The crisis of electoral integrity in Zim

One of the key roles of elections is the facilitation of electoral practice in a peacefully controlled and non-violent manner so that the outcome can be legitimised.

ELECTIONS play an influential role in the nourishment of democracy.

They are a vital prerequisite of democracy, the first step without which democracy cannot otherwise be established.

One of the key roles of elections is the facilitation of electoral practice in a peacefully controlled and non-violent manner so that the outcome can be legitimised.

The notion of competitive elections occupies a fundamental place in liberal democracies and post-Cold War neo-liberal philosophies of proper governance.

Elections are an arena in which national issues are specified, opened up to rational debate, and present political actors with an opportunity to sell their ideas and policies to voters.

The electorate is assumed to be able to make free and rational choices about who they would like to occupy leadership positions.

As academic Said Adejumobi states, elections “... are a viable means of ensuring the orderly process of leadership succession and change and an instrument of political authority and legitimation.”

Elections not only allow for participation and legitimacy, but also facilitate the peaceful transfer of power, making it feasible to hold the powerful accountable.

This is why it is often argued that elections facilitate communication between the government and the governed and also have symbolic purposes by giving voice to the public.

In Zimbabwe, just like many other African countries, elections have become what academic Sabelo J Ndlovu-Gatsheni calls empty rituals.

This means that elections have lost their substantive democratic value and have become mere formalities.

Instead of being genuine contests for political power and avenues for expressing the will of the people, elections are conducted as routine events with predetermined outcomes, often lacking transparency, fairness and genuine competition.

To him, the electoral process has become a hollow exercise, devoid of the democratic principles it is supposed to embody.

The danger of this situation as indicated by the just-ended by-elections is that it creates serious voter apathy among the electorate.

When voters feel that their input in the democratic process is undermined, the urge to continue voting dies a natural death.

What has been happening on the Zimbabwean electoral playfield ever since the August 2023 harmonised elections diminishes people’s desire to actively participate in the political processes of the country.

Section 67(b) of the Constitution provides that: “Every Zimbabwean citizen has the right to make political choices freely” and section 67(3) adds that “every Zimbabwean who is over 18 years of age has the right to vote in all elections and referendum ...”

Unfortunately, that right to elect leaders they want is sometimes trampled upon as seen by the recalls from Parliament and councils that have triggered countless by-elections.

Besides fuelling voter apathy and violating people’s democratic right to elect people they want to represent them as is the norm in a representative democracy, the by-elections triggered by “unnecessary” recalls are also a waste of State resources.

The nation is grappling with an economic crisis as infrastructure crumbles and essential services falter.

Roads are in deplorable condition, the water supply system is in disarray, and the healthcare sector is struggling due to a severe lack of funding.

Amid these challenges, government is facing criticism for squandering resources that could otherwise be directed towards much-needed development.

For instance, the money could have been used to purchase essential equipment such as wheelchairs, hearing aids and mobility scooters, which are crucial for enhancing the independence and quality of life of people with disabilities.

Additionally, funds could have been allocated to retrofitting public buildings and transportation systems to make them more accessible, or to provide vocational training and job placement services to help individuals with disabilities secure meaningful employment.

Poverty in Zimbabwe manifests in various forms, including food insecurity, lack of access to clean water and inadequate healthcare.

The repercussions are severe, with malnutrition, disease and a lack of educational opportunities hindering the country's development.

During elections, political players must honour the wishes of the electorate and prioritise initiatives that improve livelihoods.

However, the ongoing political bickering in the country is causing disillusionment among voters, leading many to question the value of participating in future elections.

If this trend continues, it could further entrench poverty and stall progress in the nation.

  • Runyararo Ndaramo is a journalism and communication student at the Christian College of Southern Africa. She writes in her own capacity.

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