Review of Defying the Winds of Change, Zimbabwe's 2008 elections - The Zimbabwean

How Mugabe defied the winds of change

Published in The Zimbabwean on 14th March 2010

Defying the Winds of Change,
Zimbabwe's 2008 elections (ed.) E.V Masunungure, Weaver Press and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Harare, 2009.


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Defying the Winds of Change, Zimbabwe's 2008 Elections - Mukai

Defying the Winds of Change, Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections.

Edited by Eldred Masunungure,

Weaver Press, 2009. 175 pp.


By Father David Harold Barry, Director Silveira House

NO. 1 51 February 2010

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Review of Defying the Winds of Change - Prof. Lloyd Sachikonye

Defying the Winds of Change: Zimbabwe’s 2008 Elections
E.V.Masunungure (ed.) (2009)     
Weaver Press and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 177pp. 
Reviewed by Professor Lloyd Sachikonye, Institute of Development Studies, University of Zimbabwe.

For many years to come, Zimbabwe’s elections in 2008 will be viewed as watershed elections as well as a subject of intense analysis, controversy and comparative interest. They will be largely remembered as the elections which terminated Zanu PF’s parliamentary majority and therefore its ruling party status since Independence. Many will remember them for Morgan Tsvangirai’s triumph in the first round of the presidential contest. There have been numerous articles on the conduct and outcome of the elections in the local and international media, in scholarly journals and periodicals. But none of this outpouring can match the analytical depth and scope of a new collection of essays by Zimbabwean scholars mostly based at the University of Zimbabwe and those associated with the Harare-based Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI). Drawing upon both senior scholars and young and promising researchers, this excellent collection has been edited by Eldred Masunungure, a respected and seasoned analyst of Zimbabwean politics.

The book begins by observing that elections remain the most effective device for connecting citizens to policy makers. Elections should be an expression of the people’s will and choice. They are a formal expression of democratic sovereignty. Unfortunately, the 2008 elections, especially the presidential run-off, failed to be a credible expression of the people’s will. Indeed, the conduct of the run-off election consciously sought to defy ‘winds of change’ which the first part of the election on March 29 heralded.

The book highlights the link between the state of the economy and the outcome of the 2008 election. In essence, it was ‘the economy stupid’. The chapter by Eustinah Tarisayi chronicles how Zimbabwe stood on the edge of precipice into a state of despair in an economy wracked by the highest inflation in the world, endemic shortages of every basic commodity and over 80 per cent unemployment. The chapter by Anyway Ndapwadza and Ethel Muchena shows how public opinion studies conducted by MPOI were vindicated by the outcomes in contrast to those by Zanu PF aligned researchers. Andrew Moyse explains how the repressive and poisoned media environment militated against free and fair elections. There follow analytical chapters by Greg Linington on the conduct of the presidential election and run-off , and by John Makumbe on partisanship of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). Observing that not once did it issue a statement or release an advertisement condemning political violence, Makumbe argues strongly that ZEC proved not to be an effective and autonomous electoral body.

Civil society organizations played an important role in the run up to the elections but also in civic education, election monitoring and observation. Derek Matyszak explains how civil society played a crucial role in exposing democratic and electoral malpractice in the face of state repression and at great personal risk to its staff members. Simon Badza then explores the regional and international context of the elections, and the lead up to negotiations for the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

Representing the heart of the book, the chapters by Eldred Masunungure are substantive ones. Assessing both 29 March and 27 June elections, he describes as sharply contrasting: the former were peaceful and even enjoyable while the latter were the ‘bloodiest’ since Independence. Indeed, it will be the 27 June election against which Zimbabwe’s record in electoral management will be judged. Masunungure assesses this ‘militarised election’ in which there was an unprecedented role for the ‘military/security/militia’ complex and the attendant systemic violence and intimidation. This made the presidential run-off an election without a choice with the resultant ballot more a barometer of people’s fears than of people’s choices.

This is a significant book on contemporary Zimbabwean politics and electoral process. As the constitutional reform process unfolds, and the prospects for a new round of elections in the next 15 months increase, analysts, politicians and interested citizens would do well to read this excellent collection of essays on the events they have lived through. The haunting question will nevertheless remain: for how long can the ‘winds of change’ be defied?


Speech Made by Mr Sternford Moyo on the Occasion of the Launch of Defying the Winds of Change

Mr Sternford Moyo giving the keynote speech at the Launch of Defying the Winds of ChangeSternford Moyo's speech launching the collection of essays Defying the Winds of Change: Zimbabwe's 2008 elections may now be found here.

The book was launched at the Zimbabwe German Society in Harare on 29th October 2009.

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