RG’s office playing games to hoodwink SADC

Hard on the heels of President Robert Mugabe’s calls for elections by March 2012, the Registrar General last week published a statement in the state-run press advising the public that the registration of voters was an ongoing, nationwide exercise.

Tobaiwa Mudede
Tobaiwa Mudede

The statement detailed the requirements for citizens at least 18 years old to register as a voter. What at first appears to be a genuine public service, upon closer inspection reveals itself to be a ploy to mislead the public and SADC leaders into believing that Zimbabwe is instituting genuine preparations for free and fair elections.

Mugabe and Zanu (PF) faced stiff resistance from the MDC, civil society and SADC leaders when they insisted on having elections in 2011, with or without a new constitution. The basis of this resistance was premised on the understanding that the political, social and economic environment in Zimbabwe is not conducive to the holding of free and fair elections.

It soon became clear to Mugabe and his party that it would not be business as usual at SADC. The tables had turned, forcing a humiliating retreat that led him to revise elections dates to early 2012.

The call for voter registration is evidently not genuine. Several reports from youths perceived to be supporters of the MDC are that their efforts to register as voters have been frustrated by Mudede’s officials. In early September NUST university students who went to register as voters at Mpilo Central Hospital satellite office of the Registrar General told The Zimbabwean (8 September 2011) that they had been subject to harassment and were subjected to a barrage of irrelevant questions.

Several others across the country have made similar complaints of intimidation or being turned away when they tried to register.

The RG’s office is clearly playing games – saying all the right things for SADC and the public to hear while at the same time frustrating the registration process. It appears the objective is to hoodwink SADC leaders into believing that all elements of reform and preparation for elections are in place.

The icing on the cake of pseudo-reforms will be a new constitution following a national referendum early next year.

The MDC, civil society and SADC leaders must remain resolute that there will be no elections in the absence of meaningful reforms. These must include an end to political violence and a guarantee of genuinely free and fair elections under conditions of a level political field.

It is not enough to proclaim reforms on paper. Even the Global Political Agreement) is littered with progressive reforms that Zimbabwe’s three main political parties signed to but remain meaningless because of non-implementation.

Zimbabwe’s political landscape is characterized by so much chicanery, political doublespeak and pretense that SADC leaders should not rely on proclamations. They must have an on-the-ground presence to independently verify claims that reforms are being instituted. – Mavhinga is Regional Coordinator for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

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