LATE law expert Alex Magaisa, who was laid to rest this week at his rural home in Njanja, Mashonland East province, was one of the prominent voices which yearned for democracy in Zimbabwe.
But the academic and law lecturer at the Kent Law School of the University of Kent succumbed to cardiac arrest on June 5 in the United Kingdom, before his desires on the democratisation processes were fulfilled.
As such, this week we pay tribute to one of Zimbabwe’s brilliant legal minds who contributed to the 2013 Constitution and arguably some of the best cutting-edge analyses, some of which we often published in the Zimbabwe Independent.
In his honour, I share my last conversation with Magaisa, a former advisor to the then prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai during the Government of National Unity (GNU), on some of his thought-provoking titbits about electoral reforms and opposition politics in Zimbabwe.
Below are excerpts of what Magaisa said:
The Zimbabwean story of electoral reforms is the same. You need an independent electoral commission and removal of security personnel from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).
But you and I know that these things are never going to happen and this is why I no longer talk so much about electoral reforms. It is never going to happen.
What you want is opposition parties or party to really reform themselves or itself in terms of its preparedness for elections; having a proper strategy.
It needs to have a thorough look at how it has conducted itself in the past.
Even though it has done well, I think that it could do better in order to avoid the risk of rigging.
I think it is much harder for Zanu PF to rig if more people are mobilised and exercise their right to vote.
I think that between 2018 and now (late 2021 before the formation of the Citizens Coalition for Change), there are probably millions of young Zimbabweans who have become eligible to vote but are not registered.
I saw a statistic which said between 2018 and 2020 just over a 100 000 people or even less had registered to vote.
The point I am making is that there has not been enough effort made by the opposition in Zimbabwe to mobilise young people to register to vote.
Unfortunately, they wait until the last few months before the elections.
Zanu PF does not have much of an interest in young people registering to vote.
Just as it does not have interest in the diaspora being included in the vote because it views those constituencies as naturally disposed to vote for the opposition, which may or may not be true.
It is quite comfortable to have the older generation, especially in the rural areas, who are accustomed to just voting for Zanu PF out of habit; sometimes out of fear and out of loyalty to the brand.
The leadership of the opposition should be at the forefront and pushing the agenda of voter registration and selling a new imagination.
The need for people to register to vote is not just telling them. You have to make them believe that it is worth it.
That is the job of the leadership to sell this alternative vision and not wait before an election to do a manifesto.
This has to be an ongoing exercise of selling a vision that appeals to young people so that they are more encouraged to want to vote.
Voting is the ultimate political expression and must never be limited.
It must never be abandoned because if you abandon voting you are telling people to stay away from the political process and that is not good enough for an opposition political party.
Even though they talk about rigging, they must be careful not to do it so often, to make it their narrative because that dissuades people from participating in voting.
They have to sell a positive message to the people as opposed to continuously feeding the population with negativity that emphasises rigging.
It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, so to speak.
Food for thought!
Rest in Peace Alex.
- We will definitely miss your valuable insights — Full audio on https://www.theindependent.co.zw.