The price of freedom

I heard that one old man is already looking to the next elections, in 2018. That is remarkable at his age, but it should remind us all that we should be preparing for 2018 before we forget the lessons of the last election. We may find that some of them are lessons we learned in 2008 and forgot before we needed to use them.

Lesson 1: know your rights. We all have certain basic rights because we were born human. It doesn’t matter whether you are black, white or green, blind, crippled or gay. You are human.

Lesson 2: which of these rights have not yet been denied by our rulers? These will be the first ones to appeal to. Our rights don’t depend on our government, but life is easier if you can start without tackling that issue.

Lesson 3: GET UP, STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS (did Bob Marley sing that to us in 1980?)- even the ones our bosses don’t like (people who make laws are very free with the word “illegal”. We need to remember how little it means in a situation like ours.)

For example, the law prescribes that votes be counted at the polling station and the results be posted there publicly before copies are sent to constituency ward and/or constituency centres to be compiled with the votes from all the other centres. This law should make the whole process open and transparent, even if here it is just a smokescreen behind which they lock up or beat up anyone who exercises their right to pass on the news.

The law says the results are to be published at the polling station, so if anyone tries to stop you reading them or telling your friends in Harare, Tsholotsho or London what you have read, you should (1) ignore them, (2) use every method you can circumvent obstacles and (3) if necessary, appeal as loudly and as publicly as you can. The least you can do is refuse to pay a fine; insist that they bring you to court. The law is on your side. Of course, the magistrate and the cops may not be.

Remember that “the price of freedom is constant vigilance”. You cannot afford to trust anybody, and good election rules should ensure that everything every official connected with supervising, collecting, counting and recording votes is open and transparent. Your vote is your secret, but we must make sure that from the moment you put that ballot paper in the box to announcing the national results, every genuine ballot is treated with equal weight and with the respect we and anyone we disagree with deserve. And there should be no opportunities for stuffing in any extra ballot papers at any stage in the process.

Observers should make sure they don’t take their eyes off the ballot box for a moment, from the close of voting to the counting. They should watch out for any other infringements of our rights, from the right of anyone to stand for election and to have equal access to the media during the campaign, to the right of voters to be heard at the national level, i.e. no rigging, stuffing ballot boxes, no coercing or buying votes at any stage.

The only observers who are likely to take enough interest are among us in our own communities. We, the voters, can guard our rights more effectively than any outside observers, None of those observed how the campaign was conducted in Mutiusinazita or wherever you live and hardly any will bother to wait till the votes are counted. Especially if the boxes are put away for the night before counting even starts.

Even election monitors of some parties were not awake all night, or numerous enough, unlike the police, to sleep in shifts so that the boxes would be constantly watched.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *