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.


2008 went down as the year when President Robert Mugabe should have bid good-bye to the state presidency and all the comforts that come with being a Head of State.

His exit strategy was clearly worked out by a combination of factors as Zimbabweans went to the polls. His imminent departure from State house was given a big boost by the results of the 29 March 2008 harmonised elections that confirmed he had become unpopular with the electorate.

But foxy Mugabe staged what can be called the most dramatic and bloody campaign to forestall the change.

The harmonised elections of March 2008, hailed by many observer missions as
largely free and fair, and the result as a true reflection of people's choices, had given Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC majority votes. But the presidential election result, kept a secret for four weeks by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, showed there was no clear winner for the presidency. Therefore, there had to be a run-off, pitting the top two candidates - Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe.

And this book is about how Mugabe cruelly turned the tide, against all known electoral conventions - local and international - to 'win' back the presidency by a landslide.

Mugabe must have felt a sense of grievous personal loss and humiliation. His power base - the military/security establishment - also got angry on his behalf once the initial results showed he was losing. The loss had to be avenged, and those who had caused it - the MDC in particular and the voters in general - had to be 'disciplined' for their 'delinquent' conduct on 29 March 2008.

The strategy first centred on the media. Andrew Moyse, director of the Media
Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe, believes all the evil we saw in the media in
the period between harmonised elections and the presidential run-off had its
roots in the period just after the 2000 referendum.

"In many ways the constitutional referendum of 2000 defined the nature of today's media landscape (43)".

Civil society and the independent press had joined forces to counter the propaganda that came from the government-controlled media that was campaigning for the draft constitution. The result was a rejection of the draft constitution, and by extension the rejection of Zanu (PF) and its tired policies.

In response, "a host of blatantly unconstitutional and repressive laws were
enacted that effectively emasculated the independent media and deprived the
nation of its rights to freedom of expression...(44)"

At least four newspapers were closed under these harsh laws and scores of journalists
harassed, arrested, detained and thrown out of work. One was even murdered! (44)

Despite the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation's (ZBC's) publicised promise that it would abide by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission's (ZEC) media regulations that demanded fair, equitable and balanced coverage of contestants at least 21 days before the 29 March 2008 election, its coverage of contesting parties showed a complete disregard for these provisions.

Instead, the political leadership and journalists working for state media "employed unacceptably offensive, false and intolerant language," first to persuade the electorate not to vote for people and parties opposing Zanu (PF) and then to threaten them particularly in the presidential run-off. (54)

Before the run-off election, "contrary to media regulations, the MDC was denied all access to the government media and the daily hate campaign ...against its presidential candidate became a tidal wave of venomous insults, threats and false allegations." (52)

The propaganda line was the same in all state media outlets: the opposition were "puppets of the British whose intentions were to resist the land reforms and surreptitiously 'recolonize' Zimbabwe' (53).

The media campaign was not enough for Mugabe to forestall the winds of
change pronounced with the results of the harmonised elections. With the
state media covering his back in those elections, he still came second to
Morgan Tsvangirai.

The risk was great and there had to be another strategy - bringing in the military. Eldred Masunungure, a political scientist believed the force behind the militarised election of June 27 was the Joint Operations Command (JOC), a military/security body comprising heads of security organs, which "decided within days of the (29 March) election to deploy a strategy of delay and violence in order to hold on to the
all-important executive" (81).

The brutal campaign that followed was code named CIBD, an acronym for Coercion, Intimidation, Beating, and Displacement (87). The vicious campaign also included torture, arson, kidnapping and murder of opposition supporters. This bloody crackdown was reportedly orchestrated and systematically executed by soldiers, police, state security agents, Zanu (PF) militia, and veterans of the liberation war.

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace graphically captured some
aspects of the pre-election violence cited in this book: "People are being
force-marched to political re-orientation meetings and are told that they
voted 'wrongly' in the presidential poll on 29 March 2008 and that on 27
June 2008, they will be given the last opportunity to 'correct' their
mistake, else the full-scale shooting war of the 1970's will resume " (89).

The result was Tsvangirai's withdrawal from the run-off five days from the
polling day and the subsequent one-man race that had Mugabe winning

Even the hand-picked international observers who covered the elections were
united in their judgement: "The elections did not represent the will of the
people of Zimbabwe"(95).

Reading this book really brought back the sad memories of 2008. The
extensive citations and hard work put into it by many Zimbabweans makes it
to me so far the best graphical and analytical tool ever produced of the monster that tore our society two years ago apart , and from which we are still struggling to recover. - In Touch Jesuit Communications.

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

‘ZANU PF fought for you, for your rights, land and a bright future This legacy should not simply be vanquished by the stroke of a pen at the ballot just because I am not getting basic goods … Otherwise a simple X would have taken the country back to 1890.’ So spoke President Mugabe according to The Sunday Mail, June 15, 2008. Of all the explanations Robert Mugabe has given for effectively forcing his rival to abandon the run off in June 2008 this (quoted on p. 60 of the book under review) is one of the most revealing - and chilling. He clearly believes, and his supporters share this belief, that he has a right to govern this country whatever the people say through their votes. What is excruciating about this stance is the memory of the 1960s when ZANU and ZAPU’s cry ‘one man, one vote’ was dismissed by the Rhodesians as ‘one man, one vote, once.’ To discover that this cynicism would come true all these years later is indeed painful.

Defying the Winds of Change is a study of the two elections in 2008, one on March 29th and the second, the run-off, on June 27th. Eldred Masunungure has a assembled a variety of writers who describe the events from different viewpoints; the economic and social situation, the media, the legal approach and the military. What emerges is a reasonably fair first round leading to a shock result for ZANU PF who then swung into action, violent action, to ensure the second round brought the result they wanted. The editor summarises his thoughts as follows (p. 97): the 27 June election was ‘heavily militarised and the resultant ballot was more a barometer of people’s fears than of people’s choices. … It failed to settle the question of who should legitimately lead the people of Zimbabwe. … This set the stage for the search for a non-electoral solution to the Zimbabwe crisis.’

Greg Linington (p 109) goes deeply into the process from the legal point of view pointing out inconsistencies as the law stands and concluding that strictly speaking Morgan Tsvangirai is the legal President of Zimbabwe. But since when has the law been strictly applied? 

Derek Matyszak points to a question on the MDC side (p 142). Since the results were posted at every polling station in the country on the day after the elections they had the opportunity of tabulating ‘clear and indisputable figures’ relating to the presidential and the other results. Why did they fail to challenge the Electoral Commission and the Mugabe regime and allow them to ‘drip feed’ the results to the country?

In the final chapter Simon Badza analyses the reactions of regional and international countries and organisations and finds (p 175) that the AU and SADC in particular showed an ‘inexcusable lack of commitment to enforcing their own institutional principles on member states.’ Many years ago the Rhodesian Front defied the ‘winds of change’ on the grounds that ‘Rhodesia is different.’ Badza finds that although there are new players the tune is the same. ‘Zimbabwe  conducted its harmonised elections using its own preferred “principles and guidelines” (p.174).

There is one omission in the book that I was surprised to find. No writer mentions the strong rumour a day or two after the March election that when Mugabe learnt of the results he was prepared to stand down but his service chiefs persuaded him to stay on, indicating that they would fix things for him. This rumour has been voiced many times though that still does not make it more than a rumour. Still, if there is even some truth in it, it does credit to the old man.

Anyone wishing to understand the crucial events of 2008 would be well advised to study this short book.

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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