Vote buying must stop

Reports of politicians using food aid and other illicit gifts to bait hungry communities seem to be on the increase.

This trend is gathering momentum amid talk of elections. Zanu (PF) has made abundantly clear that it wants an election this year, despite spirited resistance from local and international stakeholders.

The party is entangled in a messy nationwide restructuring exercise involving local elections at district level, where people are scrambling for position – anxious to keep a seat at the feeding trough.

Recently, we ran a story in which an influential member of Zanu (PF) was accused of looting the farming inputs loan scheme run by the Grain Marketing Board last year. He is said to have cached the inputs at his homestead and is now moving around doling them out to hapless villagers – long after the farming season has passed.

The very villagers who are now being given the ill-gotten loot failed to plant adequately last season because they could not access the inputs that top politicians swooped on. And they are now being given those inputs when they need them least.

Elsewhere in this edition, we report that grain that was supposed to be loaned to hungry rural communities in Manicaland is being distributed from Zanu (PF) offices. Our report indicates that all food insecure households perceived to be Zanu (PF)’s political opponents are being turned away, sometimes violently.

These two reports are a modest reflection of the malaise that has once again afflicted our nation as we move towards elections.

Of course, this trend is not surprising. Ever since Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980, election time has always been tainted by unscrupulous vote buying.

But although many Zimbabweans may indeed be hungry – they are not stupid. What is surprising is that Zanu (PF) is so out of touch with the people they purport to lead, that they think this outdated political strategy still works. The people know very well that there is nothing to stop them toeing the party line when it comes to feeding their families or getting hold of farming inputs – and then voting as they please in the secrecy of the ballot box. While such duplicity might be frowned upon in normal circumstances, it is a survival strategy in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

The truly unforgivable sin is that of the politicians who go to the extent of creating hunger among the people so as to make them vulnerable and, thus, amenable to vote buying.

Now is the time to cure the malignance once and for all. There is need for the other political parties and stakeholders to embark on massive education campaigns at the grassroots level. They need to tell the people that the politicians who woo them using gifts are the ones who care for them least.

There is also need to revisit the Political Parties Act and regulations guiding the conduct of parties during elections, to ensure that the screws are tightened on these heartless politicians. Civil society must continue its brave fight to ensure that there are sufficient reforms regarding electoral conduct.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga

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