the redress they deserve. Although their voices may have been largely silenced at home, they can get justice abroad-proving that justice is a universal principle and that no atrocity committed against another human being can be hidden forever.


By Lloyd Pswarayi

Recently the leading story in the local media was about the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe on her “Meet the People Tour.” The assumption I had was that the primary role of the Secretary of the Women’s League was to advance the cause of women at both party and national levels.  I expected her on her tours to address issues that affect women and what her grand plan to address these would be.

But alas, the real agenda was revealed when the First Lady began to talk about the Vice President, Dr Joice Mujuru. Amai Mugabe went on to attack Dr Mujuru and all her “demonic” clan, declaring that she (the VP) is incompetent at her job of 10 years. The first lady  also ‘exposed’ that the Vice President is corrupt, an extortionist of the highest order, wears ‘short’ dresses in front of boys in her house and has been doing this since her husband, the General was alive.

There is something seriously wrong with this scenario.

First, we the ‘povo’ have castigated the President in the past for recycling incompetent ministers since Independence. We have raised the issue of corrupt ministers in past and present governments who have plundered the nation’s wealth with some owning whole towns and neighbourhoods. These people remain in office today, “advising the President.” Perhaps Amai Mugabe forgot all the others and only remembered Dr Mujuru?

Second, as Secretary for Women’s affairs in the party, we expected Amai Mugabe to use her position of influence to campaign vigorously to promote the rights of women and children in Zimbabwe. One of the issues currently affecting women and children is child marriage. 3 in every 10 girls get married before they turn 18. Societies keep using the excuse that it is their culture or religion to abuse children by forcing them into marriage.

In a case study we conducted as RAU in Goromonzi early in 2014, we established that most of the children in these marriages come from poor families. Most of them drop out of school due to lack of funds.  Having dropped out of school, they are forced to marry early. In some cases, even the traditional leaders are perpetrating this ugly practice. Perhaps with her influence, Amai should have used the “Meet the People Tours” to tell perpetrators of child marriage to “STOP IT!!” She could have concentrated on figuring out how to raise funds for women so they can send their children to school. Perhaps she should have applied her mind to how the economy can work again so that young girls are not pushed to marry out of desperation to escape poverty.

Child marriages compromise the position of women in society. They rob children of a chance to an education and to pursue their dreams. It denies them a chance to be equal members of society competing fairly with men in contributing to society.

Young girls and women are looking up to people like the First Lady to use her position to ease their burdens. As a leader, “Amai Mugabe should have used her Tour to address these challenges.

All hope is not lost, however, there is still the 16 days of activism against gender based violence- an opportunity for her to stand up and say to everyone responsible for violating Women and Girls “STOP IT”!!!

The Succession debate reaches new lows.

So the debate over the appointment of Grace Mugabe reaches new constituencies. The National Council of Chiefs has now weighed in and has endorsed her candidacy. This once again reinforces the point made in RAU’s recent report on succession; that the national constitution and the ZANU PF constitution have become inextricably linked. But it raises also the more serious issue about what does the National Council of Chiefs, or least the President of the National council, think that he or they are doing here taking sides in an internal debate within ZANU PF, and, much more seriously, have they read the new constitution at all.

For those traditional leaders that might be in any doubt about how they should be approaching the succession problem, we invite them to consult the constitution, and particularly Section 281. It is very explicit about what they should actually be doing in respect of the succession debate and leadership in ZANU PF.

281       Principles to be observed by traditional leaders

(1)        Traditional leaders must—

(a)        act in accordance with this Constitution and the laws of Zimbabwe;

(b)        observe the customs pertaining to traditional leadership and exercise their functions for the purposes for which the institution of traditional leadership is recognised by this Constitution;  and

(c)         treat all persons within their areas equally and fairly.

(2)        Traditional leaders must not—

            (a)        be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan politics;

            (b)        act in a partisan manner;

            (c)         further the interests of any political party or cause;  or

            (d)        violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person.

Our reading of Section 281 does not reveal any ambiguities in how the National Council of Chiefs should approach the problem: do not say anything, do not endorse anybody at all, let alone the First Lady, and, above all remember, that it is their duty to treat all persons within their areas equally and fairly.

