MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai last week made a surprise declaration that the biometric voter registration (BVR) process would not be manipulated.
Candour: NQABA MATSHAZI
This is quite bold considering that Tsvangirai and his party are still crying foul over what they perceive to be interference from Nikuv International Projects, which even though four years have passed, they are yet to bring any plausible evidence of vote tampering.
It, thus, comes as odd that someone, who feels hard done in past elections, can be so quick to endorse the coming on board of Laxton Group for the BVR process.
The question is: What has Tsvangirai seen in Laxton Group that convinced him that they will not be open to manipulation by the government and we will not see a repeat of the 2013 episode, where Nikuv was blamed for everything?
Laxton Group has hardly set up in the country and only brought demo kits and surely it is too early for anyone to make an informed critique of the company.
For a politician in Tsvangirai’s position, a healthy dose of scepticism in any government process is vital and there was no need for him to endorse Laxton Group at this stage.
This is not to say there is anything wrong with Laxton — they could come in and do a fantastic job — but by endorsing them, Tsvangirai has little room to manoeuvre and were he to lose, then there is no way he can make a turnaround and blame the Chinese company.
Tsvangirai has literally given hostage to fortune on this one.
We have been here before and my worry is we do not seem to be learning from history and the same mistakes are being repeated.
When Rita Makarau was appointed as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson in 2013, Tsvangirai, then Prime Minister, gave her the thumbs-up and said she was the right person for the job.
There was some disquiet over Makarau’s appointment, but just as he has done now, Tsvangirai came out and allayed fears, saying she was able, qualified and was the right person for the job.
Before the 2013 elections, Tsvangirai even seemed to absolve the Zec secretariat of chicanery in the 2008 elections, whose final results were delayed by a month, insinuating that the fault was with some underhand and “other forces behind”.
In 2013, Tsvangirai repeated the same mantra, saying Makarau had nothing to do with his loss in that year’s elections and again blamed shadowy forces for his defeat.
“The fact of the matter is you could have put God there [in Makarau’s position] and even He would have been defied,” Tsvangirai said then.
This is an issue, because for me, if some underhand forces can take over Zec, influence the delay in election results announcement and manipulate results, then the body is not fit for purpose and should be disbanded almost immediately.
If not, then what is needed is a strong character, who will not accept interference from any force and at the slight hint of interference, they should have the integrity to walk away and say why they quit.
So, if Makarau and her predecessors allowed interference from underhand forces, as alleged by Tsvangirai, then they do not deserve endorsement from anyone, let alone the MDC-T leader.
Going back to Tsvangirai’s argument that Makarau knew nothing and was also a victim of underhand forces, what is there to stop the same shadowy figures from influencing the tendering process and awarding the tender to a favoured company?
While Tsvangirai might have wanted to allay fears of manipulation of the registration exercise, because he knew that casting aspersions on Laxton Group could affect the number of people intending to register, the smart thing would have been to keep quiet and let debates rage in public and then say something only when he is cocksure he is right and there would be no need to turn back.
Then back to Nikuv; in 2013 it was reported that Nikuv’s sister company, Pedstock had installed irrigation systems at Tsvangirai’s, his deputy Thokozani Khupe’s and then women’s assembly boss, Theresa Makone’s homesteads.
This raised questions on the three’s naivety, they did not do their due diligence on Pedstock before inviting the company to install irrigation systems.
Makone said she had used her own money to pay for the installation of the irrigation system — and I won’t doubt that — but from this episode it is clear the three invited Nikuv into their homes and into their lives and turning around to claim they were cheated by the same company smacks of political innocence that you would not expect from the three.
My colleague, Brezhnev Malaba wrote that the opposition was sleepwalking to electoral defeat, he was quite courteous, at this rate, they are literally blundering their way to a heavy loss next year.
There was no need for Tsvangirai to endorse Laxton Group, he would have lost nothing by keeping quiet about this whole episode.
If he was desperate to say something, then he should have asked his supporters to register in their numbers, but raise alarm immediately if they spotted any shenanigans, which the party would document and challenge Zec on.
What Tsvangirai’s message should have been is; that it does not matter who won the BVR tender, but rather emphasis should be on electoral reforms, just as he has been campaigning for all along.
Laxton Group can be the best company ever, but as long as there are “underhand forces”, which he claims to see, then there is no way the group can conjure a miracle and deliver a free vote.
He should have waited before passing his endorsement, now he may find himself in an unenviable position, where he has to explain to his supporters what went wrong if things do not go his way.