By Welshman Ncube
WHATEVER the outcome of the 2005 parliamentary elections, there can be little doubt that they provided an historic opportunity for Zimbabwe to begin laying the foundation for resolving the
multi-faceted crisis which has bedevilled the country for the last six years. Unfortunately, this opportunity has been lost because the Zanu PF government refused to fully embrace democratic traditions which would have seen the complete rolling back of the frontiers of tyranny and dictatorship which the Zanu PF government systematically rolled out since its defeat in the constitutional referendum in February 2000.
The instruments of repression include not only the plethora of legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act (Posa) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) which severely curtail freedoms of association and expression, but also Zanu PF’s own mindset which is highly intolerant and denies the sovereign right of the people of Zimbabwe to elect a government of their own choice.
Indeed, the principal problem in Zimbabwe today is the fact that we have a ruling party which does not believe that the people of Zimbabwe have the right to elect into power any political party which is not Zanu PF. The relentless, systematic and sustained attack on our democratic freedoms over the last five years have been driven by Zanu PF’s conviction that it has a divine right to rule Zimbabwe forever and elections are necessary only for then purpose of confirming this divine right and not for affording the people an opportunity to freely elect a government of their choice.
It is hardly surprising therefore that the legal and political reforms effected to Zimbabwe’s political system have been half-hearted, cosmetic and grudging and intended to create a façade of democracy rather than reality of it.
Because of Zanu PF’s failure to adequately address the fundamental flaws of our election system which have led to a profound loss of public confidence in not just the electoral system but in democracy itself, Zimbabweans will have to wait until 2008 for the possibility of a truly free and fair election.
The 2005 parliamentary elections, not withstanding all the noises we will hear from Sadc and other Mugabe-friendly observer missions specifically handpicked on the basis of their support for his regime, have been fundamentally unfree and unfair.
We know that the only purpose of most of the observer missions is to legitimise the Mugabe regime at all costs. Thus it does not surprise us that they only started their observation process barely a week before polling and even then they spent more of their time meeting Mugabe and dining at hotels in Harare and Bulawayo than on the ground where the election contest was taking place. Their absence at practically all our rallies and activities in the rural areas where much of the intimidation and vote-buying through traditional leaders, councillors and council officials and other government functionaries, was taking place was so conspicuous that they should be ashamed to make any announcements on the elections.
We take particular pride in the fact that it is not them but the people of Zimbabwe who can accord legitimacy to the outcome of the elections.
The fact that the Mugabe regime largely withdrew direct political violence as an instrument of coercion to secure votes in the last five weeks before the election and instructed the police for the first time in five years to deal with perpetrators of violence, while significantly contributing to the largely peaceful five week campaign period cannot fully make up for five years the electorate was subjected to such severe brutality designed to coerce them into voting for Zanu PF and indeed calculated to destroy the MDC. Only when Zanu PF believed that the MDC was dead and ready for burial at the elections did it withdraw, albeit halfheartedly, the use of beatings, torture, destruction of property and even killings as an instrument of campaigning.
We maintain that the withdrawal of political violence after five years of its systematic application does not make a free and fair election. Similarly, granting the opposition the right to meet and thereby canvass for votes only during the “official” campaign period of some five weeks, does not make up for years of denial of the right to hold meetings and thereby interact with voters, for an election is not an event but a process which begins from the conclusion of one election and ends on the day of the next succeeding election.
Thus the fact that the police allowed most of our campaign meetings to take place during the five-week official campaign period cannot make up for years of closed political space during which the police brazenly asserted not just the authority to ban MDC meetings but also the “right” to sit in on our strategic planning meetings particularly at district and provincial levels.
*Welshman Ncube is the MDC Secretary General.