Four scenarios confront Zimbabweans as they prepare to go to the polls at the weekend: a Robert Mugabe victory, the most likely outcome; a second round of voting; a victory for the majority faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) under Morgan Tsvangirai; and a disputed election.
Scenario 1: Mugabe wins
If Mugabe wins a sixth presidential term it will not be more of the same for ordinary Zimbabweans: it will be much worse.
The massive resources Mugabe devoted to his election campaign will be added to state debt, which will have to be serviced by whoever wins the election.
Mugabe’s government is not leaving anything to chance and a result in his favour seems likely.
Nine-million ballots are being printed for the 5,9-million voters, while 600Ã‚Â 000 postal ballots have been prepared for fewer than 30Ã‚Â 000 voters on national duty and those eligible for postal votes.
State radio and television remain in Mugabe’s pocket, with his lengthy speeches at election rallies overshadowing every news bulletin.
The gains the MDC has apparently made in rural areas may be reversed by voters who believe that ”if you vote wrongly, they [Zanu-PF] will know”.
If Mugabe wins, a new round of government purges is possible, starting with anyone who showed enthusiasm when former finance minister Simba Makoni broke ranks.
Although high-ranking Zanu-PF members such as vice-president Joyce Mujuru, and her husband, Solomon, are rumoured to support Makoni, very few have dared to endorse him publicly.
Given Makoni’s support in the military, the intelligence community and among government officials, an ”Operation Murambatsvina” in the public service is expected.
But with the overwhelming opposition to him in urban areas and growing disenchantment in the countryside, Mugabe is unlikely to deliver the landslide victory he has promised his supporters. In that case, he will be unable to maintain his iron hold on Zanu-PF.
The defection of Makoni and Dumiso Dabengwa, top members of his politburo, means he can no longer credibly claim to lead a united party. A poor showing at the polls will give those inside his party added grounds to demand reform.
Scenario 2: A run-off
Mugabe will do everything in his power to avoid a second round of voting if he fails to win an overall majority, as this would force the opposition to present a united front. Spurred on by the fact that their votes may bring change, opposition voters could mount a major offensive.
But they will pay a high price. Bloodshed is predicted during the 21-day hiatus required before a second round of voting.
Mugabe is expected to use every trick in the book, including manoeuvres barred by the Southern African Development Community election guidelines, which gave him victory in previous elections.
Especially in previously Zanu-PF strongholds where allegiances have shifted, widespread violence and intimidation are expected.
A run-off between Tsvangirai and Mugabe, rather than Mugabe and Makoni, is the most likely scenario.
This would, however, force the MDC to iron out the acute differences that led the Mutambara faction to throw its weight behind the Makoni campaign.
An attempt to unify the opposition earlier this year failed, showing that significant horse-trading will be needed, both for the run-off and to ensure that the new alignment remains intact.
Scenario 3: Tsvangirai wins
This is the least-likely scenario, thanks to the institutional impediments in the MDC’s way.
Constituency borders have been gerrymandered to favour Zanu-PF and the number of urban polling stations restricted, giving each voter nine seconds to make a choice.
The opposition remains constrained by not having won over the army, which remains the biggest beneficiary of Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono’s largesse. In the past three months, government debt has risen from Z$24-trillion to Z$1,6-quadrillion, most of which was used to finance state programmes launched during the election campaign period.
Most analysts agree that a Tsvangirai win is also a recipe for bloodshed — security force chiefs have warned they will not accept such an outcome.
Tendai Biti, secretary general of the MDC (Tsvangirai) says such tactics would merely delay the inevitable. ”To let the army loose will, at best, buy him [Mugabe] a few weeks, but he will not succeed. If he tries that, he is guaranteed a dishonourable exit and he will want to save face.”
Former MDC MP Munyaradzi Gwisayi predicts Algerian-style turmoil if Tsvangirai wins. The Algerian army seized power to prevent an Islamist election victory and there has been fighting ever since.
If the MDC wins, Tsvangirai will have to start the colossal task of rebuilding Zimbabwe.
He has already told the Wall Street Journal that he will reverse Mugabe’s ”land reform programme” and return the whites who were forcibly removed to their farms.
He will then need to start re-aligning the opposition and bringing the so-called Mavambo group — the Mutambara faction of the MDC combined with independent candidates who united under Makoni’s banner — into the fold.
