HARARE – Zimbabwe is on the edge of bedlam owing to a disputed presidential poll.
A declared winner of the poll, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is seemingly not in full control of apparatus of the State security.
Official, albeit disputed, elections results show that Mnangagwa “won” by a small margin while the “losing” candidate, Nelson Chamisa, believes that he also won.
Chamisa says he has evidence to prove his win, though he is yet to produce it.
Meanwhile security forces are on high alert, suburban residents in Harare claim being harassed and assaulted.
The military is still deployed in the streets for no clear reason.
Opposition officials and acquaintances report being harassed, arrested and their homes being besieged by security forces.
The unfortunate military deployment on August 1, 2018 that saw the killing of seven unarmed civilians and wounding of dozens more cannot be justified and was unnecessary avoidable disproportionate use of force on unarmed civilians.
The burning of cars and destruction of property by alleged opposition supporters supposedly protesting poll rigging, was uncalled for and unnecessary as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) deadline for announcement of poll results had not elapsed.
Legal and other internal mechanisms had not been exhausted to deal with poll-related grievances.
MDC Alliance does not disown the demonstrations, but denies the violence and allege that perpetrators who destroyed property were moles.
While this violence was unfortunate and avoidable, it cannot, in any way, be used to justify military deployment as police could have contained it.
To make matters worse, military and police command is not clear and there is growing evidence of lack of cohesiveness in government.
Mnangagwa, Chamisa have significant numbers
With all this, the fact of the matter is both Chamisa and Mnangagwa managed to get over two million votes each out of over five million registered voters in Zimbabwe.
Despite the disputes on the actual votes each got, the fact is both leaders have significant supporters who voted for them.
A government that takes shape in the next weeks must have roles for both men if our country is to have cohesion and stability.
Emphasise on our commonalities
To get Zimbabwe out of current quagmire, we all need to understand that we are all Zimbabweans, first and foremost.
Despite our different political identities as ruling and opposition supporters we have a country we have to protect and a country we must not mutilate, a country that is our heritage, a country we have to leave behind for our children and their children as a prosperous and promising one.
We have many things in common as Zimbabweans than the political identities dividing us.
It is those commonalities we have to look at how get out of the current political gulch.
To move the country forward, required are not hardliner winner-take-all positions.
Mnangagwa by Zec declaration won by a small margin and Chamisa by opposition claims also won by a small margin.
This is an electoral logjam involving two leaders who got the highest votes for the nation’s apex job.
To get out of this snarl-up we need to put our nation first and adopt Rumian wisdom, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about”.
Certainly a Mnangagwa or Chamisa presidency
Whatever the outcome of court appeals or other mechanisms that maybe used, its either Mnangagwa or Chamisa will be president.
Both men have significant numbers of Zimbabweans who voted for them. It is therefore important that a win-win approach to resolve the current tangle be found. Our courts will produce a loser and a winner, just like the elections.
This will not help in fostering the much-needed national cohesion and stability. On the other hand violence as was seen on August 1, will have all of us as losers.
Lives will be needlessly lost, families will be torn apart, Zimbabwe will remain with a rogue nation tag where rights and property are not protected making it less attractive to any serious investor.
This will definitely destroy prospects of economic recovery, poverty alleviation, employment creation among other promises both candidates pledged to deliver on.
While in other democracies losing candidates would concede defeat regardless of the circumstances for the sake of the nation to move ahead, I don’t see either Mnangawa or Chamisa doing so.
This is partly because our leaders don’t put the nation first. They lack trust in the independence of our weak institutions such as Zec and don’t take responsibility for any serious issues that come up as a result of their commissions or omissions.
As we have seen both Mnangagwa and Chamisa preferred to trade blame on killings of civilians and destruction of property on August 1.
Neither accepted responsibility as leaders. At the centre of it all is a defective Constitution crafted through a political parties-driven as opposed to a people-driven process.
The main political parties Chamisa and Mnangagwa lead were its authors.
The hollowness of the Constitution is behind our weak institutions, bad governance and inadequate provisions for running of free and fair elections.
Depending on developments in next few days and weeks we are likely to have three gateways out of the political logjam
Winner take all
The first one will be an extreme position where the winner is not magnanimous in triumph and the loser is not gracious in rout.
This will mean either a Mnangagwa all Zanu PF government or a Chamisa all MDC Alliance government if courts or whatever process turn down Mnangagwa’s victory.
Either positions would leave our nation divided and will mean that there are losers and winners.
This will create resentment, umbrage and perpetuate polarisation in our heavily-divided nation.
Winner magnanimous in victory, loser gracious in defeat
The second position will be where the one with fewer votes concedes defeat graciously and the winner is magnanimous in victory.
And if it’s all about Zimbabwe and not power for the sake of it, the conceding leader will play a key role in leading a strong opposition that keeps the ruling party in check. This is good for a healthy democracy.
A magnanimous winner interested in transforming Zimbabwe will be expected to reach out to the losing candidate and also appoint into Cabinet talented opposition members of parliament in areas their skills and talents fit.
There are a lot of vibrant, qualified, and talented persons of good character among the MDC Alliance parliamentary elects whom Zimbabwe will benefit from if their skills are deployed in a new government.
The same is with Zanu PF parliamentary elects. The winner will also be expected to reach out beyond the two parties and outside political parties for other talented Zimbabweans to be appointed into government in one way or the other to help rebuild our beautiful nation.
This approach will pacify a nation, and make all feel they belong to it and have a say in the affairs of their country.
It will foster national cohesion and health competition.
A third gateway will be to do a government of national unity for the next five years with clear benchmarks on what the government must achieve in the five-year period.
Key among these will be to review the Constitution in a more people-centered process so that the current document has adequate provisions for protection of the independence of commissions and other institutions, as well as clear and elaborate safeguards for free and fair elections.
Other priorities will be legal reforms and aligning our laws to the Constitution, civil service reforms and so forth.
Unlike in the 2009-2013 GNU experiment, the Cabinet must be lean and occupied by talented people from both parties and not just appointing people for political expediency.
This route, while not the best will at least create some stability and foster national cohesion if the officials in government put the nation first ahead of their narrow political interests.
A strong opposition would have to emerge from actors outside the GNU to keep the new government on check.
* Saungweme, a political/economic commentator/analyst and development specialist has vast experience and interest in governance, elections and conflict transformation programming. He spent time in conflict hotspots such as Afghanistan, southern Ethiopia, north east Nigeria, Sudan and South Sudan among other conflict spaces.