After months of simmering tension between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the military element as uneasy bedfellows, Zanu PF will today finally launch its 2018 general election campaign on the back of violent, chaotic and fraudulent primary elections that have widened the party’s internal fissures.
Candid Comment,Brezhnev Malaba
Tenuous alliances built on a shaky post-coup foundation are being tested severely as comrade turns on comrade in scenes reminiscent of a vicious wildcat fight.
As we exclusively report in these pages today, the party is riding on a massive US$200 million campaign budget which under normal circumstances would give the opposition sleepless nights. With such mouth-watering resources, a party would be expected to frighten and dazzle its opponents, but this is not what we are witnessing. It is a stark reminder that although money is vital in a political campaign, it is not a magic bullet.
If Zanu PF’s catastrophic primaries are a harbinger of this year’s much-anticipated general elections, Zimbabweans have every reason to worry. In flagrant violation of the national constitution, the party abused its power of incumbency by illegally deploying police officers to work as returning officers at polling stations all over the country. The President later sought to distance himself from that illegal deployment, but the damage had already been done. A partisan police service which does the bidding of political overlords is a liability to any self-respecting nation. How can we trust such a compromised police service to play an impartial role in the July national elections?
Zimbabwe does not deserve another sham election. Anything short of a credible election will fling wide open the gates of hell and plunge the country into unimaginable turmoil, economic meltdown, international isolation and social upheaval. That is why every Zimbabwean has a responsibility to ensure that the integrity of this year’s general election is fiercely guarded. For that to happen, both the electoral process and the outcome must conform to the minimum international standards of democratic elections.
Although there appears to be an increase in the number of young candidates who triumphed — and we have to remember the demographic trend which has seen 64% of the country’s entire 5,3 million registered voters consisting of people in the 18-49 year age-group — only a paltry 11% of Zanu PF’s candidates are women. This cannot be right.
The mainstream opposition MDC-T led by Nelson Chamisa is scheduled to kick-start its selection of candidates this weekend. The chaos emerging from the party in the aftermath of Morgan Tsvangirai’s death has damaged the opposition in ways that are yet to be fully unpacked. It remains to be seen whether democratic logic can prevail over autocratic instinct.
Political parties have to be reminded that, while elections are fleeting, the national interest is permanent and must be preserved beyond the seasonal misadventures of inconsistent politicians. After hundreds of millions of dollars are blown on campaign T-shirts and other shiny trinkets, the poverty-stricken communities will still need food, hospitals, education, jobs, and a decent quality of life. People don’t eat slogans.