In addition to the provisions of the new constitution is the Traditional Leaders Act [Chapter 29:11],  promulgated before the new constitution, but saying essentially the same things about the non-partisan nature of traditional leadership. Section 46(1) of the Traditional Leaders Act states clearly that in carrying out their duties the traditional leaders must not be “influenced by any considerations of race, tribe, place of origin, creed, gender or political affiliation”. And the duties of chiefs are equally clear in the Act:

  1. a) promoting and upholding cultural values among members of the community under his jurisdiction, particularly the preservation of the extended family and the promotion of traditional family life;
  2. b) carrying out the functions of a Chief in relation to provincial assemblies (see below);
  3. c) nominating persons for appointment as Headmen by the Minister;
  4. d) approving nominations by Headmen of Village Heads for appointment;
  5. e) supervising Headmen and Village Heads in the performance of their duties;
  6. f) discharging any functions conferred upon him in terms of the Customary Law and Local Courts Act;78
  7. g) overseeing the collection by village heads of levies, taxes, rates and charges payable in terms of the Rural District Councils Act;
  8. h) ensuring that Communal Land is allocated in accordance with the Communal Land Act79and to ensure that the requirements of any enactment in force for the use and occupation of communal or resettlement land are observed;
  9. i) maintaining up-to-date registers of names of villages and their inhabitants
  10. j) preventing any unauthorised settlement or use of any land;
  11. k) notifying the Rural District Council of any intended disposal of a homestead and the permanent departure of any inhabitant from his area, and, acting on the advice of the headman, to approve the settlement of any new settler in his area;
  12. l) adjudicating in and resolving disputes relating to land in his area;
  13. m) and ensuring that the land and its natural resources are used and exploited in terms of the law and, in particular, controlling:

(i) over-cultivation; and

(ii) over-grazing; and

(iii)the indiscriminate destruction of flora and fauna; and

(iv) illegal settlements

and generally preventing the degradation, abuse or misuse of land and natural resources in his area;

  1. n) ensuring that no public property, including roads and bridges, telephone and electricity lines, dip tanks and animal health centres, clinics, churches, cattle-sale pens, schools and related establishments, is damaged, destroyed or misused by the inhabitants or their livestock;
  2. o) notifying the Rural District Council for the area concerned, as soon as is reasonably practicable, of the outbreak of any epidemic or prevailing disease, flood or other natural or unnatural disaster affecting the inhabitants, livestock, crops, the land, flora or fauna in his area;
  3. p) liaising with and assisting development committees established in terms of the Rural District Councils Act in all matters relating to the planning and implementation of local development programmes; and
  4. q) under the direction of the District Administrator or the Rural District Council, as the case may be, assisting drought and famine relief agencies in coordinating relief and related matters in his area.

As can been, these duties are all important aspects of rural life, many of which can be the focus of disputes between citizens, and citizens living within the area of jurisdiction of a chief can have the expectation that dispute will be dealt with in a non-partisan and impartial fashion uninfluenced by any considerations of race, tribe, place of origin, creed, gender or political affiliation. So, the constitution and the Traditional Leaders Act are not in conflict, and traditional leaders need to take heed of both, and take the lead in constitutionalism for the sake of those for whom they are responsible.

From “guided democracy” to “guided succession”?

The debate at the SAPES Trust Policy Dialogue Forum on succession last night, 4th September 2014, offered an insight into why Zimbabwe lurches from crisis to crisis, and why the international community (and investors) is so chary about engaging the country. Derek Matyszak, talking about succession in the Presidency, both the national President and the president of ZANU PF, pointed out that the problem with the new (2013) constitution is that, by default, it imports the ZANU PF constitution into the solution for succession. And as he pointed out, and has argued in a detailed analysis, the problems inherent in the ZANU PF constitution may attenuate the crisis. But since “guided democracy” has always been the way in ZANU PF, perhaps we should worry less about what the ZANU PF constitution says, and try to look into the crystal ball about what exactly are Robert Mugabe’s intentions. Will he guide the succession or leave it to his afterlife?

