Zimbabwe poll: the bar for success is low, the stakes are high and it’s a close race

The Conversation


Supporters of the opposition MDC Alliance in Unity Square before marching to protest outside the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. David Moore

David B. Moore
Professor of Development Studies and Visiting Researcher, Institute of Pan-African Thought and Conversation, University of Johannesburg
Disclosure statement: David B. Moore does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Johannesburg  provides funding as a partner of The Conversation AFRICA.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling Zanu-PF hope a credible victory in the July 30 election will legitimise the power (both party and state) they gained from the “soft coup” that toppled his predecessor Robert Mugabe last November.

With victory, they say, the donors and dollars will flood in to the country they have resurrected from nearly two moribund decades. Zimbabwe is now “open for business” and will thrive. Zanu-PF’s resurrection will thus be complete.

But a new survey suggests Zanu-PF should stall any premature celebration plans. The latest one showed that, in the space of one month, Nelson Chamisa’s MDC-Alliance has closed the gap with Zanu-PF. The surveys are conducted by Afrobarometer, an independent research network that conducts public attitude surveys across Africa and its Zimbabwean partner, Mass Public Opinion Institute, a non-profit, non-governmental research organisation.

If the respondents were to cast their ballot now Mnangagwa would take 40% of the votes and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa would take 37%. The still undecided or not-saying potential voters are at 20%. Split that and you get a 50/47 race.

The numbers are very close indeed. If not a victory for the MDC-Alliance, this looks like a presidential runoff. The MDC-Allaince has a 49% to 26% lead in the cities and towns and in the countryside the figures are 30% for the opposition to Zanu-PF’s 48%. In parliament Zanu-PF would get 41% to the MDC-Alliance’s 36. This is a big change from May’s survey.

Given the MDC-Alliance momentum, the post-Mugabe Zanu-PF’s hopes of a resurrection may be dashed. A great deal hangs on both parties’ ability to manage this interregnum.

Big trade-offs will be negotiated, ranging from coalition governments, which the poll shows has the backing from 60% of respondents, to amnesties for the chief crooks and killers.

Striking deals might indeed lie at the centre of whether or not the election is a success. That’s because this election is about grabbing back the core of hardwon democracy from a military dominated regime. It’s about cleansing out generations of fear.

That is a hard task at any time. It’s harder still when it took a coup to retire its prime source.

A divided Zanu-PF

Mnangagwa has been spectacularly unsuccessful at winning past elections in his own constituencies, standing for parliament three times and losing twice.

The factions in Zanu-PF that squared up against one another prior to the coup – the Generation-40 group that supported Grace Mugabe for the party and state president and Lacoste, which supported Mnangagwa – are still battling along lines more ethnically drawn than ever. Some of the losers in the Generation-40 group have left the party to form the National Patriotic Front.

Although the perpetrators have not been found, the blast at Zanu-PF’s Bulawayo rally in late June that killed two people and only narrowly missed a whole stage of luminaries, could suggest that the party’s wounds have yet to heal.

And the soldiers are not of one mind.

If the military side of the somewhat shaky post-coup pact in Zanu-PF fears losing an election, and thus access to more of the wealth more power can bring, the free and fair dimensions of the electoral contest would be drastically diminished. Would a repeat of mid-2008’s post-electoral mayhem, when at least 170 people were killed and nearly 800 beaten or raped, ensue?

To make matters more complex, there are no guarantees that hungry and angry junior army officers would follow their seniors’ attempts to alter the peoples’ will.

Mnangagwa could be at some of the soldier’s mercy. Some suggest that Constantino Chiwenga, the mercurial vice-president and – unconstitutionally – defence minister might be among them.

Others argue that the two leaders need each other if the régime is going to deliver on promises of a clean election

And as George Charamba, Zimbabwe’s permanent secretary for information, put it:

This election is about restoring international re-engagement and legitimacy …. It must be flawless, it must be transparent, it must be free, it must be fair, it must meet international standards, it must be violence free and therefore it must be universally endorsed because it is an instrument of foreign policy … It’s about re-engagement and legitimacy; we are playing politics at a higher level.

