Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: The memories, optics and lasting impressions of the August 23 “election”
It is now a matter of public record that what happened on the 23rd of August 2023 was not an election but a sham, if not a circus.
Special thanks must go mainly to the SADC election observer mission for breaking with tradition.
Indeed, the SEOM luke-d the beast in the eye by objectively stating that the so-called plebiscite did not pass the credibility test because it fell far short of the provisions of the Electoral Act, the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the SADC guidelines governing the conduct of democratic elections in the region.
It was clear from the outset that flawed processes do not produce legitimate outcomes. If the process leading to the election was flawed, it naturally follows as they say in the legal fraternity, that the election was void ab initio.
In other words it was a nullity from the outset. For this reason, I perfectly understand and agree with those who are saying the totality of the election comprising the Presidential, parliamentary and local government election was a sham because this was a harmonised election.
A flawed process means flawed outcomes in respect of the three elections. In short, there is no need to split hairs and to be hypocritical by nit-picking one outcome out of the tripartite polls and saying only the Presidential election was stolen but the rest bred legitimate outcomes.
If the election was harmonised, as was the case last week, then it naturally follows that there was harmonised illegitimacy in respect of the entire tripartite election.
But I digress.
My issue this week is about what for me are the 10 lasting impressions of the recent so-called election in Zimbabwe. It is common cause that after any process or event, there are always memories optics, images and lasting impressions, in other words the sights and sounds that we retain in our minds after that particular occasion.
Even at the wedding in the village, there is always a lasting image that sticks with us long after the traditional beer binge, the whistles, the excited shrills and the ululations.. It could be the uncle who wore too tight a suit that he had borrowed from his grandson; it could be the aunt who ran away from the wedding with a whole roasted chicken or the sekuru who presumed everyone was busy minding their own business and took advantage of the merry- making to plant a surreptitious but amorous kiss on the wrinkled cheeks of the old village widow, mbuya vaDorcas .
My point is that every big event, even a circus as last week’s election was, leaves behind its own memories, sights and sounds that will still dominate fireside talk many years later.
This week, I share with my readers what for me were the lasting images, nay the enduring impressions of this contested poll.
For some, the lasting impression of the 2023 election is how in terms of the numbers in many constituencies, Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa first dismally lost to his own Zanu PF party candidates before he lost by an even wider margin to Nelson Chamisa.
For others the big story of the 2023 poll is the shutting out of Saviour Kasukuwere when ED sought to use the judiciary to choose and decide his competitors.
Yet for many others, the enduring story of the 2023 polls was the defeat of Scott “Gold Mafia” Sakupwanya in the parliamentary poll in Mabvuku. For some, the image they still carry in their minds to this day is the shellacking of Mthuli “Zvakarongeka” Ncube in Cowdray Park..
Others will forever remember the famous Bulawayo 12 for whom Zanu PF weaponised the courts to nullify their valid nominations, only for the sharp twist of fate that saw the dozen CCC MPs rising from their artificially constructed ignominy to win their seats!
In my piece this week, I catalogue what for me were the lasting images; the enduring sights and sounds of this sham election; the lasting impressions that I will carry with me to the grave.
The sights and sounds of the August 23 sham
- ZEC: A bastion of cousins, children and relatives
Constitutionally, ZEC is supposed to be impartial, autonomous and truly independent.
Dear reader, I just want to give you a few names among the ZEC commissioners so that you can confirm for yourself that ZEC is under the firm clutches of Zanu PF.
ZEC commissioner Abigail Mohadi is daughter to Zanu PF second secretary and politburo member Kembo Mohadi. Commissioner Catherine Mpofu is the daughter to Zanu PF secretary for Administration and Politburo member Obert Mpofu,. Commissioner Kudzai Shava is son to Foreign Affairs Minister and Politburo member Frederick Shava while commissioner Jasper Mangwana is cousin to Politburo member Paul Mangwana and government spokesperson Nick Mangwana
So much like all those funny organisations that have sprouted in the past year. Well, judging by the filial relationships between most of the Commissioners and the Zanu PF top brass, one could well be right to brand our election management body as ZEC for ED !