Stephen Chan, by contrast, offers the “guided succession” view. He did point out how desperately serious is the interaction between succession (and political settlement) and the economic survival of Zimbabwe. He was at pains to point out that, in order for Zimbabwe to attract the critically needed financial assistance, investors and donors need both clarity about the political security of the nation and economic policies that will ensure stability and growth. These latter do not need a genius macro-economist to tell us what to do, and since the SAPES conference earlier this year, it is clear that all local economists, bankers, and business men know what needs to be done. Little happens because the succession problem just won’t go away, and the political governance of both the present and the future remains uncertain.

However, Chan has an optimistic solution: “guided succession”. Offering the view that Mugabe’s elevation to the senior posts in the AU and SADC is a plan by the wise men in Africa to offer Mugabe a graceful exit (no pun intended), and that succession will be a process not an event. Hence, Mugabe will be inveigled to hand over in two years’ time, leaving the party two years to prepare a candidate for the 2018 elections. The question of which candidate is argued to be largely irrelevant since ZANU PF will easily win this election due to the parlous state of the opposition parties.

In Chan’s view, therefore, the anomalies in the ZANU PF constitution and the potential constitutional crisis that could be produced were Mugabe to die, or be unable to carry out his office, are not important. The party will not fragment, but will produce a successor in some fashion.

However, from Matyszak’s perspective, and Zimbabwean citizens generally, will this succession be “lawful”: will the ZANU PF constitution have been followed? The point here is that we, the citizens of Zimbabwe, have had 34 years, during which constitutionalism has been increasingly abandoned, both because of guided democracy and also because it is frequently just too inconvenient, politically speaking, to adhere explicitly to the constitution and the law. This is one of the reasons why there is no foreign direct investment or donor support for balance of payments: no-one is certain that the rule of law will be followed, and surely the manner of succession can strongly reinforce the rule of law or continue to undermine it.

Thus, clarity about succession is critical to restoring confidence and trust in the government.

Firstly, will ZANU PF follow its own constitution in electing a successor for the presidency? And as a starter it would be nice if more than Derek Matyszak knew what was in that constitution, and citizens could be reassured that ZANU PF has some kind of commitment to constitutionalism by making plain to the country (and everyone else) how they go about electing their leadership in a constitutional manner. A constitution that seems a secret document is not a reassuring basis on which to develop trust, and the possibility of a constitutional crisis, which Derek Matyszak suggests can happen, is not a good advertisement for the future, and for present trust in the Zimbabwe government.

Secondly, whether we like the result of the 2013 elections or not, the fact is that ZANU PF will govern until 2018, and may very well, as Stephen Chan argues, win that election too. It does not seem impossible, therefore, for the party to publicly indicate how succession will take place if it is not going to follow the (sort-of) explicit provisions of their constitution. If they are going to give us “guided succession”, well just give it to us, and then one problem can be solved – the matter of political confidence – and we can move onto the more fundamental problem of restoring the economy and giving citizens their livelihoods back.

But, thirdly, perhaps the issue is really that which Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga pointed out, and is inherent in the immense powers of the presidency. As she pointed out, whatever constitutions say, Robert Mugabe is his own man, keeps his own counsel, makes up his own mind, and this is wholly opaque. Succession depends on what Robert Mugabe wants, and he gives us no clues. Thus, no matter what the national constitution says, no matter what the ZANU PF constitution says, no matter what the wise men of the AU and SADC think, and no matter what the international community wants, we, the Zimbabwean citizenry, wait for him to decide, as he has always done.

But, and here’s a thought, and raised at SAPES by a young mathematician from UZ, why do we citizens always wait for the elites to decide, and what can we do to get clarity? Join ZANU PF and demand a copy of the ZANU PF constitution? Try to use the courts to see whether there is the possibility that we can force ZANU PF into internal constitutionalism? Since the ZANU PF constitution, courtesy of their “overwhelming” victory at the polls in 2013, now is tacitly incorporated into the national constitution, don’t citizens have right to know explicitly what will happen and who will take charge? Or will we just meander along from “guided democracy” to “guided succession” and back to “guided democracy”? And why even bother with elections, just create a dynasty!

Tony Reeler, Senior Researcher

New politics, margin of terror, and the 2013 elections

by Tony Reeler

One of the enduring questions raised by the 2013 elections is the magnitude of the win by ZANU PF, and the even more staggering win by Robert Mugabe.  Questions about rigging aside, one relationship that keeps being posed (and answered) is the notion that ZANU PF did so well because the MDCs are so bad. Stephen Chan, a respected Zimbabwe commentator, has raised this recently, pointing out (in his view) that “…Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) performed appallingly. Outwardly confident, it made the same mistakes it had in previous elections – as if internal reflection, self-criticism and learning from mistakes were impossible”.