This is a clarion call for a free and fair poll. If the election fails to meet these expectations and its results are tight, legitimacy could be maintained with carefully calculated deals. Perhaps the unity government widely expected during the coup could reappear.

A rising opposition

Chamisa and the MDC (the alliance is made up of seven parties, most having split from the late Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC), appear to be building on the momentum they seem to have gained by challenging the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s management of the contest. The alliance has challenged the commission’s neutrality and raised concerns over the accuracy of the voters’ roll.

Not all its allegations necessarily stand up to scrutiny. The 250,000 alleged ghosts may be a canard, but as Derek Matyszak, the Institute for Security Studies man in Harare, argues, the roll was not released in time for the primaries so none of the candidates are constitutionally valid.

Emboldened by the lack of police, thousands of protesters led by the MDC-Alliance marched to the commission’s headquarters on July 11, showing no fear.

If this impetus keeps building over the next week, a victory is conceivable. So is a presidential run-off. To be sure, the ruling party might win fairly, but the opposition will have to be convinced of that. The mode of politics for the next round should be peacemaking, not war.

Low bars, high stakes

The bars are low – ‘the west’, led in this case by the UK, seemed to be happy with the winners of the coup, perhaps hoping for a renewed Zanu-PFPerfidious Albion (Treacherous England) could end its schizophrenic career in Zimbabwe with a whimper about the end of a liberal democratic dream. But the stakes are high for Zimbabweans: much higher than the reputation of a minor global power past its glory.

The people of Zimbabwe face a lot more than reputational damage: maybe the former colonial power will have a Plan B that helps more than hinders.

Nigeria is not ready to hold free and fair elections next year. Here’s why

The Conversation


Members of Nigeria’s All Progressives Congress party protest the 2015 elections. More trouble is likely ahead of the 2019 elections. EPA/Tife Owolabi

Author: Associate Lecturer and Conflict Analyst, University of York
Disclosure statement: Olayinka Ajala does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners:  University of York provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.

The 2019 presidential elections in Nigeria will be the country’s sixth since 1999, when it shifted to democracy after a long period of military rule. Most of these elections have been tarnished by acts of violence – including attacks on politicians – and vote rigging often influences the results.

In the past, election violence has been blamed on a lack of education among citizens, poverty, the long history of military rule and corruption. However, political patronage is also to blame in a country where power and state resources are often exploited for personal use by office holders. The scramble for the “national cake” by the political elite is often the real reason for many politicians’ do-or-die attitude.

Such was the case when the former president, General Olusegun Obasanjo declared in 2007 that the April elections would be a do-or-die affair for the country and his ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The election was marred by fraud and violence.

With the 2019 elections less than a year away, Nigeria’s ability to hold free and fair elections is open to question. Of particular concern are the security threats posed by the Boko Haram insurgency and clashes between farmers and herdsmen in northern Nigeria. There is also a threat posed by the arming of rival political supporters. Finally, there is the lack of election financing regulations which leaves the door open for patronage networks to fund campaigns using public funds.

Boko Haram problem

Although the government claimed to have “technically defeated” Boko Haram in December 2015, the armed group was still able to carry out 135 attacks in 2017, five times higher than the 2016 number of attacks. The insurgents most recently killed at least 31 people in twin bomb blasts targeting people returning from Eid celebrations in Borno state.

The insurgency, which has affected 14 million  Nigerians, resulting in 1.7 million being displaced, still poses a significant threat in the north-east. In 2015 elections, the Boko Haram threat affected elections in many parts of northern Nigeria. If the threat is not significantly contained, it poses a threat to free and fair elections next year.

New threats

Apart from the Boko Haram insurgency, several states in Nigeria, such as Benue, Taraba and Nasarawa, have witnessed violent clashes between herdsmen and farmers in recent years. Although this was not an issue in previous elections, the intensity of the clashes has increased tremendously. There have been 716 clashes and thousands of deaths recorded in the country since 2012.