If I add the name of Priscilla Makanyara Chigumba’s boyfriend, you will then begin to understand that ZEC is not only captured institutionally but amorously as well.
Well, let me leave it at that.
2 A tale of two crowds
The other listing optics in the just-ended elections were what came out to be two distinct crowds in the Presidential campaign, each with its own traits and ethos.. The one crowd comprised a happy lot that turned up at the rallies voluntarily in their huge numbers and on their own volition. In each area different crowds under the local jurisdiction turned up in huge numbers in their yellow attire. Adversely,,the other guy routinely and successively addressed a single crowd lured by freebies. That same crowd was bussed throughput the country. In other words, Murambwi addressed the same crowd 10 times in different parts of the country. It takes a lot of stupidity to be shunted around the country to listen to the same dreary speech ten times over only to be rewarded with one-piecer chicken pscd and a pack of Mirinda drinks. Nothing for your family or the children back home.
3 . . A tale of two leaders
We saw two leaders of stark distinction in the recent election. The first was a lethargic octogenarian who just cannot address a crowd. A decent message delivery is not his forte and all we saw and heard were soporific speeches that sounded more like a lullabies.
The other younger leader, whose age is half that of the octogenarian, is a natural orator who can work easily work his crowd. Throughout his rallies, he showed he was organic and exuded a natural nexus and affinity with the crowd. His crowds tuned out to be a kaleidoscopic spectacle of people of many age groups and professional backgrounds. In Matabeleland North, we even saw a policeman run away from his sworn duty of going after criminals to joining the flurry for Mukomana. He was disciplined for it, if not expelled from the force!
In any case, the younger leader had a manifesto while the old man told the nation that his backside (read his history) was his manifesto!
4 . . Sydney’s shocker slogan
I come from Domboshava in Mashonaland East province. One of the lasting images of the recent poll came from this rural province of my birth.
Politburo member Sydney Sekeramayi made what I regard as the epic utterance of the whole campaign when he shouted ” Pasi nembavha ” (Down with thieves).at the Zanu PF Presidential campaign tally in Mashonaland East province.
There was dead silence after Sydney’s chant, with a few hesitant mutterings responding in the crowd. It was clear to all and sundry that Sekeramayi had attacked Zanu PF. For a party one of whose mantras was Mbavha for ED and whose leader and First family were fingered in the Gold Mafia scandal, Pasi nembavha was a direct attack on the President.
Related to that and at the same rally was a spectacle that we shall remember for a long time to come. With the password ” Mabhazi aakuenda ” (The buses are leaving), the astute citizens, clutching their chicken packs, took to their heels and left in droves just when ED started delivering one of his boring speeches.
That was a spectacle that will live with us for many years to come!
5 . Blood on their hands
There were two tragic deaths during the recent plebiscite. Tinashe Chitsunge, a Citizens Coalition for Change supporter was callously murdered by Zanu PF thugs. JMennwhile, Jameson Mushove, a 74-year old man from Warren Park, died in the voting queue after ZEC took a whole day to dispatch ballot papers to the opposition strongholds in what will turn out to be the most brazenly stolen election in the 21st century!
The corpses of Chitsunge and Mushove will stand out as the most gothic optics of the August 23 charade, not forgetting Mboneni Ncube, Moreblessing Ali and others who were gruesomely murdered in the last three years.
6 . . Buhle and Mandla : The twins of awe
Zanu PF is an analogue party that is allergic to technology. In the recent election, techno-savvy Zimbabwean citizens showcased the evolving nature of both the electorate and the electoral terrain.
Freeman Chari was the human find of this election. The US-based software engineer added a digital touch to the campaign when he deployed two applications codenamed Buhle and Mandla.
Buhle is the big data app that helped unearth 746 871 discrepancies that were in the voters roll that was released on 11 July 2023.
Mandla was the app deployed to focus on parallel voter tabulation. Mandla dealt with real time national collation and was used for data quality assurance. Mandla was simply a digital excitement in this campaign and created white a flurry of excitement and discussion points.