A similar view is expressed by the Solidarity Peace Trust (SPT):

All these issues point to a party that has not been able to strengthen its organizational and strategic framework against a repressive regime that has constantly harassed its leadership and structures. However, since 2009 these weaknesses have eroded the support of both MDCs, as was evident from opinion polls carried out in 2012, which showed a drop in support for the MDCs and Tsvangirai and an upsurge in popularity for Mugabe and his party. These weaknesses and, of particular importance to the election campaign, the failure of the two MDC formations to develop an electoral pact in 2013, resulted in the loss of several seats to ZANU PF due to a split vote. For example in Matabeleland South, 8 of the 13 seats were lost to ZANU PF because of the this factor, while in Matabeleland North a united opposition would have won 11 of the 13 seats instead of which ZANU PF won 7 out of the 13. Together these factors meant that the MDCs were a much weaker force in 2013 than they were in 2008.

Now we must also note the arguments about ZANU PF developing a strong social base due to land reform and indigenisation, and also the problems of explaining this social base by reference to Mugabe’s 1 million voter margin over Tsvangirai, and concentrate on another source of “evidence” for the result. This is the evidence deriving from public opinion surveys. Essentially, there is an argument that ZANU PF has been increasing in its popularity with the citizens of Zimbabwe, and it is this popularity that explains the election result.

But before looking at this “evidence”, let us look briefly at the argument that ZANU PF obtained this enormous increase due to a massive increase in its “social base”, and we will ignore the issues of whether this is a social base due to “positive affiliation” (identification and voluntary support) or due to “patronage” (compliance and support based on comparative advantage for supporting ZANU PF).

The basis for this “social base” is generally argued to be three-fold: old Liberation War allegiance (mostly in the rural areas), access to land from land reform, and access to the benefits (or hoped-for benefits) of indigenisation. As regards the first of these, it is indisputable that ZANU PF commands voluntary allegiance from substantial rural supporters, and it was largely this group that gave Robert Mugabe his 43% in March 2008. And, in 2008, most land reform had already been in place for nearly 10 years, and that did not seem to give Robert Mugabe the advantage that is alleged he got in 2013. The big benefit on land seems to be increased tobacco production at the cost of food production.

As for indigenisation, it seems fairly clear that there have been few actual beneficiaries in rural communities, especially in Matabeleland North and South, although there are promises for the future when ZANU PF wins the election. So the benefits of indigenisation on the voters must have been expected in the future and a reason to vote for ZANU PF, which may be a possible explanation. However, it should be pointed out that very little of the US$4 billion supposedly realised from indigenisation seems to have landed in the fiscus, so it can equally be argued that the lack of benefits for the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe should have counted against a vote for ZANU PF.

However, the assumption is that the “social base” can be inferred mostly from voter turn out, and there seems a missing step in the logic here.

Contrast these two statements:

If ZANU PF has a social base, they will get lots of votes.
ZANU PF got lots of votes.
Therefore, ZANU PF has a social base.

If ZANU PF gets lots of votes, they have a social base.
ZANU PF has a social base.
Therefore, ZANU PF gets lots of votes.

What is obviously missing here is any obvious link between lots of votes and social base. We can empirically verify the votes: they were in the boxes and counted. We can believe that land reform and indigenisation can make people ZANU PF friendly, but there is a missing step in the logic that shows that being ZANU PF friendly comes from land reform and indigenisation independently of the voter turn-out. This is where public opinion surveys and other forms of social research have their application.

Partial support for many has been a 2012 report by Freedom House, which concluded that support for the MDC-T had slipped markedly – from 38% to 20% – and that for ZANU PF had risen by the same amount – from 17% to 31%.  This report (and the SPT report) is being mendaciously used by the ZANU PF media to “explain the victory”. Essentially, the spin is that, in the period from 2010 to 2012, MDC-T’s support was sliding, and, one year on, ZANU PF’s support had increased so dramatically that the result was intelligible to all on the basis of changes in political party support.

