By Faith Zaba
AN etymological trace of the Medieval Latin phrase vox populi dates as far back as the 16th century; and it literally means “the people’s voice”.
In a constitutional democracy like Zimbabwe, ordinary citizens have a say in choosing the President, parliamentarians and councillors, after every five years. This is how the people express their voices in accordance with the Constitution.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, when he came into office in 2017, dare said voxi populi vox dei, translated to the voice of the people is the voice of God.
Theorising about representative government cannot be separated from the metaphor of the voice of the people.
But this voice as the nation heads for 2023 elections, is under threat.
The MDC-T led by Douglas Mwonzora shocked Zimbabweans this week by suggesting that the plebiscite be shelved for five years. This will utterly shake the structure of political life as polls are constitutionally due in 2023.
Mwonzora et al’s proposal seeks to reduce the people to spectatorship in political decision making.
Principles of good governance enshrined in the Constitution and binding on “the State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level” are free, fair and regular elections.
The elections must be held at uniform intervals and within the time-limits as prescribed by law.
Section 67 of the Constitution gives citizens the fundamental right to free and fair elections.
MDC-T national chairperson Morgen Komichi told our sister newspaper, NewsDay that: “People need reforms and it will be foolhardy for people to just be programmed. We must come up to reality and say because we don’t have electoral reforms, the outcome is predetermined and can be manipulated, and it will be stupid for Zimbabweans to for an election or a programme that they know the outcome is predetermined.”
Electoral reforms are key but it’s outrageous to trample people’s rights for political expediency. Using electoral reforms to call off elections is no brainer. Its sounds like political banter.
People’s interests should not be sacrificed on the altar of political excesses. Politicians want to maintain the status quo as the judicially constructed “leader of the opposition”. Polls are two years away. There is ample time to push for the critical electoral reforms.
Postponing elections is extraordinary. It should not be taken lightly. In the absence of justifiable reasons to disrupt the constitutional order, the electoral calendar deserves to be respected.
Postponing elections means the President, parliamentarians and councillors will enjoy a five-year hiatus from testing their popularity.
If the people are for the politicians currently in office, then let citizens exercise their civil liberties. Deferring polls is tantamount to disenfranchisement.
Calling for the postponement is as undemocratic as the call by churches for a seven-year moratorium on elections.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) this week challenged the government to expeditiously implement electoral reforms.
I concur with Zesn. The reforms will indeed contribute to a more credible electoral process.
There are genuine concerns around key aspects of the election process that influence electoral outcomes which need to be addressed. These include the voters roll, ballots, postal votes and polling booths, diaspora voting and media reforms to level the political playing field.
Parliament needs to promulgate a law directing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commision (Zec) to administer the diaspora vote in time for the 2023 election.
Zimbabwe has been stuck in this quagmire for the past two decades.
Even the late former MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai had a nightmarish experience 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 Zec are not addressed.
Instead of calling for the postponement of elections, now is the time to push for the desired reforms and not wait for the eleventh hour.