The 3023 Zimbabwe poll unveiled a whole new terrain of digital electoral technology that was deliberately brought into fray to bring ZEC to account and to checkmate its shenanigans.. The technology zone is completely alien to Zamu PF and the analogue party is completely lost in these digital forests!
7 . . An old woman’s war-cry
The old woman from Warren Park trended on social media when she went public that she would sleep in the voting queue and would have food brought to her as she patiently waited for her turn to vote. She did not make her vote secret as she publicly stated she would vote Nelson Chamisa for the sake of her grandchildren who were desperate for jobs.
The ashen, wrinkled face of an optimistic old woman exuding the patience of a monk in her desperation to vote is certainly one of the lasting images of the recent election.
8 . The two sights in two beautiful cities
Nelson Chamisa gigantic crowds in the two biggest cities of Harare and Bulawayo are images that will be etched in the national memory for a long time to come.
9 . A presser. every eight . hours
It might never happen again. But the desperation was palpable. Yes, we might never see the laughable spectacle again. Stung by the SADC observer mission preliminary report which depicted the poll as a sham,, Zanu PF was sent into a tailspin , if not a vexing delirium.
The ageing party spectacularly and unprecedentedly addressed three press conferences in a space of 24 hours as it sought to extricate itself from the rut.
It was an average of a press conference after eight hours when Patrick Chinamasa, Christopher Mutsvangwa and Ziyambi Ziyambi tried in vain to spin Zanu PF out of the legitimacy mire, in which the party still finds itself to this very day.
10.The nocturnal police raid to arrest the truth
After Priscilla Chigumba at the last election had publicly urged civic groups to do parallel voter tabulation and share their figures with ZEC to enhance accountability, the ZRP’s nocturnal raid and arrest of the ZESN and the ERC staff at a local hotel as well as the confiscation of their equipment came as a huge surprise to many.
Who sent the police? And what was their interest in making sure there was no parallel voter tabulation? Was this raid in the public interest or the motive was simply to make the election and the results even murkier?
Well, your guess is as good as mine!
Conclusion: ZEC’s pathetic six-minute orgasm
To cap it all and in conclusion, perhaps the lasting image of the recent plebiscite was ZEC’s six minute orgasm, a befitting anti-climax to what was meant to be an electoral intercourse and engagement with the nation’s citizens. Zimbabweans had many questions and they expected the election management body to answer those questions when it got the opportunity to be on top and to control the narrative..
Observers had cited a host of gaps and gross inadequacies in the way the run-up to the poll had been managed. And ZEC had been cited as the main culprit.
Why had ballot papers not been dispatched in time when ZEC had publicly said it had printed 7,1 million ballot papers? Why had there been so many shambolic acts if everything was in ordet as ZEC had assured the nation?
On Saturday, 26 September at almost midnight, ZEC was on top of an expectant nation and an eager global community.
Sadly, ZEC needlessly squandered time when it was on top. They did not choose to exonerate themselves by explaining what had happened. If anyone had expected a marathon, that night, with ZEC protractedly engaging the nation in a spirited discourse stuck in longevity, it all shockingly became a very short sprint!
A very short orgasm at midnight last Saturday.
It was all so embarrassing. But embarrassment was almost always guaranteed, what with one Priscilla Makanyara presiding over this damp squib. Makanyara is a Shona word that means you were embarrassed.
In a mere six minutes, ZEC had done the opening prayer, the. opening remarks and had announced what it said were the Presidential election results, all in 360 seconds!
ZEC was literally on top of the national narrative but all it did for its time on top was just six minutes! And this at a time when Zimbabweans expected a protracted engagement given that the whole nation expected a protracted engagement over the vexing electoral questions that were boggling their minds!
But ZEC was done in six minutes, leaving the nation craving for more answers on their many questions that remain unanswered to this day.
Well, the nation rightfully awaits a rerun! Yes, let’s do it again. Dzokororo ine simba !
Luke Tamborinyoka is a citizen from Domboshava a journalist and an avid political scientist by profession, Tamborinyoka is a change champion in the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC). You can interact with him on his Facebook page or his X handle @ like_tambo