By Nyashadzashe Ndoro
A research conducted by the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) has argued that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s public commitment to free and fair elections before the 2018 referendum was meant to sanitise the legitimate issues that arose after the 2017 military coup.
A research document titled ZANU PF/MILITARY DETERRENCE OF THE
VILLAGE Vote released on Tuesday by the ZDI looked on the PERCEPTIONS ON THE 2018 ELECTION ENVIRONMENT and found that Mnangagwa wanted to use elections to sanitise a military coup that ousted late former president Robert Mugabe.
Among some of the shortfalls the 2018 elections intrinsic in, Zanu PF is accused of militarising the rural areas ahead of election in order to intimidate and influence voters.
“Mnangagwa’s public statements about his commitment to free and fair elections have received mixed reactions ranging from cautious optimism to suspicion and scepticism.
“Granted, the Mnangagwa government has a legitimacy deficit arising from the military coup that brought it to power, and as such, delivery of a credible, free and fair election would be a key benchmark towards re-engagement with the international community.
“But it is possible that promising democratic elections and inviting international donors could be a mere ‘box ticking’ exercise.
“As noted by Bishop and Hoeffler (2014: 5) “the number of observed elections has steadily increased over time and it has become an internationally expected behaviour to invite election observers … designed to signal a democratic intention to donors and investors.”
The ZDI study also found that the Zanu-PF government had militarised villages mainly to harvest, “fear induced voting preferences and/or fear induced voter apathy in the 30 July, 2018 elections.
“The unleashing of ‘military fear’ is in two ways, the psychological and the actual. In the menu of electoral manipulation conceptual framework, this kind of electoral chicanery falls under ‘failures or refusals to act’ which Birch and Carlson (2012:2) define as ‘inability or denial to provide necessary oversight’ and ‘acts of coercion’ defined by the same scholars as ‘intimidating or forcing a voter or other electoral participant to behave in an involuntary manner.” ZDI said.
Soldiers and anti-riot police were implicated in the deaths of at least six people and serious injuries to dozens more after a peaceful demonstration conducted by civilians a day after election.
The opposition MDC Alliance was accusing the Zanu PF administration of rigging elections.
Meanwhile, after the 2018 harmonised elections, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said the crackdown on the dissent would slow down Mnangagwa’s re-engagement agenda.
“In the meantime, re-engagement by the West is now likely to slow down. To regain lost ground and momentum in terms of building trust with those countries, the government will have to rapidly implement some of its promised reforms.
“In particular, it should focus on addressing concerns regarding its post-election conduct and what that means in terms of respect for the rule of law and inclusive governance,” ICG said in a statement. Nehanda Radio