His faults notwithstanding, there was still something deeply troubling in Chamisa’s defeat. And it has been under our noses in many African elections.
Our politics, at least the rhetoric, give a very high premium to youth. Leaders like Chamisa, who is 40, are seen as the future.
Though Mnangagwa is all of 19 years younger than Mugabe, he is still 75. But it didn’t place him as at disadvantage.
Less than a year after coming to office in a military-engineered change that ousted the autocratic Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa won a disputed election last week.
Trouble immediately broke on August 1, after the announcement of the parliamentary election results which saw Mnangagwa's ZANU-PF winning a two-thirds majority. Opposition MDC Alliance supporters took to the streets, alleging the election had been stolen.
In a return to the bad past, the army met with them with live bullets. Nearly a dozen were killed.
When the presidential results were announced days later, Mnangagwa, nicknamed the crocodile, had won by a razor thin margin - 50.8 per cent.
Though the margin looked democratic, the MDC’s Nelson Chamisa, who placed second, rejected it as fraudulent.
The opposition has a case in alleging that the playing ground wasn’t level; opposition supporters were intimidated in some areas of the country, and ZANU-PF and Mnangagwa profited from state resources and control of state media.
However, the Zimbabwe economy is still a shambles, and plagued by shortages of most things including hard currency. So while the wanton repression and general madness of the Mugabe years are gone, this baggage was thought to be sufficient to drag Mnangagwa and his ZANU-PF down and cancel out the advantages of incumbency. It didn’t.
Even though no liberation party has yet been defeated in an African election, the youthful Chamisa didn’t help himself too much. For starters the opposition failed to form a broad united front, splitting their votes. Then Chamisa was derided as a fantasist and childish. Earlier in the year, he was mocked when he claimed credit for the achievements of Rwanda’s digital sector, alleging that he gave President Paul Kagame the blue print.
When Kagame said he didn’t know him, he posted a photo him greeting the Rwanda leader at a past public event. Presumably he passed his digital inspiration through a handshake.
During the campaign he promised bullet trains, and airports to very village he came upon. God knows Zimbabwe needs hope, but even to the optimists Chamisa was away with the fairies.