Kazembe, the five elections and Mudede

The administration of elections and the context as well as content under which polls take place have been contested issues in post-independent Zimbabwe.

In any critical political transition relative to the management of credible elections it is important to address both the institutional and personal inadequacies of the systems governing the process.

Elections should not be reduced to a simple issue of free and fair because it has been argued that it does not do justice to the process. The Commonwealth call elections either credible or not credible.

The personnel of the Zimbabwe Election Commission and the Registrar General’s office should be subjected to public scrutiny with a view to increasing public accountability and transparency. These two institutions and the individuals running them have been part of the crisis the country is faced with, not forgetting the political players, the repressive or coercive apparatus and other institutions of consensual political hegemony such as the media, churches, compromised and Zanunised intellectuals and the arts sector.

The days of ESC

Joyce Kazembe has been with ZEC since 1996 when it was known as the Electoral Supervisory Committee. She was involved in the 1996 presidential election in which

Mugabe contested alone after the late nationalist, Ndabaningi Sithole, pulled out. Mudede was also part of the electoral team as the Registrar of elections.

Kazembe was part of the 2000, 2002, 2005 elections. She was also around for the violent, hotly-disputed presidential run-off in 2008. During the last election, she was vice chairperson of ZEC, deputizing Brigadier George Chiweshe, now High Court Judge President. Chiweshe was promoted to the current post after running the sham poll in June 2008.

It is crucial to note that in two of the Presidential elections, Mugabe was a lone contestant: 1996 and 2008. Kazembe and her colleagues did not see anything untoward about such a process and they declared Mugabe the winner.

In the 2002 and 2005 elections Kazembe was the deputy chair to Sobuza Gula-Ndebele. It was during that period that Nyikayaramba recruited intelligence officers, soldiers and Zanu (PF) supporters into the secretariat. Kazembe and Gula-Ndebele did not raise any issues.

The 2002 presidential elections were disputed on account of violence, arson and political murders, as well as the involvement of the security apparatus outside the provisions of the Defence and Electoral Acts. It was a controversial victory for Mugabe that Kazembe and her colleagues presided over and declared free and fair.

What now boggles the mind is the outburst by Kazembe that ZEC secretariat was professional and there was no infiltration by the security forces. Such arrogance cannot be taken lying down. The June 2008 elections were marked by everything that the Electoral Act forbids: political violence, abductions, enforced disappearances, death and arson. The ZEC under Chiweshe and Kazembe did not see what political players, ordinary citizens, SADC and the AU saw – the elections were not credible.

Zimbabwean citizens are not fools, they are not a-historical, they know the history of their electoral mishaps and the people involved. Commissioners like Joyce Kazembe should be excused from running elections. Not because we have hard evidence of wrong doing, but due to her continuous association with a failed body.

Tobaiwa Mudede, the Registrar who has been involved in the administration of elections since 1985, is no different.

Reforms in other sectors

It is critical that when Zimbabweans talk about the need for credible elections, they don’t just focus on ZEC. Focusing on ZEC while leaving out the Registrar-General’s office will not help to democratize our electoral institutions and personnel. There is need for deeply entrenched and democratic reforms in both institutions. Lastly, when dealing with political transitions, it is important to learn something from the theory of elite continuity. As reforms take place on an institutional level, it is important to make sure that the elites pack their bags if they are not willing to reform.

Elite continuity theory postulates that in most transitions, there are considerable continuities in both institutions and personalities between the old regime and the new establishment. In the case of the media, the institutions that emerged after the fall of a prior regime are controlled and influenced by the new political elite – Zanu (PF).

State institutions such as ZBC and state-run newspapers have been staffed with Zanu (PF) party surrogates who masquerade as commentators in newspapers, radio and television. These are well-crafted and thought out processes of Zanu (PF) intellectuals who want to entrench themselves in power at all costs.

Post published in: Politics

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