The institution in charge of administering elections is discredited and lacks the institutional capacity and financial resources to conduct elections. The year 2012 cannot be a year for elections, but a year for work on democratic electoral reforms.
Holding elections in 2012 would be a mere political ritual and facade to mask an unpopular dictatorial and authoritarian regime. The signing of the Global Political Agreement, and the consummation of the unity government, was a transitional mechanism to put an end to political violence, work towards peace, restore economic stability, author a new constitution and prepare for the holding of free and fair elections on a level playing field.
Unity govt outlived
The continued squabbling and utter disregard by Zanu (PF) of this arrangement shows that the unity government has outlived its usefulness. An election for the sake of holding an election will neither improve the quality of life for ordinary citizens, nor help Zimbabwe rejoin the family of nations from which it has been booted out.
Globally, because of its universality, democracy is now a subject of broad consensus, high on the priority list of the international community. The following are the major issues concerning the environment and the administration of elections which, if unresolved, means Zanu (PF) is guaranteed another disputed “victory”.
The major stumbling block to people’s free expression of who they want to represent them in Zimbabwe at the moment is violence, intimidation and general closure of democratic space.
The bloody clashes witnessed in Chitungwiza recently are reminiscent of the 2008 sham elections and cause physical and psychological torment to the victims and witnesses.
Equally, some perpetrators of such callous acts are not spared from trauma since most of them are doing it either for money or to please the likes of Saviour Kasukuwere. Violent tendencies by a political party are worrying, but the possession of a well-oiled infrastructure and associated paraphernalia for violence by a political party which purports to represent people’s interests is disgusting.
In one of Zanu (PF)’s post-2008 songs, the kongonya dancing women loudly and unashamedly sung: “zvikaramba toita zva June” (If we fail we will resort to the June 2008 strategy).
If the levels of unrepentence and celebration of impunity in Zanu (PF) are not curbed, violence will become a fast-spreading political tumour impeding national healing. It is now time that the people of Zimbabwe came together within their communities and devised peaceful strategies of ensuring that “zvaJune” will never be repeated again.
The use of state security apparatus either to perpetrate violence directly or commanding the violent elements in Zanu (PF) is well documented in a report by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition entitled: “The military factor in Zimbabwe’s political and electoral affairs”.
It is a fact that Zanu (PF) has, over the years, relied on militarising socio-economic and politico-electoral affairs of the state to block civilian participation in key national processes.
If the involvement of the military in swaying the vote through the environment and their involvement in the administration of elections is not addressed, there is no point of going into an election.
The police have played a “midfielder” role for Zanu (PF) in the electoral processes in Zimbabwe through deliberate misinterpretation of POSA to ban meetings of the opposition. The police needs to be non-partisan and be at the centre of ensuring that campaigning is conducted in a free and fair manner in the next election.
The use of arbitrary arrests as a restrictive tool to the operations of the opposition is deplorable.
By voting, the electorate hope at least to communicate their preferences for government policy through its selection of leaders. Simultaneously, candidates, political parties, and interest groups hope to attract the electorate to their causes.
Electioneering thus becomes a communication issue. Unfettered access to the electorate need not be only physical. The media has great influence on how people behave. The monopolisation of state media by Zanu (PF) has to be addressed before any serious election in Zimbabwe.
All political parties have to be given voice in the media to sell their manifestos, and civic society organisations should also be allowed to educate the people on politico- electoral affairs as a tool to decision making.
As the number of people who are supposed to cast votes in an election increases, the difficulty of conducting that election increases, necessitating the creation of an institution that will be tasked with running the election.
The Zimbabwe Election Commission must be independently well-resourced to ensure they administer the election independently without begging for support from people that have vested interests in the election outcome.
Zec should be run independently without influence from the executive if it is to impartially administer elections otherwise we will have a situation were the player becomes the referee.
Before the independence of Zec is addressed there is a need to begin discussions on using technology to enhance efficiency, finding ways of ensuring that delimitation is not used to help candidates win an election, opening up voter registration for civil society and observation of the election.
It is for these reasons, and against this background of failed elections, that next year’s election should be halted. There is enormous work that still needs to be done.
Democratic forces should begin working together towards cornering the regime to put in place reforms before the next election. Equally, SADC and the AU, in their capacity as the guarantors of the GPA, should use their political leverage to force the regime to implement reforms by refusing to recognise the results of a flawed election process.
The region, the continent and the international community have become key political players on the Zimbabwean political landscape. If there are no democratic reforms, the next election will be a mere political ritual and a facade to mask the unpopular self-destructing dictatorial regime of Robert Mugabe. – Beloved Chiweshe, former Secretary General of Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu)Post published in: Politics