Editorial: Free but not fair!

Now that the results are being declared in this week’s general elections, showing the MDC-T has been bruisingly defeated, Zanu PF is predictably basking in the glow of their victory secured by hook or crook.

The Zimbabwe Independent Editorial

The elections have been described as “peaceful and credible”, a switch in the terminology which requires less of the observers than the “free and fair” formula. Whatever the wording, this election was quite obviously not fair which means it cannot be described as credible.

Yes people voted freely despite large numbers being turned away and manipulation of the electoral process but it was definitely not fair. Some of the irregularities have been documented by the Research Advocacy Unit (Rau), a local outfit which has pointed to anomalies in the voters’ roll.

It concludes that there are well over one million people on the roll who are either deceased or departed. It also says that 63 constituencies have more registered voters than inhabitants. At least 41 constituencies deviate from the average number of voters per constituency by more than the permitted 20%.

Rau also makes the telling point that there is a marked registration bias in favour of rural constituencies, among other things. There were obvious problems with the arrangements surrounding voter registration, the voters’ roll, special voting for security forces and besides there have been accusations of incompetence against the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).

However, some observers appeared over-anxious to propitiate Zec. In particular General Olusegun Obasanjo and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma rushed to conclude all was well with the pre-election arrangements without more than a cursory glance even if they had their observers on the ground. The security forces, mainly the police, Zec officials and state media have been accused of bias and this was evident to all. All this points to an outcome that, while relatively peaceful, was far from fair.

The public media gave Mugabe and his party saturation coverage while Morgan Tsvangirai was subjected to a fierce propaganda war and ridiculed daily. Of all the shortcomings in the electoral process, Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede played a key role by refusing to release an electronic copy of the electoral roll. His obduracy and failure to manage his duties also helped Mugabe.

That alone would constitute manipulation in most countries. That would include “treating”, offering inducements to voters. The first couple were not shy to promise all sorts of benefits to voters. And Mugabe had all the apparatus of the state at his disposal, including helicopter transport.

If Mugabe and Zanu PF win with a landslide, Zimbabwe faces a rough ride ahead. The economy will decline once again; investors will keep away and those with money locally will take it out. Businesses will suffer, scale down or sink. Skilled workers will continue to leave.

Zanu PF has no chance of fulfilling its pie in the sky election promises. And at the end of the day Zimbabwe will suffer the consequences of Mugabe’s populist policies and extended periods of ineptitude.