Zimbabwe’s ‘New Dispensation’ That Never Was!

By Tendai Ruben Mbofana

As the violence, persecution, and repression of Zimbabwean opposition figures – most recently, Tendai Biti of the MDC Alliance, who had to flee to neighboring Zambia – continue unabated, people from all around the world, and particularly in Zimbabwe, are finally awakening to the realization that what they believed was a ‘new dispensation’ was just but a fallacy.

Typical of most crooks – who pretend to be what they are not – it does not take long before their true colours come to the fore, and are exposed for who they truly are.

ZANU PF has always been a divisive, oppressive and violent political party ever since its formation in 1963, and has never changed over its 55 years of existence.

It is then a huge mystery why anyone would have swallowed hook, line and sinker the yarn that, suddenly and overnight, this blood-thirsty political outfit – which prides itself with war – would change and become the dove of peace, unity and development.

In fact, our elders in the rural areas, where ZANU PF’s military wing ZANLA operated during the liberation struggle, have gruelling accounts of the heinous crulty these forces committed on innocent civilians, whom they killed, tortured, and raped under the pretext that they were ‘sellouts’, and whose cattle they blatantly slaughtered for their (ZANLA forces’) own consumption – events which still traumatize these communities, leading to fear that characterise their voting patterns even today.

Ever since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, when ZANU PF came to power, the regime has always been propped up by the military – starting off between 1982 and 1987 with the atrocious Gukurahundi genocide, where over 20,000 unarmed men, women, and children were mercilessly massacred in the Midlands and Matebeleland provinces – which I personally witnessed.

At a rally my late father attended in the early 1980s – as he was a district party official – the current president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa – who was state security minister at the time – even encouraged ZANU PF supporters to go drinking alcohol, and on their way back home, beat up Ndebele people.

ZANU PF violence against perceived opponents – who were never a security threat – especially, through the misuse of the nation’s defense forces – did not stop there, as in 2008 – after the defeat of then president Robert Gabriel Mugabe to the MDC’s Morgan Richard Tsvangirai – led to the heartless killing and torture of hundreds of innocent people.

Therefore, my question is: why would anyone celebrate when this same military eventually overthrew Mugabe and installed Mnangagwa – although they are, in fact, the de facto leaders of Zimbabwe?

Why would anyone believe the Mnangagwa military regime when it started talking about peace, unity, and free, fair and credible elections?

Furthermore, why would anyone have taken the relatively peaceful atmosphere before the 30 July 2018 harmonized elections to be a serious sign of a ‘new dispensation’?

The violence that has re-sprouted in Zimbabwe was never a surprise, as it was more than clear that there was another reason for the relative peace – but, certainly it was not because the cheetah had suddenly changed its spots!

The reason was that, after the ousting of Mugabe, and the reckless public celebrations that followed, Mnangagwa and his military comrades, unwisely believed that they had the full support of the vast majority of Zimbabweans, and were so sure of winning resoundingly the harmonized elections – thus, they saw no need for their usual violent nature.

Similarly, they saw this as an opportunity to legitimize their rule, through the endorsement of the elections by the wider international community – as such, they readily invited observers from countries and regions previously considered hostile.

This belief was bolstered by the ill-advised acceptance and welcoming of the November 2017  military coup d’etat by the international community, especially countries that one would have expected to hold very high democratic values, ideals and expectations.

Additionally, the military junta’s ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra further emboldened them to believe that the promise of companies opening in the country, and the creation of jobs, would guarantee Mnangagwa a larger than life victory.

This was the fallacy of the so-called ‘new dispensation’.

This military junta genuinely believed that Zimbabweans would be so naive as to forget the ruthlessness of the past committed against the people by these very same people who were now mascarading as a ‘new dispensation’.

However, as the presidential results were announced, it became clear that Mnangagwa was going to just scrap through to win with a paltry 50.8 per cent – a figure even the opposition MDC Alliance is challenging as cooked up, as they alleged that he actually lost – the junta could not help but put aside its charade of a peace-loving group, and reverted to its true character of violence.

From the presidential election results announced by the mistrusted Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), it was there for all to see that the people had not fallen for the myth of a ‘new dispensation’.

In fact, the concerted efforts by Mnangagwa and his ZANU PF party to convince the people that they honestly won the elections – including, being critical of the MDC Alliance’s constitutional right to challenge the results in the courts – leads one to suspect that maybe the opposition is right.

It can no longer be doubted that this ‘new dispensation’ never existed outside ZANU PF speeches, and the state media.

How can the old guard, that had terrorised the people of this country, ever since the liberation struggle, and into ‘independent’ Zimbabwe, be trusted when they claim that they are now a ‘new dispensation’, just because they ousted one man – Mugabe?

The ZANU PF regime’s ruthless machinery was never a one-man-band, but an entire system whose ‘new dispensation’ junta was firmly an integral part of.

The international community, which condoned the alleged ‘peaceful transfer of power’ in November 2017 – another fallacy, as several former regime cabinet ministers had to flee for their lives, after their homes were attacked by gun-wielding people – should now wake up to the fact that nothing has changed in Zimbabwe, as far as its human rights record is concerned.

The greatest mistake was that the world should never have been so obsessed with Mugabe and his removal, as opposed to removing the entire system – as such, when the coup d’etat occurred, most people lost their common senses, and welcomed the very people who violated them, as heroes.

I personally have been an anti-Mugabe activist for years, but never welcomed the coup d’etat, as it was obvious where all this was heading.

Today, the country is back to a fearful people, who will again start fleeing to other countries.

Typical of ZANU PF, when the situation becomes desperate, they will resort to other drastic actions, as what happened with the chaotic and violent land reform programme in 2000.

In fact, this is not the first time that Zimbabweans have experienced this charade of ‘peaceful’ elections, as the first round of the 2008 harmonized elections were relatively peaceful, free and fair.

However, when it became apparent that Mugabe had lost to Tsvangirai, ZANU PF’s violence machinery came into full force – leading to the opposition’s boycott of the presidential run-off in June, which resulted in the Government of National Unity (GNU).

Thus, those international countries that saw it fit to celebrate this coup d’etat, will very soon be regretting – as Zimbabweans are already realizing – when their business interests will again be targeted by the junta, as the usual populist culture of a ZANU PF placed in a corner.

The cycle will certainly repeat itself, as Zimbabweans will soon be back in the abyss of company closures, unemployment, and so forth.

Everyone, both in Zimbabwe and abroad, should now wake up and realize that recycling and trusting those that have already proven over decades to be ruthless tyrants, to have suddenly metamorphosis-ed into democrats, is the gravest foolishness of all.

There will never be a genuinely new dispensation as long as the current ZANU PF system is in place.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is the Programmes Director with the Zimbabwe Network for Social Justice (ZimJustice). Please feel free to email: zimjustice@gmail.com. Please also ‘Like’ the ‘ZimJustice’page on Facebook.

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