Leveling the political playing field in Zimbabwe

This memorandum seeks to advise, on the issue of leveling the political playing field in Zimbabwe. This communication is from a concerned private Zimbabwean citizen, who wishes to share with you his observations and opinion on what needs to be in place to ensure that free and fair elections in Zimbabwe are a possibility.

It is quite correct for the MDC formations in the GNU to insist that playing fields be leveled before we can even think of holding free and fair elections in my country. Whether this can be possible or not, will largely be determined by how all of you react and act on the matters raised herein.

Zimbabwe today has a relatively free press, where freedom of speech is increasing, bar the occasional arrest of journalists. That is commendable indeed. This however, must not give on of you the delusion that Zimbabweans are free because the circulation of newspapers in Zimbabwe is largely limited within the main urban areas and yet, the majority of Zimbabweans, and therefore the majority of the vote, reside in the rural areas.

Previous election results have indicated that those in town are educated and not dependent on the state for their livelihoods and are therefore unlikely to succumb to intimidation including the use of superstitious innuendo to influence how they may vote. Their vote is unlikely to be won by political gimmicks or rhetoric of ZANU (PF). They also have access to multiple media platforms and are unlikely to be influenced by the drivel and propaganda tool known as the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).

In my calculation gentlemen, the fight for the vote will therefore not be in the urban areas, but in the rural areas, particularly where chiefs and partisan governors continue to play a significant role in the allocation of resources including land, seed and access to water.

Zimbabwean chiefs are historically highly partisan and biased towards ZANU (PF), as the latter have played the role of kingmaker through their munificence to chiefs, governors, headmen, all and sundry.

In addition the deployment of the army in rural areas cannot be deemed to be an act that “levels the playing field” given the stated position of its generals who again are hugely dependent on the munificence of ZANU (PF). As long as the army is not confined to the barracks in the period before and after the elections, we cannot talk about a level playing field in Zimbabwe even where the media is free.

More important I think, is the issue of the voters’ roll and the actual administration of the election process itself. In my opinion gentlemen, our Registrar General owes his rather unjustified long service to the generosity and tolerance of ZANU (PF). It is highly likely that he will not be objective in the execution of his duties as has been evidenced in the past. The voters roll must be audited by an independent institution with no interest in the outcome of the election.

I would say that, the same applies to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission ( ZEC) in that, despite their claims in being competent and independent enough in the administration of elections, I am hardly comfortable with that claim as it is not supported by history. However I do stand to be corrected on this observation.

If you accept the above contentions, it therefore means that the key success factors for free and fair elections in Zimbabwe are: the exclusion of the army from the process, the existence of an independently audited voter’s roll and the very close monitoring of the activities of the ZEC during the election process.

I am convinced that it not only serves Zimbabweans, but the whole region at large, for the successful execution of free and air elections in Zimbabwe. Of course the SADC is critical to that role and their presence in Zimbabwe now on a more permanent basis as opposed to irregular unscheduled visits would vastly improve the situation.

Zimbabwe is indeed a sovereign state that unfortunately has not learnt to behave as expected to honor the wishes its citizens. We must not continue to use the excuse that Zimbabweans know what’s best for themselves, because that is not a proven fact. Rather we have a situation that says ZANU (PF) knows what’s best for Zimbabweans, regardless of what ordinary Zimbabweans themselves may desire. Sovereignty has been used in the past to avoid a closer inspection by organizations such as the SADC of the affairs of ZANU (PF) in stifling public debate and opinion to their own advantage.

Gentlemen, these are the views of an ordinary Zimbabwean citizen who wishes to see the emergence of democracy in Zimbabwe. Our futures e inextricably linked and I implore you that you assist and do all you can so that we may see a modern democracy in Zimbabwe in this lifetime.

I remain a humble servant of those that are progressive and are looking forward to a New Zimbabwe.

Vince Musewe is an independent economist based in Harare. You may contact him on [email protected]

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  1. Wilbert Mukori

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