In the same way Boko Haram was the primary campaign issue prior to 2015 elections, the clashes between herdsmen and farmers pose an election risk. Several opposition political parties have already seized on the insecurity as a campaign rallying point. Violent clashes could potentially ensue if the security situation is not addressed before the elections.

The proliferation of arms prior to elections also remains a huge threat. Since the 2003 elections, the arming of supporters has become an election tool.

As seen in previous elections, political patronage is often behind the formation of insurgent groups towards the time of elections. Politicians have been known to arm youths prior to elections in order to seek undue advantage over their political opponents.

Indeed, former Nigerian vice president Atiku Abubakar claimed to have personally warned some state governors against arming youths prior to elections.

Campaign finance

Political patronage extends to the crucial factor of election funding. Previous elections have been marked by allegations of mismanagement of public resources to fund campaigns. It was estimated that the total amount spent by the electoral commission, political parties and candidates for the 2015 elections was about one trillion naira (USD$4 billion). A large percentage of these were “untraceable” public funds.

About half of this amount was allegedly siphoned out of the Nigerian National Petroleum Commission by the former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki to finance the 2015 election campaign of President Goodluck Jonathan. The implication of using public funds to finance personal ambition is that it often gives the incumbent an unfair advantage over their opponents and creates a cycle of corruption which hinders development.

Although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has called for the regulation of campaign finance towards the 2019 elections, it is unclear how this will be done.

Towards a credible election

The sum of all these challenges is that Nigeria is far from ready to hold a credible ballot in 2019. In order to conduct a credible election in Nigeria, four key issues are very important. First, the government needs to completely defeat Boko Haram. Second, the conflict between herdsmen and farmers must be addressed and third, electoral commission must strengthen the electronic voting system introduced in 2015 and finally the formation of insurgent groups for the purpose of the election must be prevented.

An election that is not free and fair risks negatively compromising Nigeria’s already fragile economy, and sparking further conflict.

The article was first published by the conversation. Published courtesy of the Conversation 

African leaders are more constrained by democratic rules than you think

The Conversation

Africa Leaders

African countries holding elections increases the quality of civil liberties. EPA/Stringer

Nic Cheeseman
   Professor of Democracy, University of Birmingham 
Disclosure statement: Nic Cheeseman does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners University of Birmingham  provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.

Africa is often imagined to be a place in which presidents can do whatever they want, unencumbered by constitutional or democratic constraints. A large body of literature has developed around the idea that the law can be flouted at will, leading to a situation in which what really matters is the personality of the president, not the rules of the game.

The implications of this way of understanding the continent are profound not just for how we think about Africa, but also for how we study it. If democratic institutions don’t constrain leaders, there is no point in researching them. Instead we should spend all of our time looking at informal processes such as ethnicity and patrimonialism.

But, although this image is often repeated within policy circles and the media, it is wrong. A new book I edited, Democracy and Institutions in Africa, argues that approaching the continent in this way creates a deeply misleading picture of politics that underestimates the potential for democratisation.

In other words, if we want to understand democracy in Africa, we need to take the official rules of the game more seriously.

The book covers a wide range of institutions, including political parties, legislatures, constitutions and judiciaries. As a taster, here are three important ways in which democratic rules constrain African leaders more than you might think.

Holding elections promotes democracy

It’s often said that Africa features elections without change. But repeatedly holding elections not only creates opportunities for the opposition to compete for power. It also promotes democratic consolidation.

Looking at all elections held in Africa since the early 1990s, Carolien van Ham and Staffan Lindberg find that as long as a minimum threshold of quality is met, holding elections increases the quality of civil liberties. This in turn creates greater opportunities for opposition parties to mobilise.

That’s because elections have a number of democratising effects. These include training voters in democratic arts, encouraging coordination between opposition parties and increasing the pressure on ruling parties to reform the political process. This last happens for example by allowing for a more independent electoral commission.

Repeatedly holding elections fosters new democratic openings that tend to make it more difficult for leaders to hold on to power in the long-run.

Legislatures are tougher to manage than before

The common depiction of African legislatures is that they are weak and feeble. They’re portrayed as “rubber stamp” institutions that can do little to hold governments to account. But this is not an accurate depiction of what happens in a number of countries where conflict between parliaments and presidents is becoming a more common.

