Writing to Zanu PF members and the greater Zimbabwean population from exile, President Emmerson Mnangagwa coined the now popular slogan “voice of the people is the voice of God”.
ED, as Mnangagwa is popularly known, must have reflected so deeply on the unprecedented November 18 mass protest against his predecessor Robert Mugabe, and it dawned on him, probably for the first time in post-independence Zimbabwe, that in a democracy, through mass action, the people’s voice is supreme.
ED urged his former boss, who was under house arrest, to take heed of the voice of the people and resign since the voice of the people was the voice of God. God makes and can umake.
ED has popularised this saying and has repeated it so many times to the extent of entrenching it in the Zanu PF manifesto and his various campaign materials.
The moral imperative in this theologically incorrect statement is that leaders derive their authority to govern from the people and as such should take people’s concerns seriously.
On Wednesday July 11, the people of Zimbabwe, in a massive street display reminiscent of the freedom march of November 18, took to the streets under the banner of the MDC Alliance demanding transparency with regard to the electoral process, particularly the voters’ roll and ballot printing as well as associated logistics.
Thousands of Zimbabweans across various demographic characterisations marched from the Africa unity square to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) offices.
Men, women, boys and girls, inclusive of women with infants strapped on their backs, braced the wintry weather and flooded the streets of Harare demanding transparency from a constitutional body in charge of elections, Zec.
Of note was the participation of groups who are generally excluded from public participation mainly due to a number of factors, which include violence, such as people living with disability and older persons.
It is trite to note the peacefulness of the march and non-interference from police who only monitored the proceedings from a distance.
The State is applauded for allowing freedom of speech and expression to become a livid reality as enshrined in the Zimbabwean Constitution.
While the people marched under the banner of the MDC Alliance and, as such, can be appropriately labelled MDC Alliance supporters, beyond the label, thousands who marched are, simply put, Zimbabwean people.
Labelling has a way of insulating duty bearers from the moral burden associated with meeting a particular obligation; it’s convenient for the State to arrest “illegal vendors”, who in essence are mere men and women trying to earn a living by selling goods in town.
Labels often insulate duty bearers from the moral scruples associated with certain demands and obligations.
Labels allow the State and duty bearers to conveniently ignore facing some uncomfortable truths.
It is easier to dismiss the thousands who braced the wintry July 11 temperatures demanding transparency and free and fair elections as MDC Alliance politicking.
Beyond the label are Zimbabwean men and women, some who are not even MDC supporters, who yearn for a free and fair election.
Men and women who have survived the bane of disputed election outcomes, men and women who know how it is to live and survive under a sanctioned economy.
That thousands could self-finance to get into town and participate in such a march speaks volumes of how sensitive the issues of transparency in this election are for the majority of Zimbabweans across the political divide.
Zimbabweans know too well the cost of a disputed election outcome. Zimbabweans have, fresh in their minds, the memory of the protracted Global Political Agreement talks of 2008, Thabo Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy as well as years of international isolation.
Any concerns on transparency in this election are quick to ignite such memories and fears and should thus be looked at seriously.
Zimbabweans do not wish to continue in an election mode beyond July 30 due to a disputed outcome.
There is serious nation rebuilding to be done.
An undisputed election outcome, through a transparent process is the only basis upon which peace and macroeconomic stability can be realised.
Zec as a constitutional body, should be aware that it is one of the least trusted institutions by the people of Zimbabwe alongside the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
The Afrobarometer survey indicated that about 40% of Zimbabweans do not trust Zec.
This is understandable given Zec’s previous performance.
In 2008, Zec took close to five weeks to release Presidential results conducting what it termed “meticulous verification”, which the majority of Zimbabweans perceived as an attempt to bridge the gap between MDC and Mugabe in favour of the later.
Zec is aware of this public perception and, as such, it must not only be transparent, but must be seen to be transparent.
It is in the interest of Zec as an institution to take seriously the concerns registered by the men and women who marched on July 11 as well as through other various submissions.
The demands by the MDC Alliance around the voters’ rolls and ballot printing process are quiet reasonable.
There is nothing wrong with the call for transparency.
The voters’ roll is critical in not only guaranteeing one’s right to vote, but also is the instrument through which one’s vote is not diluted or cancelled by an illegal vote.
Any irregularities around the voters’ roll should be volcanic enough to stop an election.