FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe has suddenly sprung into action becoming “Father Christmas “ by dishing out food handouts and other goodies at Zanu PF campaign rallies addressed by Zanu PF leader President Robert Mugabe, in a bid to induce the electorate to endorse the 89-year-old veteran politician at the July 31 poll. She is also now calling herself “Mother of the Nation”.
This unprecedented move is somehow curious as much as it is surprising. After donating tonnes of grain to needy people in the countryside, Grace was at it again over the weekend promising that no villager in Matabeleland South would starve as long as she was alive.
We are aware that when it became apparent that Zimbabwe would not harvest enough grain this year, the coalition government approached Zambia to source for grain, and Zambian President Michael Sata told the world that his country would sell grain on credit to Zimbabwe to alleviate food shortages.
How else should we describe Grace’s gesture to the villagers every time she opens her mouth at a Zanu PF campaign rally other than that she is simply abusing her husband’s authority as President and the country’s financial resources to benefit her family at the expense of millions of Zimbabweans?
Besides, isn’t this clear vote-buying, as according to Part XIX of the Electoral Act and specifically Section 136 (1)(c) criminalises making “any gift, loan, offer, promise, procurement or agreement to or for any person in order to induce such person to procure or endeavour to procure the return of a candidate at an election or the vote of a voter at an election”.
According to the Act, anyone found guilty — including the First Lady or the President — can be liable to a two-year imprisonment. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) should no doubt interpret the provisions of the law without fear or favour.
What is disturbing with Grace’s promises is that the villagers would only get the donated food if they return Mugabe to power.
It is our hope that Zec is looking into this and that appropriate penalties should follow. It is in the Code of Conduct signed by all contesting parties. We also urge Zec to wage a merciless battle against trafficking in votes ahead of the July 31 elections. Chapter 7 of the new Constitution and electoral laws are very strict and have a zero-tolerance policy towards those who want to secure votes by offering money to voters. Any attempt to influence voters or to promote preliminary voting among the electorate should, therefore, result in prosecution.
It is agreed that the elections have created a big buzz in the country even though other political parties —MDC-T, MDC and Zapu — have tried without success to seek an extension of the vote, citing lack of preparation. Zanu PF shenanigans of using political money to influence the outcome of the elections as the First Lady and other candidates were reportedly paying money, directly or through intermediaries, to secure votes, should be stopped. We believe Zec should foil all attempts to influence the national polls.
Another scheme to ensure votes was to register voters as volunteers in a candidate’s campaign and providing them with money for their contributions. It is a novel way to beat the system and avoid problems with the law. Let’s have no more of this chicanery.