As Michaela Collord highlights, in recent years the Ugandan legislature has threatened a government shutdown over an unsatisfactory health budget. Tanzania’s parliament has also forced seven Cabinet reshuffles. South African MPs from the radical Economic Freedom Fighters party captivated TV audiences nationwide by repeatedly calling President Jacob Zuma a thief because he was accused of corruption.

Significantly, parliaments are also beginning to play a role in some of the most important decisions. In both Nigeria and Zambia, it was the legislature that ultimately rejected efforts by sitting presidents to extend their time in office beyond constitutionally mandated limits.

Term-limits are starting to bite

On the theme of term limits, pretty much the only time you will read about this particular institution in the media is when an African leader has changed the constitution to remove them. In the last 20 years this has happened in a number of countries including Burundi, Chad, Uganda and Rwanda.

By contrast, when a president respects term limits and stands down, it goes largely unnoticed. This has created the misleading impression that African leaders can break the rules at will. The reality is that in most cases they can’t.

Reviewing every country in Africa from 1990 to the present, Daniel Young and Daniel Posner find that term limits are twice as likely to be respected as broken. This is especially true for states that lack natural resources.

Significantly, they also demonstrate that when one president respects term limits it creates a powerful precedent that subsequent rulers feel bound to follow. To date, there is not a single country in which a president has tried to outstay their welcome after their predecessor willingly stood down.

The shape of things to come

These examples are part of a broader trend. In 2015, a sitting civilian Nigerian president lost power to another civilian ruler for the first time. In 2016, the same thing happened in Ghana. In 2017, it was Gambia’s turn. Since then, Liberia and Sierra Leone have also seen opposition victories.

From a few isolated examples in the early 1990s, almost half of the continent has now witnessed a transfer of power.

Moreover, it is not only when it comes to elections that things are changing. In 2017 Kenyan became the first country in Africa – and only the third in the world – in which the election of a sitting president was nullified by the judiciary.

In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma never lost a national election and the African National Congress continues to dominate parliament. But he was nonetheless forced to resign and leave power early by a combination of public hostility and the emergence of Cyril Ramaphosa as the party’s new leader.

Of course, this does not mean that all presidents have to follow the rules, or that all of these institutions are starting to perform well. The continent features a remarkable variety of political systems and some of its states are on very different political trajectories. In more authoritarian contextssuch as Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda and Zimbabwe, the quality of elections remains extremely poor; even when leaders suffer a setback they may be able to bounce back.

But while the process of institutionalisation may be patchy and uneven, one thing is clear: Africa is not without institutions, and we will deeply misunderstand its politics unless we pay careful attention to the rules of the game.

Democracy is taking root in Africa. But that doesn’t mean it works all the time


Author:                                   Professor of Democracy, University of Birmingham                                           Disclosure statement:              Nic Cheeseman does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Birmingham provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.

The questions that I get asked most often by students, policy makers and political leaders are: “can democracy work in Africa?” and “is Africa becoming more democratic?”.

As we celebrate Africa Day and reflect on how far the continent has come since the Organisation of African Unity was founded in 1963, it seems like a good time to share my response.

Some people who ask these questions assume that the answer will be “no”, because they are thinking of the rise of authoritarian abuses in places like Burundi and Zambia. Others assume that the answer is “yes” because they remember recent transfers of power in Gambia, Ghana and Nigeria.

Overall trends on the continent can be read in a way that supports both conclusions. On the one hand, the average quality of civil liberties has declined every year for the last decade. On the other, the number of African states in which the government has been defeated at the ballot box has increased from a handful in the mid 1990s to 19.

To explain this discrepancy, I suggest that we need to approach the issue a little differently. Instead of focusing on the last two or three elections, or Africa-wide averages, we need to look at whether democratic institutions such as term-limits and elections are starting to work as intended. This tells us much more about whether democratic procedures are starting to become entrenched, and hence how contemporary struggles for power are likely to play out.

