The question has been thrown around for some time now whether Zimbabwe is really ready for free and fair polls in the current environment.
Environment relates to the surrounding influences; all the external factors influencing the life and activities of people; a set of conditions affecting particular activities or outcomes.
Zimbabwe is a country that has not known relative peace for many years.
The excesses of the infamous Gukurahundi in the mid-80s, which claimed thousands of lives and the current decade which saw thousands more displaced, particularly, the pre- June 27 carnage, has been a point of note.
It would be unhistorical to ignore these.
President Robert Mugabe is a man who has known uninterrupted reign for 30 years and counting . . !
Adept at manipulating his environment, ruling has become a way of life for the veteran nationalist.
The British sent Winston Churchill packing, notwithstanding his World War II hero status; Ghana unceremoniously dispensed with Kwame Nkrumah after a while; in Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, a hero of the anti-imperialist war was sent packing, when the time for change came and just up north Kenneth Kaunda was gentleman enough to bow to the will of the people!
Ortega, however, is of classic interest. He surrendered to the people’s will and simply rolled over with the democratic processes, handed over power and has lived to be re-elected, this time around, much humbler and wiser.
Some powers-that-be in Zanu PF seem to be in a hurry, anxious and eager to have an election, not so much to underscore the will of the people, but to rid themselves of what is considered an albatross around their necks, the GNU.
After 30 years at the helm of a reign punctuated with accusations of brutal suppression of civil liberties and human rights violations, Zanu PF has a mountain to climb, with fears abounding that a free and fair election will most likely deliver the same result as in March 2008.
I think in their heart of hearts, even they (Zanu PF stalwarts) know that a free and fair electoral environment is their nemesis.
On the other hand, no amount of violence will be able to supress the growing resentment for this hegemony which manifests in support for the opposition.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, on the other hand, does not seem to have to do much, but to keep his ship on an even keel and hold Sadc and AU, underwriters of the GNU, to their word on free and fair polls.
The current political environment does not bode well for anything remotely called free and fair elections, though.
And the temperature will reach fever-pitch as we approach the appointed time for elections.
Towards March 2008, President Mugabe came out in the media with a keynote theme for a non-violent, free and fair electoral process.
It was as if the President had waved a magic wand!
The forces of coercion demobilised.
The forces that be showed a remarkable measure of restraint, professionalism and impartiality.
Even the war veterans went about their business relatively peacefully and the public media gave all a measure of access, not to mention the traditional chiefs, whose presence was felt subliminally.
The electoral results were even immediately posted outside each polling station, to demonstrate transparency.
Though not entirely perfect, this was nearly as close as one can get to free and fair democratic processes. The result largely reflected the will of the people and was perfectly legitimate.
Perhaps that was so because the incumbent, who was the ultimate driver of the processes had misplaced confidence in his popularity and expected an outright win, against what he considered a non-entity, a stooge of imperialists and a hopeless underdog.
The presidential election results had to be withheld, inordinately, some say, for reasons best known to those who withheld them but their actions sent tongues wagging.
When the result was finally announced, the President, Robert Mugabe, had got a drubbing from the underdog, but not sufficient to avoid a run-off, so we were told.
This fuelled the suspicion that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had withheld the results in order to fiddle and come up with a result that gave the loser a second bite at the cherry, in a new environment.
Again, it took quite some time before the announcement of the run-off date, and this also further fuelled suspicion.
Anyone with any brain would have known that in order for anyone to win something had to give, and who would have wanted to change the environment besides the one who found such an environment inimical to their interests?
There was a virtual eclipse of the peace and tranquillity that had hitherto existed. The afterglow of the MDC-T triumph went out like a candle in the wind.
President Mugabe berated Zanu PF for not having campaigned effectively.
He took personal charge of the campaign and switched to Plan B.
Heads rolled at ZBC for having shown a modicum of impartiality in giving access to contestants.
Even the scalp of Henry Muradzikwa, the CEO, was not spared.
Zanu PF supporters went into overdrive.
The youths and the war vets went hyper and the chiefs, who previously had been encouraged to confine themselves to traditional and cultural roles, became animated.
A phony political war and onslaught broke out.
President Mugabe was declared the winner after Tsvangirai withdrew from the race, citing violence against his supporters.
Now, President Mugabe wants another election. Not just a presidential election, but for everyone, including Parliament and Senate.
Of course the old man knows that if the election is confined to a presidential one only, his MPs might repeat the “bhora musango” debacle.
He is not off the mark; he is a connoisseur in Machiavellian statecraft.
Already there is a bad moon on the rise and storm clouds are gathering fast.
Jabulani Sibanda and his merry men are scouring the countryside like the Grim Reaper, “tenderising” and “marinating” the people.
All pleas to have him removed have fallen on deaf ears.
The unstable electoral environment we find ourselves in today is not spontaneous, it is artificial.
It is deliberately created as a campaign strategy and tactic by those who are allergic to peaceful and tranquil electoral conditions.
Tsvangirai is repeating the same mistake of following “Count Dracula” to the castle by saying he is ready for elections without vigorously engaging the Sadc, AU, GNU underwriters, and the international community and the issue of securocrats’ involvement in politics, to ensure that peace prevails, well ahead of any electoral process.
You can have a very good agreement on paper, but as long as the players and implementers are insincere, you don’t have an agreement.
The current political environment is far from satisfactory or conducive to free and fair, democratic elections.
It will deliver a 360-degree curve to June 27, and we will end up exactly where we started.
Everyone knows that. Even the so-called healing process is a joke, with rogue war vets combing rural areas.
While it is possible to have free and fair polls in Zimbabwe, given a peaceful environment, those who stand to lose power and privilege in a such peaceful environment will not allow that to happen.
They will continue with their smoke and mirrors game.