However, basing election outcomes on public opinion surveys is always a dicey affair, especially when so many of the people do not give an opinion. In the Freedom House 2012 survey, 47% were unwilling to state their voting intentions, and this needs to be thought about carefully: nearly half would not say. But presumably, and in the light of 2013, these were interviewees who were worried about declaring their affiliation to ZANU PF for fear of victimisation. Reality suggests that this is not the case!

But there is a more serious problem with reliance on the Freedom House report – that it is not methodologically sound, and its conclusions are probably erroneous. A more empirically sound report, “The Margin of Terror”, was compiled by Michael Bratton and Eldred Masunungure of the Afrobarometer, and this came to rather different and more nuanced conclusions than those of  Freedom House. They also provided a number of reasons why the Freedom House report was methodologically unsound.

Firstly, this report concluded, on simple voter preference, that ZANU PF and MDC-T were in a “statistical dead heat”, with the former getting 32% and the latter 31%, and only 22% were unwilling to state their preference. This did represent a decline for the MDC-T from the post 2008 election heyday to early 2009 where expressed preference for MDC-T was 57% to ZANU PF’s 10%. So the difference here between Freedom House and the Afrobarometer is both over the extent of the decline and the final positions that both parties found themselves in 2012.

Secondly, Bratton and Masunungure posed two hypotheses to account for the decline: one was the positive effect of improved government performance, and the second was the negative effect of political fear. They tested both, and the conclusions, on face value, supported both working in favour of ZANU PF.

After careful statistical analysis, it appears that some voters attributed the improved “right” direction, the “good” management of the economy, and “improved educational services” to ZANU PF’s role in the Inclusive Government. This is a paradoxical finding, given that MDC-T was responsible for fiscal control and MDC for education. This would support a view that the MDCs were not marketing themselves as effectively during the GPA as ZANU PF, and even provides support for the SPT thesis about a growing social base. But there was more to come.

On political fear, the study revealed a negative relationship between an interviewee’s expectations of violence and an intended vote for ZANU PF, and, more interestingly, that silencing opponents was more likely to make an interviewee vote against ZANU PF. Most interesting of all, the more likely an interviewee was to perceive the survey as government-sponsored, the more likely they were to express preference for ZANU PF. Furthermore, this last factor had the strongest effect on whether a person would come out openly in support of ZANU PF, and strongly suggests the operation of political fear.

However, Bratton and Masunungure then tease out the effects of people that perceive the survey to be government-sponsored and hence fearful of being honest. Through a slightly complicated analysis, they then conclude that the probable split of support for the various political parties in 2012 was MDC-T (49%), ZANU PF (45%), and all the others put together (7%). This was almost exactly, as they point out the split that obtained in the March 2008 poll, and, as they say, the analysis implies that, if voting intentions do not change, Zimbabwe can expect another close election in 2013.

If this had been the case, then Tsvangirai should have got 1.7 million votes and Mugabe 1.5 million, but actually Mugabe got 700,000 more votes against this supposed trend, and actually got 1.03 million more votes than he got in 2008, a more than 95.46% increase. But interestingly, Tsvangirai got pretty much the same number of votes as he got in 2008.

Well, opinion surveys certainly cannot argue against ballots in the box, all 3.4 million of them. But then Zimbabwe tends to disconfirm all the more general findings of political science, as we have pointed out before: clearly trends only mean things in countries other than Zimbabwe. However, given the support of analyses of the Voters’ Roll (especially in comparison with the census), it can be argued that the survey is likely to be more accurate than election result, and it still remains to explain the result on grounds more closely related to the process of the election itself.

In Zimbabwe, other trends seem to apply. Zimbabwe sees ZANU PF losing ground, regaining it through violent elections, and then being returned with two-thirds majorities in a subsequent “peaceful” election. 2013 marks the end a second such cycle in Zimbabwe: 2000 was fairly violent, 2002 was at least as violent as 2008, and 2005 was peaceful. Then we have the peaceful poll in March 2008, the horrors of June 2008, and the peaceful poll in July 2013. And obviously citizen’s opinions (and their votes) have very little to do with it. No wonder some commentators, like Dr Mandaza, wonder why we bother with elections: all they do is make a mockery of the best that political science can offer!