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The folly of Zimbabwean elections


The dawn of independence and majority rule in Zimbabwe was meant to be an era of celebration, especially given that for the first time since 1890, indigenous black Africans were able to express their will in electing their own leaders.
Moreover, national elections the world over – particularly in those countries where democracy, human rights and mutual respect are part of national inheritance – tend to unite citizens towards a common vision.
Unfortunately for us in Zimbabwe, the play has completely different outcomes, and for good reason.
When elections are controlled by institutions with deeply entrenched interests of long-term political survival, processes meant to be simple and overt – like the voters roll and location of polling stations – suddenly assume diabolic dimensions. While it is naive to believe that elections must not reflect long-term interests of incumbent leaders, the “ruling” party has always excelled in manipulating plebiscites to safeguard selfish ends.
Zanu PF never talks about elections unless there is a window of opportunity for personal gain. Some analysts argue that even as far back as 1979, they conspired with (then British Prime Minister) Margaret Thatcher and (last colonial governor) Lord Soames to develop an electoral formula that would guarantee the success of Robert Mugabe at the expense of Joshua Nkomo (late vice president), then considered a communist radical. Right now, electoral euphoria has reached orgasmic proportions in Zanu PF because for reasons known to them, Thabo Mbeki’s Global Political Agreement has loopholes they can exploit. For a country that is bankrupt and failing even to finance a simple constitution-making process, one wonders which “gulf well” will spill money for elections.
Patrick Chinamasa then unleashes a whole repertoire of legalistic contraband to justify an early election so that he is seen to be acting within the provisions of the existing constitution, much like Lucifer challenging God on the basis of freedom of choice!
Constitutional Amendment 19, the GPA clause on state institutions and Chinamasa’s recent ward-based election changes are not necessarily ingredients or agents of free and fair elections.
We cannot view elections simplistically through a legalistic prism without considering the human element. As observed earlier on in this treatise, when a nation is galvanised around the issue of electing their leaders, this must be a time for joyous celebrations.
Zimbabweans are not and have never been, since 1985, ready in the context of “we want to” for elections. At every other five-year interval, we are intimidated, beaten or swamped with nauseating Zanu PF partisan propaganda. June 2008 saw the highest casualties by way of physical deaths and emotional attrition. Mugabe embarked on a one-man race that left a trail of psycho-social destruction.
And having failed to attract local, regional and international legitimacy, Mugabe turned to Sadc and Mbeki for solace. The result — a “Global Political Agreement”, the Magna Carta of large-scale political compromise that rewarded thugs and losers. And to think that by merely “legislating” for healing and national reconciliation, Zimbabweans will suddenly forget about June 2008 crimes against their humanity must be the biggest joke of the decade. We are still angry, and not ready to even consider placing Zanu PF on the podium of electoral choice. Electoral reforms that do not place at the forefront respect of rule of law, justice and equity, mutually acceptable institutions, of democratic independence do not suffice in reassuring our electoral readiness. Tentative moves towards freedom of press and expression, existing restrictions in freedom to assembly and continuing abuse of state organs and executive authority are not symptoms but causatives of authoritarian repression. A country where civil society is viewed suspiciously – even, as in Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga’s “close watch” doctrine – cannot be said to be ready for free choice.
What I am trying to say here is that never mind how bruised we Zimbabweans look, we have lived long enough with Zanu PF to know that even if they bring you oxygen at your death bed, it is laced with poison. Just announcing that elections will be ward-based does not suddenly improve the quality of the voters roll. It is not Tobaiwa Mudede who should audit and update the roll, but a well-funded independent electoral commission.
Since 2000, subsequent audits have exposed dead voters, double entries and false addresses.
Four million Zimbabwean citizens in South Africa and England are still prevented from exercising their legitimate Bumbiro reMutemo — right to vote.
The state-controlled – more accurately Zanu PF-manipulated Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation – is acting like a party instead of a national broadcaster. There is nothing in the distant horizon to show that Capital Radio, Joy TV, Munhumutapa, Studio 7, Voice of the People and SW Radio Africa will be allowed to work in Zimbabwe in time for Mugabe’s “elections”.

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