Scenario 4: Disputed election
If Mugabe wins in disputed circumstances — the most likely outcome — Zimbabwe is unikely to follow Kenya’s lead by undergoing weeks of crippling post-election violence.
Mugabe has threatened to quell any violence that may attend his re-election and neither the opposition nor dissidents in Zanu-PF are sufficiently strong or organised to offer significant resistance.
However, a spate of opposition protests, met with arrests and beatings, is certainly possible. As after the police assaults on Tsvangirai last year, this would trigger international outrage and regional intervention, with the result that South Africa would once again be dragged into the crisis.
This is the last thing President Thabo Mbeki wants. He is keen to see an end to the endless shuttle diplomacy aimed at brokering a settlement between the MDC and Zanu-PF. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aziz Pahad has said Zimbabwe cannot afford another disputed election.
But another possible consequence of a disputed election would be intensified pressure on Mugabe to concede to a government of national unity accommodating either Tsvangirai or Makoni.
Voice of the people
Memory Dube is a popular figure at the Plumtree border post; indeed, she is on first-name terms with both the Zimbabwean and Botswanan immigration officers.
On the Botswana side the usually hostile immigration officials wave at her. When she reaches the border gate Dube simply asks the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority officers whether they want a Coke or a Fanta.
The drink exempts her from duty for the goods bulging out of the boot of her car.
Dube is a bank teller who turned professional smuggler two years ago to earn a living on the ”parallel” market because she couldn’t make ends meet.
”We can’t continue living like this,” Dube said. ”I go to Botswana twice a week and this is what I have to go through each time I cross the border.
”If I pay duty, I won’t make any profit and my family will starve. I yearn for the days when I could wake up in the morning and come home in the evening after a day’s work.
”It’s now or never,” Dube said. ”Zimbabwe has to reclaim its pride because we are tired of being lampooned by our neighbours each time we visit their countries.”
She is confident that Simba Makoni will pip Robert Mugabe in the presidential race.
Kennedy Shoko, a barber at a downtown hair salon, says his only major worry is that the opposition might not be able to turn the crowds it has been attracting in campaign rallies into votes.
”Most of these youths who have been running around are not registered voters,” Shoko said. ”It’s clear that they are after beer and they have no interests in voting.
”But in the rural areas Zanu-PF is going to make it a point that traditional leaders take their people to polling stations and that is how Mugabe will win.”
Shoko, an avid MDC-Tsvangirai supporter, said he cannot vote on Saturday because he does not have the bus fare to travel to his rural home in Mberengwa, where he is registered.
Harare businessman Moses Mazhande (53), is typical of the residents of the Zimbabwean capital, who are overwhelmingly anti-Mugabe.
Mazhande, who runs a stationery shop in the central city, said he was eager for voting to start. ”I want to vote to end people’s suffering. I tell you, come Saturday, people will troop to polling centres in large numbers because they have suffered enough.”
Amos (36), a lawyer with one of Harare’s leading law firms, who asked not to be named, said he would wake up early on Saturday morning to cast the first vote to force Mugabe out of power.
Amos also applauded the peaceful campaigning, contrasting it with previous elections when opposition supporters were intimidated, tortured or killed by Zanu-PF youth militia and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives.
”These days I can proudly and without fear wear my MDC T-shirts and a Zanu-PF supporter do the same. Fear is no more and people want change,” he said.
Amos said the crowds attending Morgan Tsvangirai’s rallies, compared to those at Mugabe’s and Makoni’s, indicate that Tsvangirai will emerge as the victor. He believes Makoni will help split ”the few remaining Zanu-PF votes”.
Mimrod Tokwe, a vegetable vendor from this Zanu-PF stronghold about 200km east of Harare, believes that no amount of vote rigging will keep Mugabe in power.
”In previous elections we were being forced to vote for Zanu-PF. Not this time. We are telling them to go to hell because we have suffered enough,” he said, while counting a huge bundle of bearer cheques, the proceeds of his sales.
”Zanu-PF has been giving us empty promises for the past three decades.”
Tinashe Mutendi (26), a trainee teacher from Buhera, fears that there will be post-election violence. ”If Mugabe refuses to go, people will revolt and this will result in clashes like the ones we witnessed in Kenya.”
Already, people here are stocking up on food, fearing that the area could be hit by violence. — Natasha Hove and John Makura, CAJ News