THE prevailing situation in the country, whereby thousands of potential voters in urban areas are being disenfranchised after failing to get national identity documents to enable them to register for the 2018 general elections, is a serious cause of concern. If not urgently addressed, that can ruin the prospects of free, fair and credible elections. Such an action flies in the face of the undertaking made by President Emmerson Mnangagwa that the looming plebiscite will be transparent.
Candid Comment,Faith Zaba
A snap survey by the Zimbabwe Independent this week showed that hundreds of citizens were being turned away at registration centres by officials from the Registrar-General’s Office, who emphasise that they can only serve a limited number of people per day, owing to a shortage of resources. Most centres were serving between 20 and 40 people daily. This is a travesty of justice, as this retrogressive attitude hinders the right of the affected individuals to cast their vote later this year.
Election Resource Centre executive director Tawanda Chimhini has expressed concern over this development, voicing suspicion that it is an attempt to frustrate potential voters from registering, a development he castigated as “deplorable”.
This is not the only concern. Opposition MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said recently although he gave the state broadcaster, ZBC, an interview on his views on the upcoming elections, it was never aired.
Mnangagwa’s declaration that elections will be free and fair, sounds hollow when the ZBC continues to act as if it is a Zanu PF propaganda mouthpiece, constantly shutting out opposition parties’ dissenting views. These are low hanging fruits that need very little in terms of resources for Mnangagwa’s government to rectify by simply allowing them to air their views.
Countrywide reports that Zanu PF activists are collecting registration slips, which is illegal, threatens the credibility of the elections, at a time when Zimbabwe’s economic recovery is largely dependent on how the polls will be conducted.
The West has already indicated that Zimbabwe will only receive significant funding after delivering credible elections and implementing democratic reforms.
Australia, Britain and the United States have said Mnangagwa’s government can only normalise their frosty relations if his administration holds clean elections this year, adhere to constitutionmalism and restore the rule of law. Mnangagwa has a herculean task of changing Zanu PF’s electoral modus operandi rooted in rigging and dishonesty. While he is making efforts, by way of threats of arrest of his party supporters caught demanding voter registration slips, it is going to be difficult to effect a mindset change in Zanu PF.
The newly-appointed Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chair Priscilla Chigumba’s port of call is to clean up the commission. Civil society and opposition political parties have been calling for a reformed Zec, arguing it is laden with security agents. The president has been on a charm offensive telling anyone who cares to listen that Zimbabwe is open for business. However, a flawed election based on these irregularities will ensure that Mnangagwa’s call to investors will go unheeded.