When we approach the issue in this way it becomes clear that democracy can work in Africa – but that this does not mean that it always will.

The rules of the game

Democracies are governed by many different sets of regulations, but two of the most important are presidential term-limits and the need to hold free and fair elections. Because these rules have the capacity to remove presidents and governments from power, they represent a litmus test of the strength of democratic institutions and the commitment of political leaders to democratic principles.

So how are these institutions faring? Let us start with elections. Back in the late 1980s only Botswana, Gambia and Mauritius held relatively open multiparty elections. Today, almost every state bar Eritrea holds elections of some form. However, while this represents a remarkable turn of events, the average quality of these elections is low. According to the National Elections Across Democracy and Autocracy dataset, on a 1-10 scale in which 10 is the best score possible, African elections average just over 5.

As a result, opposition parties have to compete for power with one hand tied behind their backs. This helps to explain why African presidents win 88% of the elections that they contest. On this basis, it doesn’t look like democracy is working very well at all.

If we move away from averages, though, it becomes clear that this finding masks two very different trends. In some countries, such as Rwanda and Sudan, elections are being held to legitimise the government but offer little real choice to voters.

Things look very different if we instead look at Benin and Ghana, which have experienced a number of transfers of power. In countries like these, governments allow voters to have their say and – by and large – respect their decision.

This suggests that when it comes to elections there are at least two Africas: one that has not become much more democratic since the early 1990s, and another in which elections have become entrenched and the quality of the process has improved – though not always consistently – over time.

Constraints on presidential power

When it comes to upholding the presidential term-limits that most African states feature in their constitutions, the picture is also mixed. In many countries, leaders who were never committed to respecting a two- (or in some cases three-term) limit have been able to change or reinterpret the law in a way that allows them to remain in office indefinitely. As a result, term limits have been overturned in Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea, Namibia, Rwanda, Sudan, Togo and Uganda.

But, as we saw with elections, the picture is not as bleak as it may at first appear. To date, African presidents have come up against term-limits 38 times. In only 18 cases have presidents sought to ignore and amend the constitution, and in only 12 cases were they successful. Put another way, of the 42 countries that feature term-limits, so far they have only been overturned in 13.

This is remarkable. On a continent known for “Big Man” rule and which has often been described as being institutionless, one of the most important democratic institutions of them all is starting to take root in a surprising number of states. So far presidents have accepted – or been forced to accept – the ultimate check on their authority in Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sao Tome & Principe, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zambia.

Thus, while it is important not to overlook the ability of leaders to subvert the rules of the game in the continent’s more authoritarian states, it is also important to recognise that the constraints on presidential power are greater than at any time in the last 50 years. In contemporary Africa, term limits are more likely to be respected than broken.

Can democracy work in Africa?

This evidence demonstrates that democracy can work in Africa. In those countries in which high quality elections go hand in hand with entrenched term-limits, we are witnessing processes of democratic consolidation. Some of these processes are just starting, and all are vulnerable to reversal, but there is no longer any reason to doubt that democracy can function in a number of African countries.

So what separates the success stories from the rest? What we know is that there are a number of factors that serve to insulate governments from domestic and international pressure to reform, and so undermine the prospects for democratisation.

One is the presence of strong security forces that can be used to put down opposition and civil society protests. Another is the presence of significant oil reserves. With the exception of Ghana and possibly Nigeria, Africa’s petro-states are all authoritarian.

A third is support from foreign governments, which is often given to regimes that are geo-strategically important and willing to support the foreign policy goals of other states, whether they are democratic or not.

These factors do indeed make it harder to break free of old authoritarian logics. But it’s also important to keep in mind that they don’t make it impossible. Nigeria, for example, ticks most of these boxes and yet witnessed a peaceful transfer of power in 2015.

Given this, and the many other positive stories that have come out of the continent, it is seems apt to end by repeating the final line of my 2015 book. Despite all of the negative stories that dominate the headlines

It is far too early to give up on democracy in Africa.

This is of great importance because there is already evidence that on average more democratic states spend more on education and achieve higher levels of economic growth.

We therefore have good reasons to believe that in the long-run living under a democracy will improve the lives of African citizens.

