Editor’s memo: Wanted: Free and fair elections

VICE-PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa is accused of unduly influencing voting patterns in the recently held Chirumanzu-Zibagwe by-election after allegedly cowing the electorate into voting for his wife, Auxilia.

By Stewart Chabwinja

Speaking to the media during presentation of her organisation’s post-election review report, Zimbabwe Election Support Network, (Zesn) director Rindai Chipfunde Vava reportedly said Mnangagwa resorted to unorthodox means to ensure his wife won the seat at all costs.

Hardly surprising for while wooing voters on behalf of his spouse in the run-up to the election, Mnangagwa made it abundantly clear he would not take no for an answer. He went as far as warning that those who failed to vote for his party would be excluded from government programmes, even suggesting non- Zanu PF supporters should be denied the vote.

For good measure, he also threw in the routine line that there are ways and means of telling who had voted and for whom, and exhorted headmen and district chairmen to herd voters to the polls.

Auxillia duly coasted to a huge win, garnering 16 092 votes while her rivals aggregated less than 1 000 votes. Impressive, save for the fact that given the circumstances leading up to the polls, she all but ran against herself, making the contest — like so many others in the past — a mere formality.

And without the participation of the main opposition parties, the splintered MDC formations, which have so far boycotted the polls insisting they would not contest until crucial electoral reforms are effected, the ongoing by-elections are shorn of the veneer of legitimacy Zanu PF craves.

This is why there has been thinly-veiled indignation from the ruling party, through the state media, with the opposition labelled cowardly.

While the opposition poll boycott will continue to deeply divide its supporters, sympathisers and pro-democracy activists, it is clear the electoral landscape continues to be largely sculpted by Zanu PF to ensure its continued political hegemony.

Zesn raised the same old concern over the involvement of police in assisting voters saying their role should only end at maintaining order.

“Government must ensure the full alignment of the electoral law to the constitutional provisions and review the regulations in order to improve electoral processes and increase transparency and public confidence in elections, including in the areas of voter education, registration and inspection.

“Zec (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) must include all stakeholders, including political parties and the civil society, in the ongoing voter registration exercises, and must diligently provide access to the voters’ roll to all stakeholders in print and searchable electronic format,” Zesn said.

Fat chance! Zanu PF will not surrender its only guarantee to continued rule: control of the electoral process — previous elections amply attest to that. In any case, it is a subject Zanu PF refused to budge on despite the increased leverage the opposition enjoyed in the Government of National Unity; so why now?

So crude were the methods used in Chirumanzu-Zibagwe and Mt Darwin constituencies that the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace said it now understood why opposition parties were boycotting elections after noting glaring flaws in the conduct of the elections.

On a similar note, Catholic bishops said they have noted with concern that political party slogans in remote areas were known more than the “10 commandments”, and the “basic social teachings of the Church”.

It’s been said before but it’s worth saying again: We’re headed for another stolen election come 2018.