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Through the Wire: Things to fix before election

By Lance Guma

Everyone is diving into the electoral swimming pool without checking to see if there is any political water. This is particularly true of the political parties that want to unseat Robert Mugabe and bring to an end his 32 years of uninterrupted rule.

Lance Guma
Lance Guma

This week Through the Wire shines the spotlight on the fundamentals that need to be in place for Zimbabwe to have free, fair and credible elections. A lot of lip service is taking place with no practical implementation of any sort.

1. Voter’s Roll

To call our voters roll a ‘shambles’ would be an understatement. There are 42,000 people over the age of 100 and this is an ‘impossible’ number. Some appear to be 120 years old, in a country with a life expectancy of 43.

Nearly a third of registered voters are dead and experts say there are 2.6 million too many names on the voters roll. This phantom vote is more than enough to settle the outcome of any election in favour of Zanu PF and Mugabe.

Solution: The voters roll needs to be overhauled and produced in electronic form, rather than the paper version.

2. Zimbabwe Election Commission

Just like we said last week, members of the tainted Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and former senior soldiers who work for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) have to be removed from its secretariat.

While many people naively celebrated the appointment of a new electoral commission, its influence is restricted to setting up policy. The secretariat is still packed with people loyal to Mugabe and they effectively run the elections.

Key functions have all been shared by former CIO’s and soldiers like Utoile Silaigwana (Operations) and Notayi Mutemasango (Administration and Finance) and Chief Elections Officer Lovemore Chipunza Sekeramayi.

Solution: While the parties are happy with the commission, a new ‘balanced’ secretariat needs to be appointed before the elections.

3. Terror Machinery

The problem with March 2008 is that it taught Zanu PF that without violence they will lose elections. Equally the problem with June 2008 is that it also taught Zanu PF that brutal force including murder will keep them in power.

Already there are reports of how the terror machinery is being deployed countrywide. Soldiers, CIO’s, War Vets and other Zanu PF militants are already firing warning shots by committing sporadic abuses to test the waters.

In 2008 Mugabe made it clear blood and terror will be the price for his exit. That election also showed him you can still lose, hammer the opposition and kill hundreds of innocent people and still be able to ‘share’ power with the winner.

Solution: The much talked about security sector reforms are important. The police, army and CIO need to be led by people who respect the constitution and not commit abuses on behalf of political parties or individuals.

4. Media Reforms

For 32 years Zanu PF had and still have an unfair advantage in terms of their absolute control of the state media. They have an iron grip on both television and radio broadcasting including the two proxy radio stations recently licenced.

That anyone can seriously claim the licencing of StarFM owned by Zimpapers (owners of the Herald etc) and ZiFM owned by the Zanu PF treasurer for Manicaland Supa Mandiwanzira, constitutes media reforms is a joke.

The MDC-T and Morgan Tsvangirai were still able to beat Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe in the March 2008 harmonised elections but that owed more to the intellect of the Zimbabwean people who saw through the incessant propaganda.

Solution: Zimbabwe needs genuine media reforms were legitimate media people can set up radio and television projects without political interference.

The above four issues are a very good starting block towards a free, fair and credible elections. Other key elements can also be found in the SADC guidelines for conducting democratic elections, which Zimbabwe signed up to.

  1. Full participation of the citizens in the political process
  2. Freedom of association
  3. Political tolerance
  4. Regular intervals for elections
  5. Equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media
  6. Equal opportunity to exercise the right to vote and be voted for
  7. Independence of the Judiciary and impartiality of the electoral institutions
  8. Voter education
  9. Acceptance and respect of the election results by political parties
  10.  Challenge of the election results as provided for in the law of the land

Let’s not find out when we land in the electoral swimming pool that there is no political water and we have smashed our heads in the concrete, again.

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