The article was first published by https://theconversation.com

Sierra Leone: APC presidential flagbearer implores the people to vote for development

APC presidential flagbearer, Dr. Samura Kamara, has implored the people to embrace peace and vote for development.

Supporters of the APC in the South and East of the country pledged to vote for development, stating that the ruling All People’s Congress party is capable to accomplish that objective.

These assurances came during the visit of the APC Flagbearer, Dr. Samura Kamara to various towns and villages in the South and East of the country over the weekend.

With his campaign team, Dr. Samura Kamara visited Panguma in the Lower Bambara Chiefdom, Mano Junction, and Kenema City in the Eastern Province; Sulima and Jurind Villages in Pujehun District, and Bo City in the Southern Province.

People in these various districts assured that they cannot be intimidated by any other political party not to vote in the APC. They reiterated that APC is willing to take development to every hook and cranny of the country without any form of segregation.

Dr. Samura Kamara promised that his government will build more roads, especially the one leading from Mano Junction in Kenema District to Bumpe, Kono District.

“My government will look into education opportunities and will implement good projects that will transform lives,” he said, noting that the ‘New Panguma’ should not vote based on tribal or regional sentiments, but must embrace assured developments in their communities.

Development, he said, should be in the heart of everyone, and that development in the APC has no boundaries rather it goes beyond region and tribe.

Dr. Samura Kamara also implored the people to denounce violence in any form because hatreds for each other will take them nowhere.

“Let us embrace peace in our heart, our communities, and the whole nation. This is not the time for violence,” he said.

At Sulima and Jurind Villages in the Pujehun District, Dr. Samura Kamara announced the installation of solar lights before the elections and assured that his government will make the two villages solid grounds for the APC.

“We will build your roads and improve your quality of life,” he noted.

Sierra Leone: APC presidential candidate visits Tongo, Kenema District

By Shifu Fadda  

As political campaigns intensify in Sierra Leone the Presidential Candidate of the All People’s Congress (APC) Party, Dr. Samura Kamara, the Presidential Campaign Chairman, Mr.John B Sisay, and other important figures of the APC party on Sunday 18th February 2018 got a tumultuous welcome in Tongo, Kenema District.

APC Team

Dr. Kamara and team in Tongo, Kenema District

Thousands of supporters dressed in APC T-Shirts thronged the streets of the township to welcome the Presidential Candidate of the party. Amidst dancing and singing the crowd showed their love for both the Presidential Candidate and his running mate. Shouting “Tolongbo, All for All” the supporters vowed to vote for the APC in the coming elections. Various sectors of the community praised the APC for bringing development to the District with the improvement of the road infrastructure which now facilitates transportation of goods from villages to the township thereby developing trade.

Dr. Samura Kamara during his visit to Tongo paid a courtesy call on the Chiefdom Speaker Chief Amara Gando in the township as a sign of respect for elders where he met other stakeholders and a huge crowd awaiting him.

In his brief statement, he expressed satisfaction to the Presidential Candidate and party for the respect accorded him and the people of Tongo field and the Chiefdom through this visit. He told the entourage that he endorses the choice of both the Presidential and Running mate by President Koroma. He stressed that the Fullah community is happy for the choice of their own son as the running mate and endorsed him to the Jamaat.

Chief Amara Gando, in his short statement, described the visit of the APC Flagbearer as a  historic event as the would-be the hopeful President is in their midst. He called on all residents in Tongo field to vote for both Dr. Samura Kamara, District Council Chairman, Member of Parliament and Councillors so as to continue the development strides of President Koroma and thanked the entourage for visiting Tongo.

Mr. Bockarie Stevens, Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the United States assured the audience that the APC will clinch most of the seats in the Eastern Province as the party believes in action and not talks only. He admonished voters to collect their voters’ ID Cards from NEC so as to be able to cast their votes for the party.

