Retributive triumphalism: The hallmark of illegitimacy

By Richard Gandari

Dictatorship looks invincible from a distance, but its hollow core is a laughable fiasco. 

In this day and age, no nation can hope for any progress under the clueless rule of a tinpot dictator. 

Cavemen leading their clans had better prospects for success than the occult administration of a despotic ruler.

It must ring true even to the staunchest tyrant that dictatorship is a hard sell in today’s world. That is why every dictator tries his best to masquerade as a democrat.

Unfortunately, the pretense strictly demands periodic elections, whose outcomes are not always favorable for the incumbent. The correlation between credible elections and legitimacy is every dictator’s Achilles heel.

When ordinary citizens reject a dictator through the ballot, his foundation is shaken. He bites his nails and makes countless frantic calls to the head of his handpicked election commission. 

Spirited efforts are made and the bare minimum percentage of electoral victory is fraudulently conjured up. 

The dictator barely survives, through the skin of his teeth. Yet being declared the winner is not exactly the same as being the legitimate leader of a country. 

Apart from abdication no perfume can take away the stench of illegitimacy. It stinks to high heaven.

In the case of Zimbabwe, His ‘ZEC-cellency’ President Emmerson Mnangagwa is a broken man with a fatally bruised ego.  

His sham election in August 2023 introduced humanity to a new blackhole of election rigging and gerrymandering.

It was a global first but quickly replicated in Gabon which held elections three days after Harare’s fraudulent charade. 

Unfortunately for the Gabonese incumbent, his bootleg version was rather hurried and lacked an after-heist roadmap. 

In Zimbabwe, a clear strategy was in place, with all permutations and combinations of the post-election period anticipated. 

Goons and guns were ready for deployment. Congratulations messages were already printed.

Nevertheless, not everything went according to plan. The ship was hit by a torpedo from an unlikely source. 

The SADC Election Observer Mission led by Dr Nevers Mumba condemned the sham election in the strongest terms. 

The former Zambian Vice-President did not mince his words. Bolstered by his rare

departure from tradition, other EOMs were unanimous in dismissing the elections as neither free nor fair.

Mr Mnangagwa and his spin doctors were left with the mammoth task of justifying a shambolic

election roundly condemned by all independent observer missions. Harare was furious.

Since when has peer review become a reality in SADC? Harare did not get the memo.

Serious damage control strategies were quickly activated. The adverse SEOM report could be watered down by solidarity from African heads of state during Mr Mnangagwa’s inauguration. 

A total of 16 invitations to heads of state were reportedly dispatched. Only three sitting presidents bothered to show up.

The rest either ignored the inauguration or sent government proxies. So desperate was the regime in Harare that Mr Edgar Lungu, former Zambian President, was dragged from his political hibernation to grace the lavish occasion. 

Had it anticipated the inauguration snub, Harare would have also dragged Uhuru Kenyatta and Joseph Kabila to improve optics in the VIP section. 

Without African solidarity the rot could not be concealed. Another torpedo to sink the pirate ship. 

Humiliated and deflated, Mr Mnangagwa walked away from his pariah inauguration a bitter man. 

For all their doctored images and public show of bravado, dictators struggle with rejection. They prefer total control and hate surprises. 

On any given day, Mr Mnangagwa could stomach rejection from opposition cadres. 

However, the results announced by ZEC showed clearly that Mr Mnangagwa was also rejected by a significant fraction of his own Zanu PF support base. 

That must have hit him differently. His party easily romped to victory, nearly clinching an outright two-thirds majority in parliament. 

The President barely made it with a paltry 52.6% which many independent analysts consider to be a ZEC-brewed result. Asked to publish disaggregated results according to polling stations, ZEC flatly refused.

United in their condemnation of Zimbabwe’s sham election, major opposition parties like CCC, ZAPU and exiled independent presidential candidate, Savior Kasukuwere, made the clarion call for a fresh election.

Organised and supervised by SADC, the AU or the UN, such fresh polls were envisaged to be the only panacea for the leadership crisis created by Mr Mnangagwa’s ZEC manufactured victory. 

Although SADC did the unthinkable by condemning Zimbabwe’s fraudulent polls, it stands to be seen if another miracle can happen in the form of direct pressure for Mr Mnangagwa to relinquish power and agree to partake in another bruising election without his ZEC talisman.

Realistically, prospects of such a miracle are between razor thin and impossible.

The proverbial dust has settled but Mr Mnangagwa and his henchmen are preoccupied with retributive triumphalism. 

Waging war on two fronts, their quest is to quash all suspected enemies of their so-called

revolution within Zanu PF as well as uprooting the vestiges of opposition politics. 

Arbitrary arrests on flimsy charges have become the predictable destiny for anyone opposed to the Zanu PF archaic regime.

Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) national spokesperson, Promise Mkhwananzi, cheated the noose by a whisker when he slipped out of Zimbabwe after the partisan ZRP had pledged a US$1000 bounty for information leading to his arrest. 

By now he could have been cellmates with other political prisoners like Job Sikhala and Jacob Ngarivhume. 

Abductions and torture have been reported. Lawyers representing the alleged victims have also been arrested, ostensibly for obstruction of justice.

With all these unholy shenanigans happening on his watch, Mr Mnangagwa continues to preside over a failed state. 

Coupled with Mr Mnangagwa’s geriatric capacity to manage, his pirate cabinet offers no stimulus for the country’s moribund economy. Inoculated by presidential immunity, they have no obligations towards voters who rejected them. Their vindictive mission is solely to eliminate detractors.

If illegitimacy was a person, he would be dressed in a tailored suit and multi-coloured scarf, aimlessly spinning around in the same place like Harare’s motorised statue of Mbuya Nehanda.

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