The widow of a friend of mine could offer good advice and a good example in our present situation.

Her husband wasn’t actually an alcoholic, but he was fond of his beer – more than he should have been.

But he knew the right wife could help him.

Together they made agreements on how he would limit his drinking. One important promise he had to made was “no drinking on weekdays”; this meant that he had quite a successful career, because when he was sober he was a good and dedicated teacher.

But, of course, he broke his promises quite often over the years. He meant to keep them when he made them; he meant to keep them when he got up most mornings, but if someone put a scud in front of him on a weekday, he could weaken. If friends were generous over the weekend, he could easily exceed his agreed ration.

The result could be vomit on the carpet for his wife to clean up, but she persevered. He persevered too, in his own way, but it took a long struggle to control his weakness.

I got more insight into the struggles they both had in his last years, after he lost a leg due to medical incompetence. He continued teaching, though he moved in a wheelchair and his wife would let me take him to the beerhall around the corner on a Sunday afternoon as long as I brought him back on time and reasonably sober.

You could say that, between them, they won that struggle, but it was a struggle right to the end.

Why am I telling you all this? I see a certain parallel with the problem of holding politicians to their promises. Mnangagwa tells us from time to time and foreign visitors every time he meets any (except maybe the Chinese and Russians, who don’t pretend to believe in democracy), but do we see any concrete moves that would indicate that he means what he says?

The last I heard, the database from which we should get our biometric voters’ roll was still a State secret.

Have you heard any of the 82 parties he says exist in the country putting their views to us on ZBC or ZTV – except, of course, the military’s party?

How often has your local chief, headman, or ZANU-PF leadership demanded your voter identification slip or insisted on copying the number from it? ZEC and the police both announced that was illegal.

Have you seen campaign adverts for any party but ZANU-PF in the state Press?

Have any independent groups been allowed to explain to people in your area, especially your rural home, what the Constitution says about voters’ rights and voting procedures?

Have any party except ZANU-PF held rallies in your area? (This question is especially important in rural areas of Mashonaland.)

Has anyone explained what happens if someone presents your voter slip or your voter number at a polling station and tries to vote in your name? I can tell you that government do not have the funds to provide for biometric verification at every polling station; that means a computer terminal at every polling station similar to the one border immigration officials have, to check your photo and possibly your fingerprints. “Biometric registration” is only another trick to obscure what is really going on, unless it is used as the basis for biometric identification on polling day. For sure that won’t happen in the remoter parts of deepest, darkest Zanuland.

Have you met any observers, local or foreign, asking these questions?

Has anyone told you we all, as voters, have a right to observe and ask these questions?

I think most of us would find an alcoholic spouse easier to deal with and their promises more reliable than those of our power-drunk military and their civilian stooges.

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