Dread­ing elec­tions, con­test­ing out­come

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion - Jo­ram Ny­athi Spec­trum

ZIM­BABWE is hardly ever too far from elec­tion mode. But it also dif­fers from re­gional coun­tries in an­other re­spect: op­po­si­tion par­ties al­ways de­mand­ing a litany of elec­toral re­forms that they believe will make them win elec­tions. If they are not pre­oc­cu­pied thus, they are ar­gu­ing among them­selves about who should lead an as yet un­formed grand coali­tion which they hope can beat the gov­ern­ing Zanu-PF.

It is not sur­pris­ing, there­fore, that en­gaged in th­ese di­ver­sions, Zim­babwe’s op­po­si­tion par­ties rarely have time to sell their poli­cies to prospec­tive vot­ers; that is if they have such poli­cies to sell beyond talk of democ­racy, and re­mov­ing Mu­gabe from power. Same old story.

The next elec­tions are sched­uled for around mid2018, that’s less than two years away. The main op­po­si­tion Move­ment for Demo­cratic Change of Mr Mor­gan Ts­van­gi­rai lost badly in the pre­vi­ous har­monised elec­tions in 2013. Since then it has splin­tered, and poses lit­tle threat to Zanu-PF. There are a mot­ley other for­ma­tions, joined last year by Zim­babwe Peo­ple First led by for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Dr Joice Mu­juru.

Chair­woman of the Zim­babwe Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (ZEC) Jus­tice Rita Maka­rau an­nounced last week that they had, of their own ac­cord, started work­ing on im­prov­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion of elec­tions to avoid dis­puted out­comes. It is an am­bi­tious un­der­tak­ing given that the de­manded re­forms now ex­ceed the bi­b­li­cal 10 Com­mand­ments, in­clud­ing that Jus­tice Maka­rau her­self should not chair ZEC.

Re­spond­ing to claims by the op­po­si­tion un­der the um­brella of the Na­tional Elec­toral Re­form Agenda (NERA) that Zanu-PF rigs elec­tions by us­ing so-called ghost vot­ers or by al­low­ing its sup­port­ers to vote more than once, Jus­tice Maka­rau said ZEC was in­tro­duc­ing a mark­ing pen to be used by vot­ers in­stead of them dip­ping their lit­tle fin­ger in a bot­tle of ink.

More im­por­tantly, they are also in­tro­duc­ing for the first time a bio­met­ric voter regis­tra­tion sys­tem which can de­tect an in­di­vid­ual try­ing to vote a sec­ond time at the same polling station. Also, vot­ing will be pollingsta­tion based. Each polling station will han­dle be­tween 800 and 1 500 vot­ers. (Not sur­pris­ing, ZESN thinks 1 500 vot­ers in 12 hours is too much. Why? Zam­bia had 800.)

Jus­tice Maka­rau ex­plained how the bio­met­ric sys­tem makes it im­pos­si­ble for one to vote more than once to al­lay the fears of scep­tics. “The bio­met­ric voter regis­tra­tion sys­tem means that in ad­di­tion to de­tails like your date of birth, names and ID num­ber, we are also go­ing to cap­ture some of your bio­met­ric fea­tures . . . We will cap­ture your face and fin­ger­prints dig­i­tally,” said Jus­tice Maka­rau.

This way, she said, the bio­met­ric “kit will de­ter­mine whether any­one else with sim­i­lar fin­ger­prints and im­age has reg­is­tered even un­der an­other name”. This should en­sure the in­tegrity of the new vot­ers’ roll, which re­places the old one com­piled by the reg­is­trar­gen­eral’s of­fice headed by Cde Tobaiwa Mud­ede. This is a con­sti­tu­tional re­quire­ment. An­other con­ces­sion from more than a dozen NERA de­mands.

But they are far from ap­peased. The com­plaints are in­ces­sant, and grow­ing, from the sen­si­ble to the ridicu­lous some­times.

Last week MDC-T spokesman Mr Obert Gutu claimed the 2018 har­monised elec­tions would be rigged (they are fore­warned but not fore­armed as a po­lit­i­cal party). He said the rig­ging would be achieved through a bal­lot pa­per treated with a chem­i­cal to

The litany of de­manded re­forms tells us one thing: rather than pre­pare to con­test and win elec­tions in 2018, op­po­si­tion par­ties are pre­par­ing to con­test the elec­toral out­come in­stead. The rest are side-shows

pro­duce a spe­cific re­sult.

