Following its “defeat” in the July 31 presidential and parliamentary elections at the hands of ZANU-PF, the fortunes of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have reached their lowest point in the party’s 14-year existence. Any optimism the MDC may have harbored about removing ZANU-PF seems to have been extinguished, and, after five years in a government of national unity, the MDC is back where it has been for most of its lifespan: on the outside looking in, subject to persistent state harassment and seemingly powerless to halt the ZANU juggernaut.
Crucially, this time the MDC also lacks the confidence, energy and unity that previously sustained it. All discussions of contemporary Zimbabwe—whether at the global, regional, subregional or local levels—now seem to be accompanied by resignation and tacit acceptance that the regime looks immovable. The election outcome was viewed either as a valid expression of the popular will—essentially the African position, led by South Africa—or as electoral malpractice now considered so entrenched in Zimbabwean politics as to be normalized.
As a result, outrage fatigue has set in both locally and internationally, a triumph for the regime’s relentless repression of the opposition and its unyielding determination to remain in power at whatever cost. The unbridled state terror unleashed during the 2008 elections, a sign of the regime’s desperation, was replaced in 2013 by more surreptitious forms of intimidation and vote-rigging, which helped to neutralize external criticism, especially in Africa. Western states have lodged their objections to the innumerable election irregularities and have refused to legitimize the outcome by maintaining limited sanctions, but they have not dwelled on the matter and certainly do not consider it one of their global priorities.