Speaking to the crowd of supporters at the gathering, amidst thunderous applause, Dr.Samura Kamara reminded all that this election is to empower young people and that Tolongbo originated from there.   He assured of more support to the people of Kenema District. He advised supporters and the general public to stay away from violence, intimating that the only fight should be the ballot box, which is how they vote. Dr. Kamara called on all to stay focus, pay attention to what the party has done and vote overwhelmingly for it to continue the work as there are very good plans ahead which he will bring to the country and vote for the APC, assuring them that Tongo field will be the first to celebrate the APC’s victory.

Leaving Tongo for Kenema, Dr.Samura Kamara was cheered in villages leading to in Mano Junction. The crowd welcomed their favorite candidate in a manner that spells victory for the APC. Some commuters from the East, passing through Mano Junction, were amazed at the turnout and stared in bewilderment and were at a loss for words. Residents were delighted to see the Presidential Candidate of the APC party pay a special visit to the township and they assured the entourage of their determination to vote overwhelmingly for the APC because of the confidence they have in the choice of President Koroma to lead the party to victory in the March 7th election.

In his entourage were, PC Bai Kurr  Kanagbaro Sanka of Konikay Chiefdom, Ambassador Bockarie Stevens, Mrs. Hawa Bah the wife of Hon.

Morgan Tsvangirai: the man who dared Zimbabweans to dream again

The Conversation



Morgan Tsvangirai was a thorn in the side of Robert Mugabe’s government. Reuters/Peter Andrews


One never forgets their first job. For me it was not the work experience that left an indelible impression, though it was appreciated. It was that one day at work when all seems to be ordinary and then mundane, routine tasks are disrupted for just a few minutes and everything changes.

It was a hot summer’s day, the typical Harare heat burning us up. Hope was on the horizon; the type that brings storm clouds on a clear day to usher in rain. I worked until 4pm in a popular grocery store located in the affluent suburb of Chisipite. Unannounced, a burly stout imposing figure approached the till with a broad smile and distinctive round cheeks.

It was Morgan Tsvangirai himself.

A man of the people

We all knew who he was. A seasoned trade unionist, that face most often featured on newspapers’ front pages. A thorn in the side of Robert Mugabe and his regime, Tsvangirai was the man with whom Zimbabwe’s working class most identified. Many times when a stay-away was called and we didn’t go to school, this smiling customer had been the chief architect. To some, he was seen as a messiah.

Others saw him as little more than a rabble rouser and accused him of being the root cause of Zimbabwe’s economic decline and political hostility.

On that day, he was clad in his party t-shirt and holding a basket full of groceries. All the attention in the shop was centred on him. But Tsvangirai was a man of the people, and shifted that focus back to those around him. He engaged in small talk, bemoaned the lack of rain – the earth was dusty and thirsty for a drink, he said.

Approached by two mothers with suckling infants, he expressed his desire that the Zimbabwean health system would improve so that no child would ever have to die of malnutrition or another preventable ailment again.

He teased a young man in a Zimbabwe football t-shirt. Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai said, would qualify for the next soccer world cup.

As a young man doing his first job during that long hot summer, I gained more than work experience that day. I got life experience from a man who was not only simple but humane. There was a dissonance, too. This couldn’t be the same man the state told us brought sanctions and troubles to a country once viewed as Africa’s breadbasket. He’d even been blamed for keeping the rain from falling.

His parting shot to us that afternoon was sobering, and arresting. It challenged all the stereotypes and falsehoods that had been circulated as facts. Walking out, unaccompanied by bodyguards and fresh from chats with the many ordinary Zimbabweans in the store, he said:

Don’t be afraid of the idea of change. A new Zimbabwe is upon us and we need you.

A unique power

That was Morgan Tsvangirai’s unique power. He made Zimbabweans excited about the idea of change. Our ability to dream had been quashed. But he wasn’t afraid of this idea of change – he even had the bruises to show for it.

It is a hope and a dream he never let go of. Frail in his last days and consumed by cancer, Tsvangirai saw some of that change begin to unfold. It’s sad that he will not be around to experience the next steps on Zimbabwe’s journey. But his ability to make us dream will live on,even beyond his own life.

His legacy, ideologies, and simplicity carry the nation of Zimbabwe forward.

First published by The Conversation