BY FAITH ZABA
ZIMBABWEANS will soon be sucking teeth as another silly season beckons; electioneering ahead of the 2023 plebiscite. It’s still two years away from the next harmonised elections where voters choose three candidates — councillors, MPs and the President.
Zanu PF, in power since 1980, has slid into election mode with cell verification ending this week. This will pave way for branch and district polls. This restructuring exercise allows the former liberation movement to verify party membership in all provinces.
While opposition political parties, such as MDC Alliance have genuine concerns around the voters roll, ballots, postal votes and polling booths, they need to focus on other key aspects of the election process that influence electoral outcomes.
The opposition is currently stuck in internecine intra-party clashes with defections of senior members to the ruling party. There is no clear election strategy to unseat Zanu PF.
Zanu PF’s biggest headache, the MDC Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa, needs a thorough introspection. How has the party, formed on the shoulders of labour and peasant grievances, performed in the previous polls? That’s a hard question Chamisa et al need to answer.
Allegations of rigging after every election have become commonplace. If need be, the opposition should plug the gaps that increase the risk of election rigging.The MDC Alliance should step up in voter registration while there is adequate time to do so.
Elections are simply a game of numbers. Between 2018 and now, there are millions of young Zimbabweans who have become legible to vote but are not registered. Only a small fraction has registered.
The opposition is making minimal effort to mobilise young people to register to vote. The youth cannot be ignored in the election matrix because they make up around 67% of the population.
Trying to clear electoral bottlenecks and shambolic voters roll a few months before the elections, won’t work.
The leadership of parties should be at the forefront, selling their vision to entice new voters. They should not wait until a few months before the next elections to do manifestos. It should be an ongoing exercise to encourage particularly the young people to register and want to participate in elections, which is a fundamental right that can never be abandoned.
The opposition parties must be careful not to make rigging their narrative as it dissuades people from registering to vote and participating in elections. This is because if they continuously tell people that rigging is the order of every election, it is hardly encouraging to inspiring new voters to register.
They have to sell a positive message to the people as opposed to continuously feeding them with a negative message emphasising rigging.
Apart from voter education and registration, key electoral and structural reforms need to be implemented to level the political playing field. Zimbabwe has been stuck in this quagmire for the past two decades. Even the late former MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai clashed with the late president Robert Mugabe over the same issues. Electoral outcomes cannot be fair if the structural issues such as security sector reforms and composition of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) are not addressed.
Now is the time to push for the desired reforms instead of waiting for the eleventh hour.
ZEC is only independent on paper. This body needs to be cleaned up of securocrats influence and enhance transparency. We have strongly advocated for a truly independent electoral body.
Judiciary needs to retain its independence. The Electoral Court must allow for speedy resolution of electoral results contestations.
This is more of an attitudinal than a legal framework reform. Government must allow political nemesis to freely expressing themselves through protest, association and speech. Access to public media by the opposition cannot be overemphasised.
We have an estimated four million Zimbabweans outside the country. These currently are not allowed to vote. This is disenfranchisement, and the government must institute modalities for diaspora vote. Thus, the Electoral Act must make the necessary provisions.
Voters roll management
The voters’ roll can be a tool for rigging. Its management and updating must be transparent before we get to 2023.
The local voting processes must comply with the African Charter on Democracy and Governance and the Sadc Guidelines on Free and Fair Elections.
The time to act is now.