THE position of the Commonwealth Observer Mission to Zimbabwe regarding the July 30 polls is a timely boost for all democratic forces whose spirits had been dampened by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (Zec) intransigence, especially on the management and planning of the voting process.
It is expected that the observer mission headed by former Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama would soon become unpopular within the ruling Zanu PF circles and of course Zec, which has taken a position that the opposition demands were “too much”, yet they are within the electoral law precincts.
We commend the Commonwealth observer mission, especially when they noted that it was reasonable and justifiable for the opposition MDC Alliance to be satisfied with the handling of ballot papers by Zec.
We believe democratic values and tenets demand that such requests be met, as they contribute to the creation of a level playing field in an election such as the one Zimbabwe is holding next week. Already some presidential candidates have withdrawn their candidature citing an uneven playing ground. It doesn’t matter that they are small parties — they have added their voice on the way the electoral management body is carrying out its business.
Ballot papers are part of the soul of an election, and if Zec is really handling these elections professionally and suppose they do not have anything to hide, then they should not be worried by “reasonable and justifiable” demands. In fact they should be well pleased in demonstrating that their hands are clean.
We are aware that the Commonwealth observer team’s position throws the Zanu PF ship offrail if Zec’s failure to meet minimum standards for a free, fair and credible poll produces a contested election result. It is an open secret that the Zanu PF regime is keen on re-joining the Commonwealth, and a contested result will scuttle their plans. If they are serious, then it is their duty to ensure all stakeholders are satisfied with the manner in which Zec are carrying out their business.
No doubt the reservation in the Commonwealth’s tone demonstrates that it’s not going to be so easy to be re-admitted into this club of former British colonies and, by extension, the family of nations.
Clearly, Zec and Zanu PF must tread carefully, as Zimbabwe risks remaining a pariah state without the support of other nations that matter, and the downward spiral on which former President Robert Mugabe placed the country will likely haunt the ruling party in the next five years should they win next week’s polls.
It is hoped that the government should take seriously the indication that the conduct of these elections will also determine whether Zimbabwe is to join other civilised nations that respect democratic values.
We have always argued that every stakeholder in these elections has a right to be heard, because that is what democracy is all about. But with Zanu PF and Zec appearing to be fighting from the same corner and moving on the same page, there have been a lot of suspicion around such bedfellowship.
It is our prayer that Zanu PF takes the Commonwealth’s concerns seriously for the sake of the people of Zimbabwewho have suffered for far too long under a callous Zanu PF regime that President Emmerson Mnangagwa is keen to re-invent. This is the best opportunity to make amends.