Comment

Voters reject Zanu PF’s tyranny and deceit

WHAT does it tell us about the fortunes of the ruling party when its chief spokesman claims that the opposition did not manage to win control of all the towns in Zimbabwe?


“We a

re happy with the results because they show that the MDC does not control all the urban areas,” Nathan Shamuyarira lamely commented on the results of last weekend’s polling.


Elsewhere ruling party spokesmen were comforting themselves with the thought that MDC supporters were “voting with their stomachs”, as if that was somehow unfair or unusual. This pattern of voting had “inadvertently” placed the MDC in positions of authority, we were told. Jonathan Moyo claimed the inter-party talks had distracted voters. So had the succession debate.


Then there was the problem of inadequate party structures which failed candidates blamed for their miserable showing.


This tells us more about Zanu PF’s internal problems than it does about the situation on the ground. The fact is at the end of the day Zanu PF’s attempts to persuade the nation that the MDC is an unpatriotic party in league with foreign interests cut no ice whatsoever with Zimbabwean voters. Very simply Shamuyarira and Moyo have been wasting not only their time but public funds on a campaign of deception.


Moyo even managed to suggest that voter apathy was the fault of the MDC. The public were preoccupied with cash shortages, price rises, unemployment and transport, he said. In these circumstances “it was not possible for a positive result for any ruling party”. People “understood that most of their problems were caused by the MDC”, he suggested.


This shocking abdication of responsibility by government should not be allowed to pass unremarked. If people were so disenchanted by the MDC, why did they vote for them in most of the country’s urban areas where these problems were most acute?


What these elections have demonstrated is that nobody blames the MDC for sanctions, unemployment, inflation or cash shortages. Responsibility for these problems has been placed squarely where it belongs: at the feet of the ruling party.


If the electorate held the MDC responsible they would have voted for Zanu PF. And they didn’t.

The only places where Zanu PF won votes is where their coercive techniques could be practised undisturbed. The voters of Bindura, Marondera, Shurugwi and Karoi found themselves without much electoral choice after opposition candidates were barred from registering. In Kwekwe the MDC’s mayoral candidate and his election agent, the town’s MP, were attacked when they left a polling station.


At St Martin’s in Amaveni, Kwekwe, Zanu PF youths were singing and playing drums near the polling station, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, an independent NGO, reports. Its supervisors pointed this out to the police but they declined to intervene on the grounds that the youths were not inside the 100m stipulated area. At Dambudzo Hall in Ward 4, the ZESN reports that suspected youth militia blocked the entrance to the polling station and screened voters.


There were also reports of vote-buying through subsidised maize sales close to polling stations in Bulawayo wards. Despite lengthy queues, polling stations closed early in Chitungwiza, Masvingo and Redcliff.


In many cases the MDC was denied access to the voters’ roll.

The ZESN notes in summary that the elections were characterised by violence, intimidation and obstruction of voters, as well as vote-buying and a lack of information on the electoral process, especially regarding the location of polling stations.


This is the situation the US State Department finds “improved” over parliamentary by-elections and rural district council elections earlier this year, a conclusion that can only point to shortcomings in their embassy’s documentation process.


What is remarkable is that despite such obvious electoral manipulation and political intimidation the ruling party performed so badly. It has effectively been banished from Zimbabwe’s key towns. Harare, Bulawayo, Masvingo, Mutare, Gweru, Redcliff, Gwanda, Victoria Falls, Hwange and Kariba are now opposition strongholds. Only in smaller rural centres such as Bindura, Marondera and Karoi is the crude muscle of President Mugabe’s electoral machine able to impose outcomes. For all intents and purposes Zanu PF is now a party of the rural margins, the only places likely to swallow the excuses and explanations advanced by Mugabe’s spokesmen for their leader’s failure.


For, make no mistake, this election outcome, whatever the low turnout, is a defeat for a president who controls all the levers of power. He uses the army and police to prevent the opposition exercising its constitutional right to free expression and association. He abuses the public media to ensure his is the only voice heard across the country.


Despite this totalitarian apparatus, Mugabe still cannot mobilise popular support for his policies. Indeed, it would appear much of the propaganda emanating from his office has been counter-productive. While he claims the loyalty of the masses in his land seizures and economic controls, the latest polls suggest his support base is shrinking.


The worst aspect of all this is that many Zimbabweans no longer believe their vote is worth anything. This is no doubt the intention. But last weekend’s polling shows that thousands are still prepared to turn out to repudiate the politics of tyranny and deceit.