“I can’t give you the full de­tails, but th­ese are bal­lot papers that are chem­i­cally-de­signed to project a par­tic­u­lar re­sult,” he said cryp­ti­cally when asked by our Harare Bureau, how such a chimera was pos­si­ble.

The party also re­cently asked that it be di­rectly in­volved in the pro­cure­ment of bal­lot ma­te­ri­als.

The list of de­mands keeps grow­ing from a few “out­stand­ing is­sues” dur­ing the Govern­ment of Na­tional Unity with Zanu-PF be­tween 2009 and 2013 to more than 12 now. They want an in­de­pen­dent elec­toral com­mis­sion, which ZEC al­ready is in terms of the Con­sti­tu­tion, mil­i­tary per­son­nel should not be in­volved in elec­tions even if they are long re­tired, they want postal vot­ing for the di­as­pora and don’t want tra­di­tional lead­ers to be in­volved in ac­tive pol­i­tics, and it goes on.

Fol­low­ing the split of the MDC-T after its dis­mal per­for­mance in the July 31, 2013 har­monised elec­tions, Mr Ts­van­gi­rai re­called about 14 of his party rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Par­lia­ment for cross­ing the floor. He then re­fused to take part in sub­se­quent by-elec­tions un­til there were elec­toral re­forms (no re­forms, no elec­tions), and Zanu-PF took the bonus seats on a sil­ver plat­ter, in the process in­creas­ing its al­ready unas­sail­able par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity.

It is an ema­ci­ated MDC-T far out­num­bered by Zanu-PF now push­ing for elec­toral re­forms.

Zanu-PF has been un­com­pro­mis­ing. “We are not go­ing to leg­is­late our­selves out of power,” Mr Ts­van­gi­rai has been told re­peat­edly. And he has him­self to blame. Peo­ple ask why those elec­toral de­mands, if they are gen­uine, were not cap­tured in the mak­ing of the new Con­sti­tu­tion in which all po­lit­i­cal par­ties and civic so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions par­tic­i­pated.

All the par­ties sub­se­quently cam­paigned for the adop­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion in the ref­er­en­dum of May 2013.

Said a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst, Good­wine Mureriwa last week; “They are try­ing to build a case that the elec­tions won’t be free and fair, which is a tired strat­egy. In­stead of mo­bil­is­ing sup­port for them­selves to win elec­tions, the MDC-T is busy try­ing to throw span­ners in the process and try­ing to cause panic.”

They are not mo­bil­is­ing vot­ers, in­stead they are fight­ing the elec­tions in the me­dia.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions to form a “grand coali­tion” to fight Zanu-PF in the 2018 elec­tions have failed to make progress. Big egos ap­pear to stand in the way, con­cede both Dr Mu­juru and Mr Ts­van­gi­rai, iron­i­cally the two sup­posed fron­trun­ners lead a non-ex­is­tent coali­tion. Ts­van­gi­rai sees him­self as the face of the demo­cratic strug­gle since the for­ma­tion of his party in 1999 while Mu­juru claims to bring to the coali­tion lib­er­a­tion war cre­den­tials so badly miss­ing in the MDC, but still smells too much like Zanu-PF. The other lead­ers don’t have the num­bers.

The fu­sion­ists can’t agree on a leader of the coali­tion the ju­niors des­per­ately want to hold on to their party po­si­tions.

An­other un­fail­ing de­mand is that there must al­ways be West­ern ob­servers to Zim­bab­wean elec­tions. From the same coun­tries which im­posed sanc­tions on Zim­babwe over the land re­form pro­gramme and have not hid­den their de­sire for regime change. Dis­cern­ing their dis­po­si­tion in our elec­tions re­quires no magic.

The op­po­si­tion doesn’t trust re­gional elec­tion ob­servers, most of whose gov­ern­ments are for­mer lib­er­a­tion move­ments still keen to as­sert their in­de­pen­dence.

Pre­dictably, there will be more talk of elec­tions and re­forms after the 2018 elec­tions.

The litany of de­manded re­forms tells us one thing: rather than pre­pare to con­test and win elec­tions in 2018, op­po­si­tion par­ties are pre­par­ing to con­test the elec­toral out­come in­stead. The rest are side-shows.

Great­ness When a truly great man dies, too many words of praise can tend to di­min­ish their great­ness. So, hamba kahle Baba Cephas Msipa, true fighter for peace and jus­tice.

Mr Mor­gan Ts­van­gi­rai

Jus­tice Rita Maka­rau

Dr Joice Mu­juru

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