There was diffident and defeated-looking Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Justice Rita Makarau seated next to her dismissive and defiant deputy Joyce Kazembe, who peremptorily took or grabbed all the questions directed at her boss by journalists over the conduct of the harmonised elections on Wednesday, voting day, this week. Passing the buck or tail wagging the dog? Report by Conway Tutani
Justice Makarau looked well and truly overwhelmed. Her body language said so. For much of the time, she did not look her audience in the face. There was clear discomfort. In contrast, Kazembe appeared in charge — underwhelmed by the “fuss”.
Justice Makarau’s tame response that those people who had been turned away in the morning should “go back and vote at any polling station in that constituency” was not convincing because how was this to be communicated with only five hours of voting left? Neither was this reassuring in as far as it opened floodgates for possibilities of rigging. Furthermore, it is reported that some people could have been registered to vote under the guise of dubious Zanu PF-aligned youth organisations and churches and most of them were beneficiaries of the voter registration slips entitling them to cast ballots at any polling station in the constituency. Again, where did the over 2 000 so-called war veterans camped outside Harare to ostensibly express their grievances to President Robert Mugabe vote? Did all of them have to come all the way to Harare or they could have sent their representatives? Was this replicated countrywide?
Indeed Justice Makarau fumbled, she did not have ready answers, raising the question: Was she really in charge or the Zec secretariat — as has been alleged over the years — actually runs the show along with Kazembe, who has been a permanent fixture there and appeared unfazed by the gravity of the implications of the issues raised. In other countries, such bodies as Zec are purposefully called independent electoral commissions so as to serve the whole nation without fear or favour.
The imperious Kazembe summarily dismissed the question of the absence of Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede at the Press conference, saying she did not speak on his behalf despite the fact that days earlier they had answered questions fielded at a joint platform and Mudede — in the presence of Zec — had promised to be there again along with Zec officials. While indeed the two bodies are separate, the nature of their work brings them together. For the one to be effective, the other must be there. But Mudede was nowhere to be seen when he was needed to answer crucial questions and he didn’t even send apologies. Did he conveniently absent himself?
Then there was police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba making all sorts of accusations against the opposition, beating Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo at the game. It takes psychological acrobatics for someone like her to find fault only in the opposition and somehow miss the moral monstrosity staring her right in the face — like the staged arrest of opposition supporters at Beitbridge border post who had come en masse to specifically vote and the virtual impunity afforded the other side. That is the scourge of State-mandated lies and distortions.
Deny and accuse is their mantra — that’s why they are now accusing the opposition of plotting to rig and cause mayhem. The failure of Sadc to respond adequately has made it more and more difficult for them to solve the political crisis in Zimbabwe as the regime has gotten more and more emboldened as each time Sadc blinks first. That some African Union (AU) observers concluded that the election had been free and fair even before the end of voting does not inspire confidence. Yes, there have been monstrosities against Africa by the West, but the AU must equally focus on blacks oppressing — even killing — fellow blacks as a systemic problem.
That said, the opposition has more than its fair share of blame. After all these years, some among its ranks — in fact, too many — clearly do not appreciate what they are up against. Parliament is secondary if one looks back at how it has been disregarded over and over again by the Presidency while the Judiciary has been loaded with kindred souls and will always rule in favour of the system.
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They do not seem to know that the main prize is the Presidency — not Parliament — to meaningfully transform the political culture of this country.
What is lost in this situation is that there are nasty people across and irrespective of tribe. Not all Muslims are terrorists, but many terrorists are Muslims. Just like some Ndebeles are tribalists, but not all Ndebeles are tribalists. Equally, some Shonas are tribalists, but not all Shonas are tribalists. We can say this without invalidating the experiences of victims of tribalism, who, by the way, are many. Everyone is prejudiced on a scale of 1 to 10 and history is full of conflict over tribe, clan, race, religion, culture etc, but the fact of the matter is that some people bring the issue of tribe to the forefront more than is necessary at the expense of effective political strategy. All this tribal name-calling serves nothing more than stop dialogue. The true tribal merchants really don’t want a conversation, but rather an ongoing opportunity to gain from it. It’s not merely a different opinion from others, but something which is not supportable. Indeed, there has been tribal profiling and tribal profiteering which has resulted in wastage of political opportunities.
But, gladly, the majority of Zimbabweans are not tribalists as seen in the emerging consensus across the country and also reflected in the voting patterns. This ought to increase the inclination of those in the opposition without personal issues to work and help each other more.
That is the twisted tale of the election.