By Harry Peter Wilson
With or without the much fought for electoral reforms, the reality is that the 2018 harmonised elections are now on our doorstep and as the opposition, it’s either we sink or swim.
While I have my reservations on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s handling of our economic affairs, it is important to give him credit where he deserves it, and in that I am talking about the peaceful environment accompanying us into this year’s elections.
I should say Zimbabweans have since independence in 1980 recently witnessed significant peace, something which we could only dream of in the dictatorial times of former president Robert Mugabe.
Today and as we approach the elections, Zimbabwe is at peace with itself.
The time when father turned against son, mother against daughter is gone and this election season has proved that we are just one big family.
In the past, especially during and after political campaigns, our sons beat us up for supporting whoever we wanted; our daughters beat their mothers into submission — to submit to supporting the ruling Zanu PF.
We had our sons and daughters marching us to the pungwes (night vigils) where they humiliated us.
They burnt opposition party regalia and we had teachers in most rural areas fleeing the terror.
In past elections, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) acted as though it was part of Zanu PF and they could not sanction opposition political parties’ rallies; they violently disrupted them and ran running battles with opposition supporters.
The ZRP was so partisan that even if an opposition member was attacked, they would instead arrest them and let Zanu PF members go scot-free.
There are several opposition members rotting in prisons for no cause, and this needs redress.
Some places were “no-go areas” for the opposition and there, Zanu PF members could mount roadblocks to sniff out “their enemies”.
People caught reading independent newspapers could be beaten up and even told to “eat” the papers.
Like I said, let us give credit where it is due because the ZRP has, as of today, completely changed the way they used to deal with the opposition.
The chiefs and headmen were notoriously known for forcing every community member to subscribe to the ruling party, but little by little such practice is falling off.
While we still have some traditional leaders who still believe in doing things the older way, many have taken heed of the call to serve everyone regardless of political affiliation.
I still believe that as the opposition, we can score goals during this harmonised election although I am in agreement with others that there are some urgent electoral reforms that we need.
But while we demand these reforms, we know time is ticking away and there are others who want to keep us fighting for our democratic rights while they campaign, we better do both.
We must also ensure there are provisions that cover the announcements of election results because we do not want to have a situation where election results take ages to be announced.
And like I said, the elections are here, there is no running away from the contest and those who have been working hard on the ground will be rewarded.
For others who might have been enjoying the limelight as political parties, it is now time to separate the boys from the men as we will see how many will actually throw their candidature in the presidential race.
I for one am honoured to be throwing my hat and completing my race.
My participation and that of my party brings democracy as it keeps the other guys on their toes!
– Wilson is DOP party president and is based in Bulawayo