Where to now?

If one was to summarise this week in one word, it would be ‘sham’.

Zimbabweans braved the nippy July weather to cast their vote in what many regarded as the most important poll in 33 years. But midway through the vote counting, it all turned out to be a huge anti-climax.

In the run up to the election, Morgan Tsvangirai registered grievances to the AU and SADC observer teams who, despite listening, said it was all systems go. One major gripe is that the voters’ roll had not been made available to them. By law, after completion of the voter registration exercise, the voters’ roll is supposed to lie open for inspection, giving the parties the opportunity to confirm its correctness. A hard copy of the voters’ roll was only made available a day before elections.

Strangely, elder statesman, Olusegun Obasanjo, head of the AU observer team, nodded his approval. What is odd is that the electronic copy of the voters roll was nowhere to be seen, which is illogical because a hard copy is printed from a soft copy.

Stability and stagnancy

There is a fine line between stability and stagnancy. In the role of registrar general, Tobaiwa Mudede staggers over that line. Those old enough to recall the ’85 election will remember the voice of Mudede proclaiming seat after seat for Zanu (PF). The same man tightened travel document approvals, as Zanu (PF) battled to halt the brain drain, post 2000. Mudede’s team sat on the voters’ roll until it was convenient for one side.

One of Mudede’s minions, known only as Muchira, said ‘the time we had was short. What we had to prioritise was the hard copy so that we could send them to the polling stations’.

When Mudede was pressed into answering the simple question, ‘which is quicker to send, the printed copy of the voters’ roll or a soft copy, electronically?’ the registrar general said: ‘I have a right not to answer certain questions’.

Regarding the Diaspora vote, Mudede stated that his office had been registering Zimbabweans living abroad but was unauthorised to speak further on the subject.

If at all there is a silver lining behind this dark cloud it is that Mudede is 69 and not even the discovery of the fabled fountain of youth can see him retain his job much longer.

It was quite telling that the head of ZEC, Rita Makarau, delegated the task of announcing election results to her underlings. Previously, all media liaison was the responsibility of the head of ZEC and, in much earlier elections, it was the function of the registrar general. If one was to speculate, one might suppose that the judge opted to distance herself from the farce of an election, in order to preserve the integrity of her robe.

Outwitted

On the eve of the election, Robert Mugabe announced that he would bow out gracefully, if the results went against him. As it turned out, he does not need to make an exit because more than two thirds of the seats went to Zanu (PF).

With the benefit of hindsight, most people see now how the opposition was outwitted by a party that has made it a habit to produce 500 votes in a 50-person constituency.

Zanu (PF) went on a massive campaign, pushing for citizens to vote yes in the constitutional referendum. Any thinking man must at that point catch the whiff of a dead rodent. But Morgan, newly wedded, smelt only the perfume of the beautiful Elizabeth Macheka.

The justification behind the rushed referendum was that it was a requirement under the GPA and the citizenry was given weeks to ponder a document that took over three years to prepare. The real reason, however, was so Zanu (PF) could rush its rivals into an election. With Tsvangirai invisible on TV and Biti only appearing when he is the convenient scapegoat for empty government coffers, the MDC received no publicity and their adverts were kept off the airwaves.

The MDC ran to SADC, screaming “security and media reforms,” but found cigar-chomping members of the African cartel of rulers reluctant to criticise Mugabe. When one person did speak out, a courageous lady called Lindiwe Zulu, she was labelled an idiotic street woman, before her boss, Jacob Zuma, tugged the leash and reminded her not to make utterances above her pay grade.

Diaspora vote

As for the Diaspora vote, which would have guaranteed the MDC of over four million votes, that was quashed too. If the MDC was counting on the support of the multitudes of unemployed youths – the first time voters – a craftily ruined registration process ensured they were ineligible to vote. With the national broadcaster rebuffing Tsvangirai’s adverts, the MDC turned to pamphlets and messengers, only to discover their motorbikes were confiscated by a police force led by a man who will not salute a non-war vet, making it difficult to reach their rural supporters.

Robert Mugabe has indicated that he intends to rule another five years. If he is as exhausted as Tsvangirai said he is, then now, with more than two thirds majority in parliament, he is free to enact laws to secure a quiet, unharassed period of retirement.

Roy Bennett – famous for speaking Shona and for slamming Chinamasa to the floor – spoke of demonstrations. But Zimbabweans have no history of toyi-toying or tipping motor vehicles. Civil disobedience seems unlikely.

In the face of overwhelming proof of rigging – bogus polling booths identified, confessions of youths discovered with fake voting slips, video footage of youths leaping from Zupco buses that transported them to vote in alien constituencies, the held-back voters’ roll, the deliberately botched police vote, the several voters that were turned away – with the AU and SADC declaring the elections credible, one question that most Zimbabweans ask is, ‘where to now’?

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