Promoting the integrity, fairness, genuineness, and freeness of elections is a shared responsibility. In any democratic and constitutional society, Zimbabwe included, the integrity, fairness, genuineness, and freeness of an election are paramount to ensuring the true representation of the people's will.
These terms are interconnected, forming the pillars of a democratic process. Let's define and link these concepts together as we read our article together on the phones, newspaper or some reading app. Who's there now to read for us?Let's start with integrity of an election which signifies its honesty, transparency, and adherence to ethical standards (local, constitutional, regional, and other soft laws).
It involves the prevention of electoral fraud, manipulation, or any attempts to compromise the accuracy of the results. The formula: Integrity = Transparency + Ethical Conduct + Fraud Prevention shows that any lack of transparency will vitiate the integrity of the election.
Secondly, fairness implies that all candidates and voters have equal opportunities and rights, without discrimination or undue advantage. It ensures a level playing field where each participant's voice is valued. The formula: Fairness = Equality + Inclusivity + Equal Opportunities. This reflects some kind of 'speak with me' conversation between lovers. If you hear a lover saying, 'speak with me,' they're in essence saying, 'dear, you're not there,' to sound Zimbabwean, 'who are you with?' We have heard calls for fairness on the public square and from candidates such as Triple C's 12 MPs and Saviour Kasukuwere.
This takes us to genuineness of an election which refers to the sincere and authentic expression of the people's choices and preferences. It requires that the election truly reflects the voters' will, free from coercion or external influence. The formula: Genuineness = Authentic Expression + Voter Autonomy + Freedom from Coercion. We've heard allegations of rural villagers being frog-marched to rallies or being told that they would be electronically monitored or included in some all-seeing eye's registers. We've heard of polling stations in remote gaming communities. Zec as a constitutional commission with the mandate to promote justice should take a lead in ensuring that the election is genuinely genuine.
This of course, by parity of reasoning, takes us to the aspect of freeness of an election. Before we say ‘nhingi arohwa ferereferere,’ or ‘pachenapababa Kizito’ or ‘pafeya urban vote is for Chamisa or rural vote is for Mnangagwa,’ we need to separate fairness from freeness of an election.
Freeness denotes, not connotes, the absence of constraints or hindrances on citizens' ability to participate in the election. It encompasses the guarantee of open and accessible electoral processes. The formula: Freeness = Accessibility + Participation + Absence of Constraints. We've seen this absence in Chamisa's rally attendees while Zanu PF's pleas for rally attendees to patiently wait for rally schedules to be run according to the book have proved otherwise. What then can we expect between you and the next voter? In the context of Zimbabwe's upcoming election on October 23, 2023, various stakeholders play a pivotal role in ensuring these principles are upheld.
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While political parties involved, ZANU PF and Triple C will take the lead, the following will define the scope of integrity, fairness, genuineness, and freeness of the 2023 elections:
Postal voting mismatch
We’ve seen that the law has been changed after the proclamation of the election to allow the chief elections officer to deal with postal voting in three days. What does this leave us with? Mutemo wesarudzo haufanirwi kuchinjwa after proclamation. Is it a set piece to postpone the election? If we’ve an election like that, we will have discredited postal voting or on the other hand, we collectively create an illegal postal voting. This creates room for election-related manipulated votes. Someone is using the wrong route. It’s like whispering to a rally that buses are now going while the speaker is still on the podium then later do the damage control that please be patient enough? A lot of drama. Some will go to courts. We increasingly wake up with the feeling that there are no elections.
Today is 11 August and nothing has been put in place to set voter education in motion based on real electoral issues rather than speculations. For example, Zec, political parties, and organizations authorised to carry out voter education should be told that the ballot is like this; we have how many candidates for presidential, legislative, or council vote; what does secret vote entail and so on. This would be a mark of a free, fair, and credible election.
Real political chess game
Chamisa and other opposition political parties may be in a better limelight even if they proceed to go for an election amidst a potential electoral crisis. He is trying to tie the powers that be with their own ropes rather than blessing them. Ask me how so? He got an opportunity to pull out when 12 of his MPs were banned. It was going to be too obvious that the powers that be didn’t want an election if the 12 were barred by the courts. Itori chess game proper. Trust me. What is happening can be plucked from some statements which are not meant for the people who don’t understand what is happening. There are pieces on the chess board. Tendai Biti’s silence is very strategic thing. What Chamisa has been doing is to manage power dynamics and I am thinking that one of the challenges that occurred during Tsvangirayi’s MDC-T are post-electoral negotiations and powers that were assumed by those who called themselves negotiators in that marriage of inconvenience that was called Government of National Unity solemnised by a general political agreement.
Politicians always map scenarios. What Chamisa is doing by removing Tendai Biti from the political equation is to warn rivals that I will not give you what you think we will negotiate in the event of a political stalemate. It’s some queen’s gambit. No one can say Biti is this so let’s give the negotiations this. Hopefully, negotiators will also not include those young student politicians who don’t know that grand politics need big stage personalities beyond student activism.
I am glad no one is wasting time talking about retribution. Those who heard Chamisa in Mutare listened well. He was saying that we’re not doing what happened kune dzimwenyika to be retributive after winning or rather, wining an election. If you hear someone saying something, it’s a very credible way of saying please listen, this isn’t a political message directed to the ordinary party supporter.
It’s beyond ideology. It’s forming part of something that is whispered loudly and softly about whether we will treat you badly if we win big. It’s not a message about getting a round of applause. Its simple message that shows the rivals why Mnangagwa shouldn’t be arrested.
It’s a message of ‘we’re moving forward through restorative and never tit for tat fair games. The characters reading Chamisa’s message are the same characters advising the current administrative president. For me and you, we shouldn’t waste time thinking about anything. We worry about how Zimbabwe will get out of a potential constitutional crisis that’s building up.
If there’s an election crisis, how will it be handled? We no longer have social movements, bold politicians, or chances of a repeated military intervention. In the event of a disputed election or demonstrations, no one is likely to do anything. Is it likely that people will be pushed to demonstrate and if so, how? What would be the circumstances? Let’s just assume Chamisa ahwina and Zec has announced him, but the current system says no. Remember we’re mapping scenarios. We don’t have social movements.
But we have parallel systems that can tabulate convincingly that the opposition has won. What then happens? This compels us to focus on the composition of the deep state.
Scenario mapping requires a much-concentrated system analysis with perhaps acknowledging that systems don’t squeeze the thermometer bulb to change the room temperature. The social pulse in Zimbabwe yakamira sei currently. Let’s not forget that Kasukuwere could’ve been Zanu PF’s reason for a runoff election. But thanks to those bundling things out, the electoral crisis we’re potentially going into might be a blessing in disguise. I hope there are days when backing tracks must be forgotten and you listen to the real voices.
Together, just as the security of being in Zimbabwe brings joy and a sense of belonging, ensuring a credible election fosters a collective sense of trust and confidence in the democratic system, paving the way for a brighter future for all.
As we approach the pivotal date of October 23, 2023, let us remember the stories that make Zimbabwe special and the shared responsibility we all must uphold.
By promoting integrity, fairness, genuineness, and freeness in the upcoming election, we honour the sacrifices of those who love our land of Zimbabwe and work towards a stronger and more united nation.
- Hofisi is a transformative transitional justice practitioner, normative influencer and disruptive thinker