By Benjamin Chitate
WHAT happened during the 2005 parliamentary elections is really a sad development. Zanu PF has turned traditional leaders into masters of repression; it has oriented chiefs and kraal head
s to hate their subjects because of their political choice.
In a way, the ruling party is indirectly declaring a one-party state in the rural areas where it knows the people there are gullible and can easily be intimidated.
That the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has become popular with the rural electorate is fact, as evident from the large turnout of supporters at its rallies in the rural areas — some of which were screened on television.
However, Zanu PF came up with a strategy where it would hold its own rallies after the MDC. Police officers who gave the MDC clearance to hold rallies were instructed to pass on that information to Zanu PF so that the ruling party would hold its own rallies after the opposition’s.
At all those rallies held in the rural areas, Zanu PF would first have meetings with the chiefs, kraal heads and headmen, where they were allegedly tasked to come up with programmes of action to intimidate the electorate into voting for Zanu PF.
The traditional leaders would compile lists of all people under their jurisdiction. They would then identify from the lists those who were Zanu PF and those who were MDC. MDC rallies were also used to identify MDC activists as some Zanu PF spies would attend the same rallies.
All MDC supporters were systematically denied access to maize sold through the Grain Marketing Board (GMB). MDC activists were subjected to various forms of harassment. Some had their identification documents defaced so that they could not vote, others had the same documents confiscated and were instructed to collect them at specific polling stations on voting day.
Kraal heads were instructed to hold village meetings where they lied to the people that because of the use of transparent ballot boxes, and because counting of votes would be done at the same polling stations and that Zanu PF activists would write down the names of the people voting on the election day, it was easy to know who one voted for and all those who voted for the MDC would be evicted, or denied access to GMB-sold maize and agricultural inputs.
Villagers were told that it was a punishable offence not to vote, and voting meant putting their X against the Zanu PF candidate. For the sake of their survival, the villagers had no choice but to vote in a way that would ensure that they were not denied access to agricultural inputs and, above all, vote in a way that would ensure that they were not harmed in any way by Zanu PF hooligans.
That is how Zanu PF stole the election from the MDC.
This method of rigging is one which most observers would not easily detect, and that is why some of them are saying the election was free and fair.
Zimbabwe needs not just observers, it needs some investigation conducted by bodies such as the African Union and the United Nations to establish the extent of such human rights abuse by the regime.
Bodies such as the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights can submit reports that would persuade these bodies to take a closer look. The MDC could also help compile the cases of human rights abuses for political purposes and present them to the same bodies.
But we know very well how Zanu PF is the party that has made life so unbearable for most Zimbabweans. The rural electorate knows this, and had they been allowed to vote the way they wanted, they could have voted for a new beginning for our beloved Zimbabwe.
It is a challenge to those who are more enlightened about the voting process to educate our relatives who have been misled into thinking that someone will know who they voted for. Each individual who is enlightened must spread the message to all their close relatives who could be gullible.
Voter education is best done at family level, and should start now for the 2008 presidential election. It is only three years away and that is not a lot of time from now.
But with an economy that is in tatters, will Zanu PF be able to deliver on its election promises? Will the people of Zimbabwe want to suffer all their lives under a government that has failed to deliver in 25 years?
The answer lies in our hands, and it is a question of choice.
*Benjamin Chitate is a freelance writer based in Harare.