The curtain is finally coming down as Zimbabweans get ready with eagerness to participate in this historic plebiscite. With months of mobilization, politicking and campaigning political parties are hoping for better fortunes as the battle to win the souls of Zimbabweans will finally be decided by the ballot on Monday the 30th of July.
It has been quite a journey and for many, they cannot wait to put the X next to their preferred candidates on the ballot paper. Since the proclamation of the election date, there has been contestations around the design, printing of ballot papers, storage and transportation of ballots amid fears of rigging by ZANU PF with the aid of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). Shockingly, the contestations have not necessarily been between contesting parties but rather it was the main opposition coalition the MDC Alliance that has been on the neck of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission with claims of the ‘independent’ electoral body being a captured institution. The spirited efforts by the MDC Alliance to have ‘reforms’ before the elections did not yield significant results.
Until today the final voter's roll and even the list of polling stations remains a secret to other political parties apart from ZANU PF probably. This scenario cast serious doubts on the credibility of this election.
While it was good for the MDC Alliance to raise their stakes it was clear from the onset that their bid was ambitious. The challenges which Zimbabwe’s elections are facing stem back from the constitution-making process which ushered in a ‘new constitution’ with excessive executive powers which gives the president a discretion to appoint the chairperson of the electoral commission. The fight for reforms should be a continuous struggle in the legislature and not just a year before the elections are conducted.
Also, this week the MDC Alliance announced that they would not boycott the elections; rather they are urging their supporters to vote in numbers to ‘overcome’ rigging. One would have thought the MDC Alliance should have made it categorically clear, especially after citing the irregularities around the conduct of the elections that they are going into this election under protest. This would help in the event of a disputed outcome, which is highly likely.
For ZANU PF they seem satisfied, they have no qualms with the commission and they have labelled those fighting with ZEC as crybabies. ZANU PF seems confident of winning this election in the face of massive rigging allegations by the opposition and it seems that the country might be going for yet another disputed election. The recent survey by Afrobarometer points out to a close electoral outcome and this might lead the country into the second round of the election.
As for the other factors, we take note of the media, particularly the public media which has remained stuck as a ‘propaganda’ outfit of the ‘new dispensation. Their delivery has been pathetic with a clear bias towards the ruling ZANU PF party in clear contravening of the constitution and the Electoral Act, which provides for equal access to all contesting parties.
Suffice to say, we also note how the ZANU PF candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa has been using state or government programmes as platforms to campaign and this is a direct violation to the dictates of a free, fair and credible election. At all these functions, Mnangagwa is either commissioning the opening of ‘something’ that will create thousands of jobs and improve livelihoods of communities and credit is deliberately credited to the ruling party. This pattern further cements the fact that there is a conflation of the state and the ruling party.
We also note, for the first time the presence of international observers and western media in the country as the Mugabe led government previously banned them. We do hope that all these observer missions will do their work effectively and report fairly and without a bias about what they would have encountered. We make this point against the background of some observer missions who endorse an election before even moving around the country to get a first-hand experience of what’s happening on the ground.
In the same vein, we urge observers to consider how processes affect and determine the outcome and shy away from treating the election as an event.
We also take this opportunity to inform that, as part of the Regional Office’s mandate we are dispatching our own team of observers in different parts of the country and we will release our own findings to that effect. The observer mission is drawn from solidarity partners within the SADC region.
We, therefore, present to you this Special Edition of the Zimbabwe Briefing before the elections on Monday. This edition tackles different issues with cutting-edge analysis unpacking context, scenario setting (electoral outcomes) and the formulation of Zimbabwe post the election. We wish the people of Zimbabwe peaceful a voting day, and best wishes to all the participants.