Today is the big day. After five years, registered voters get another opportunity to chart Zimbabwe’s future by electing new leaders.
It is the only time in five years that the electorate matters to politicians. They know that a barefooted woman in Manana or Fumukwe or that wisened octogenarian in Chiendambuya have the key to political office.
The electorate has been listening for the past five years to promises by politicians, some offering heaven on earth. Others have the guts to tell the electoral paymasters that their vote won’t be a secret.
The run up to the polls has not been smooth. Violence and intimidation, the rulebook in previous polls, was back this time around despite a pledge by President Emmerson Mnangagwa for free and fair elections.
The opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) claimed the electoral playing field was not even with the police banning several of its rallies. The police say they have also banned Zanu PF rallies for failing to adhere to regulations. According to Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga as of Thursday last week Zanu PF had made 1 878 applications for rallies. Of those 1 691 were compliant and 187 were prohibited.
CCC had 627 applications of which 538 were compliant and 89 were not.
CCC has been busy in the courts: First fighting to have its 12 candidates in Bulawayo restored on the ballot paper after the High Court ruled that they had filed their nomination papers outside the stipulated time.
They were also in the courts to compel the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to release the new voters roll, arguing that the one supplied had not been updated.
Exiled former Cabinet minister Saviour Kasukuwere took his challenge to remain on the ballot as a presidential candidate to the Constitutional Court. He lost his case which means the former Zanu PF politburo member will not fight his nemesis, Mnangagwa.
The smaller opposition party, MDC-T, is also aggrieved and will not have 84 parliamentary candidates in today’s race.
Its president Douglas Mwonzora recently threw in the towel saying he would not participate in the polls as the playing field was tilted in favour of the governing Zanu PF party.
Today belongs to the voter.
The voter has two choices: either retain those whose mandate has expired or try a new combination.
They know representatives that have not been helpful either at constituency or ward level or failed in lawmaking in Parliament after electing to be silent visitors. They know those who only opened their mouths to heckle opponents in Parliament or at council meetings.
It is their right to vote for leaders of their choice. There are those that do not want to vote saying their vote will not count. It counts and as former US President Thomas Jefferson once said, we do not have a government by the majority but a government by the majority who participated.
Electing not to vote is not a protest. Rather, it is a surrender, according to American politician and lawyer Keith Ellison.
We exhort politicians to refrain from inciting supporters which could trigger violence.
The spotlight is on Zec to undertake the process with utmost professionalism. The era in which the election management body would take weeks “collating and verifying results”before announcing, is over. Zimbabweans and the world are watching.