By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
There comes a time when the ideals of a past revolution become a terrible wart on the face of democracy, as mythical as this can be in Africa. That time arrived in Zimbabwe well over a decade ago. The wart has grown bigger. It is uglier now as it erupts and oozes its vile liberation muck, but people have become used to that; having been sucked into its propaganda vortex. Or so it would seem, as we venture into yet another round of nuttiness, which we refer to as elections.
Print, electronic and social media is abuzz with commentary, opinion and sometimes even satirical retort about the forthcoming poll. People set aside their inhibitions and take courage in the narrow window of seeming freedom offered at this time, yet there remains an air of suppression, an uncanny, determined focus, and a yet stronger will by some to retain power, come whatever cost. And we are sure this is not the will of the people.
There is no pulling out the stops now. Conceivably, every trick in the book will be used to ensure our erstwhile revolutionaries retain their power. It is their right, so it would seem, and thus irrevocably due to them. So who dare challenge the status quo and why the folly of elections? Well, in effect, ‘democratic’ elections are done merely to pull the wool over the eyes of otherwise gullible democracies who preach condescendingly of their free values. Africa is challenged by democracy.
So, once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. What evil schemes will erupt , ooze and spoil genuine choice? The Presidential Decree for an early election will most certainly have placed the opposition on its back feet, despite the paper tiger, SADC, calling for extensions in time. Zimbabwe’s Courts put the finger up to SADC.
Such prolongations were critical to ensure proper voter registration for a start, not to mention amendment to electoral legislation and other critical reforms. Millions of first time voters, the young people of Zimbabwe, and aliens will have been disenfranchised; fundamentally, sectors of the community which would reap positively for the opposition.
A more sinister aspect of the call for an early election was that of a poll before security sector reforms, supposedly to ensure a free and fair election, if ever that can happen in Africa. Such reforms are foremost at the heart of the opposition, for there is little doubt about the patronage and support of the Generals for the old school revolutionaries. The military are expected to play a rather biased role in covert campaigning for the liberation party. Should they fail in that objective, there is mooted suggestion of coup!
The mechanics of what one can only describe as a half cocked and shambolic voter registration abound with yet more suspicion of evil being done. This is considered the base of the rigging yet to come. Voter roll transparency has been all but forbidden in what appears to be an obvious agenda, following an interdict against a local research company.
The xenophobic machinations of the liberation party were never present when employing a foreign company, of apparently dubious repute, to handle aspects of voter registration, and who stand accused of tampering with the lists. The company is said to have ‘form’ for Zambian voter roll manipulations, but deny local involvement in the election process. Several impartial Zimbabwean firms could have qualified for the task; so much for indigenisation.
Was there trickery too in the just run Special Election vote for members of the security forces? A special vote is offered for those who, ostensibly, will be on duty on election day, and thus unable to vote. Really? Nevertheless, it could have been a revealing test of the waters of security force sympathies or otherwise, were the exercise not bungled. The opposition were quick to smell a rat when 69,000 police officers applied for the special vote, almost double the Treasury payroll figures.
The initiative turned out to be a shambles with the ZEC shooting itself in the foot by failing to deliver ballot papers, especially in those areas where the vote would clearly have fallen, perhaps, in opposition favour. Now it is suggested special vote candidates may be able to vote again, despite laws to the contrary. Such chicanery we are used to.
Now the question arises, will the expected chaos (a prognosis based on the Special Vote exercise) prevail in the main election of 6 million participants, and thus be the veil under which a rigging exercise can take place? The general modus operandi will be to deny marginal areas voting papers and slow down the process. We have seen it all before, can we now expect an honest poll?
One may get the impression that perhaps in the final analysis things are going to be skewed. The opposition pacts are already chirping ‘foul play’ as if their fate is sealed. This makes for an interesting study in opposition strategy. There is none. Memories are just so short.
While there are chasms that divide the two MDC parties, their unity or pre-election coalitions could only improve their odds. Their origins are born out of the same philosophies; they both want change in governance; and they share many common issues and agendas, although Welshman Ncube may deny this. It seems very peculiar that they just cannot seem to come together to break the hegemony. The point is that in the final analysis one of the opposition parties may well have to make up a coalition government. Will this be with the other MDC or with blood on their hands?
If the incumbent* liberation party is the popular choice of the people, then this scenario is simply academic. But the general consensus is that this is not the case. People want change, yet those who could potentially deliver such change, in one fell swoop, seem incapable of engineering the platform to achieve this.
Zimbabwe is predictable in its unpredictability and perhaps the sway of the vote will fall into opposition hands. Given the natural tribal patronage overlay, the urban versus rural vote swing, the enlightened opposition versus dogmatic loyal peasant support, much is actually predicable.
Clearly, the odds are against opposition success, if the vote has been or it is intended to be rigged, and we should remember the history here. This situation can only give rise to run-offs or, worse still, absolute defeat of a split opposition. The opposition boycotted the last run-off: an own goal much to their peril. Will one or other opposition party be strong enough to take victory? Time only will tell, but the uncertainly could surely have been turned into certainty with a few commitments and a simple shake of hands.
* incumbent in so far as it holds sway in critical Government Ministries
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