We Zimbabweans like to make much of our high literacy levels as a towering achievement in our development as a nation. Detractors like to remind us that this high literacy is exactly the reason why we are where we are, we Zimbabweans are simply too clever for our own damn good. I have resisted blogging about the events of the last week until the results of the elections had been formally announced and judging by the torrent of news and views out of and about Zimbabwe, I was not missed.
President Mugabe will rule over Zimbabwe for another term whilst Morgan Tsvangirai must now spend probably the next five years in court fighting for that same right. He will not win. If we’ve learnt anything from the Zimbabwean legal system, it is that it is uniquely attuned to the political whims of the ruling party so even if Tsvangirai and others do get a day in court, barring extraordinary circumstances, this case will be dragged out till it’s outcome is irrelevant. If the complainants win, it will be another pyrrhic victory to add to a long and unimpressive list.
That said it is a sad realisation that Zimbabwe’s people have once again been used for political gain by the few who’s only desire in life is to rule over us. This last election was typically Zimbabwean, campaigns of little substance focused on the character flaws of opposing candidates, their family members and their parties, devoid of political or economic substance along with manifestos filled with promises no party has any intentions of fulfilling.
What has become clear to me is that the entire electoral system is broken. The candidate selection criteria and processes in every single political party were fraught with problems from the outset. Claims and counter-claims of imposition of candidates by party leaders abounded leading to an unprecedented number of independent candidates running in the elections having been disillusioned by back-room politics in their respective parties. Some former MDC-T independent candidates even went to court for the right to use Morgan Tsvangirai’s face on their campaign material.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the Registrar General’s Office (RG) are the key institutions in Zimbabwe’s electoral process. The RG is responsible for registering eligible Zimbabweans as voters, producing and maintaining a current, credible voters’ roll. The voters’ roll is probably the single most important document of any election anywhere as it contains vital information for determining the credibility of the election process. Fact is, without it, an election is simply not possible.
ZEC is responsible for carrying out the actual processes of an election, producing ballots, demarcating constituencies, assigning polling stations, accrediting observers, ensuring the security of the entire process, ultimately tabulating and certifying the results of the poll.
Both the RG’s Office and ZEC have acknowledged they failed to meet their mandates citing various logistical and financial constraints. The whole world now knows they failed, what is yet to be proven is just how extensive their failure actually was and what impact it had on the elections, early indications are that it was extensive and severe. Some yet to be adequately substantiated allegations include:
- Video footage of allegedly under-age voters with registration slips bussed in to cast votes at a Mount Pleasant, Harare, polling station.
- A million people in urban areas unable to register to vote due to a difficult and short registration process.
- The bulk of the 750 000 voters turned away were in urban areas.
- A rural constituency purportedly processed voters at the rate of two per minute over a twelve hour period in 15 polling stations without a single spoilt ballot.
- The voters roll contained over 6,4 million registered voters in a country of less than 13 million people and a majority population under the age of sixteen. A glaring statistical anomaly.
- The voters’ roll has more than 350 000 registered voters over the age of 85 and of these 109 000 are over 100 with one former soldier aged 135.
- Various constitutional requirements for the carrying out of an election were simply ignored making the entire exercise illegal in terms of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Notably the period between proclamation of the election day by the President and the registration period for voters and public inspection of the voters’ roll.
- The Southern African Development Community (SADC) did not want this election to go ahead but were powerless to do anything when the party principals insisted on going ahead as each was certain of victory.
- As at today Zimbabwe still does not have an independently verified voters’ roll.
Considering all the mounting evidence of irregularities, how can anyone hide behind the claim that “there is no such thing as a perfect election” as the SADC and African Union observer missions did on Thursday and Friday last week?
I may not be an electoral or constitutional law expert but one does not need such expertise to tell that this election was neither procedural or fair. The politicians failed Zimbabweans by ensuring such a flawed process go ahead. Zimbabwe has been here for over thirty three years and is not going anywhere, so, whose interests are best served by a rushed and flawed election? Certainly not the interests of the entirety of Zimbabwe, this was political expediency at it’s absolute worst.
The politicians wanted to get rid of their competition in parliament after five years of a fractious forced marriage mischievously called the government of national unity. SADC and the AU want to be rid of the Zimbabwean crisis and needed an election to achieve this. Is it a coincidence that the AU’s head of mission, Nigerian former President Olusegun Obasanjo is one of the early architects of attempts to resolve the Zimbabwe problem along with the current AU chair Dr. Dlamini-Zuma who was then South Africa’s foreign affairs Minister?
If as according to today’s City Press SADC tried to convince the MDC-T to not participate in the elections why did they not go public with their reservations? Instead Lindiwe Zulu, a member of the SADC facilitation team to Zimbabwe, was publicly rebuked for airing her reservations about the Zimbabwe election process days before votes were cast. I doubt President Zuma or any other SADC leader would survive if they conducted an election in the same manner that they have allowed it to happen in Zimbabwe
It is my view that anyone who thinks this is in any way a resolution to the Zimbabwe crisis, considering all that has happened is a fool, it has simply prolonged the misery.
My hope is that when Tsvangirai and the MDC-T go to the constitutional court to file their grievances over the election, the whole world will come to know what really happened here and the people of Zimbabwe will never again allow themselves to be used for selfish political purpose. In the meantime the MDC-T would do well to come clean to the nation on their role in this “farce” as they have called it because by participating in the election they accepted there was a certain level of “farce” they were willing to go along with.
Some useful links:
Done It Again by Eddie Cross. http://www.eddiecross.africanherd.com