Zimbabweans pray for fair and peaceful elections as the economy spins into meltdown
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has announced that Zimbabwe will hold its presidential and parliamentary elections on August 23 this year. Elected president in 2018 after a military coup that deposed President Robert Mugabe the previous year, he is seeking a second term in office at a time when the southern African country battles a damaging economic crisis. The 80-year-old’s main rival is lawyer and pastor Nelson Chamisa, 45, who leads the newly formed Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) . A well-respected correspondent in Zimbabwe wonders if the battle-scarred president will be be re-elected and if the ruling party can somehow stay where it is after August 23.Many believe Zimbabwe’s corrupt ruling party will do just that with a little help from Emmerson Mnangagwa’s (always close by him) uniformed friends
by ANDREW FIELD
Harare, Zimbabwe – – – Election fever is beginning to brew. Once again we seem destined to be sliding down that slippery slope of electoral farce and abuse of the democracy everybody so craves. The mood is gearing down towards long standing protectionism of the ‘struggle’, versus the real need for change; adoration of the ‘revolutionary’ saviour party, rather than tolerance of the nouveau ideals that may bring change; and hero worship of its decrepit, but now fast disappearing, old guard, revolutionary leadership, than new faces at the helm.
Above all, it is deeply more about power retention by that old guard. But the core of the apple is rotten, with all allegations of corruption, accumulated wealth, and mis-governance. The kakistocracy intends, by all nefarious means, to stay in power. It is no longer about what the people want.
In December 2022 the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission presented a Delimitation Report to the President of Zimbabwe. Some contested that it was the final report and not a draft. The timing of the report and subsequent due process was considered, let us say, a little dysfunctional. The entire process was fatally flawed in the opinion of some; unconstitutional. Fundamentally too, the wrong formula was used for levelling the numbers of voters per constituency around the average.
It was a comedy of error upon error, say some. Delimitation was contested in the Constitutional Court by an unlikely litigant, Douglas Mwonzora, leader of the now tiny MDC-A party. He applied to the Court for an order to set aside the Delimitation Report until corrected and thus the postponement of the General Elections. The order never gained traction with the Courts and, ergo, for the forthcoming elections to be constitutional, they should be run in terms of the 2008 delimitation, which too was pregnant with error. Constitutionally, the Court could not find in favour of any election deferment because such finding would not be constitutional.
Voter registration soon became a mission of the principal opposition, which began driving its campaign to get now fed up citizens and the young and more politically aware youth to be registered. There was much contest over the Voters’ Roll and the inability of opposition to obtain digital datasets. The electoral commission has consistently denied access to the roll by the opposition parties… by elevating the cost of the digital dataset to US$ 187 thousand! The Rolls cannot thus really be thoroughly examined for nefarious duplication, ghost voters and deliberate omissions.
After much criticism, and discovery of error, concerning voter registration, involving some very profound anomalies, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission pushed ahead, at extremely short notice, with an inspection of the Voters Roll between the 27th May and 31 May 2023. Prospective voters were expected to go to their usual voting places or had the option to access the data on their mobile phones. Whether the objective of the exercise, to correct the roll, has or is being done remains to be seen.
Despite the fact that Zimbabwe’s law makers were still in the process of passing an Electoral Amendment Bill through the Houses, a Presidential proclamation was gazetted on 31 May 2023 declaring date and places of nomination courts to receive nomination of presidential, national constituency and local council candidates from all the parties. The date was set at 21 June 2023. The notice went on to fixed the date of harmonised elections as 23 August 2023, with a proviso run-off date, being set where no presidential candidate receives more that 50% of the vote, set to be held on 2 October 2023.
The President, so it would seem, has jumped the gun with this proclamation, since that Electoral Amendment Bill is yet to enjoy enactment. He had no choice, the legitimate window for a general election, within the framework of the Constitution, closes about that time. The probability that the Electoral Amendment Bill will be promulgated before the election process kicks off is slim. This has consequences. Simply put, the forthcoming elections shall need to be contested in terms of the existing law, without the amendment. And this, further, does not take into account the many electoral reforms which have arisen since the 2018 harmonised elections that were marred by apparent rigging and pre and post-election violence.
Nomination Fees for the forthcoming general elections were published in a recent statutory instrument. Fees for nominations for election as President of Zimbabwe have been increased twentyfold from US$1,000 per candidate, to US$20,000. Nominations for election as a parliamentary constituency member went up from just US$50 to US$1,000. A party wishing to contest both parliamentary and presidential elections (all constituencies) will need to venture near US$240,000 (by 21 June 2023) – that is just over RTGS $1.44 billion by Reserve Bank mid rates last week, but I doubt the nomination courts will be accepting our treasured nation RTGS currency.
These rates are grossly unreasonable, but it is abundantly clear they were promulgated for improper motives, to discourage participation by opposition parties that do not receive a fair share of state funding. Veritas, a local legal watchdog, in its regular publications, suggests that the twenty-fold increase is unconstitutional and “inimical to multi-party democracy and inhibited the fundamental rights of citizens to stand for elections”.
Clearly, with all this supposed election ‘manipulation’ and the ultimate patronage to the ruling party by agencies, meant to be impartial, before the first vote is cast, one may question if Zimbabwe is really committed to a free and fair election process. If the election can be ‘fixed’ by all the illegal shenanigans, then that begs the question, can the nation at least enjoy a general election process without violence and intimidation? One may, rightly, think not.
Nelson Chamisa of the CCC, . .
. . . the outsider leading an electoral charge of the light brigade against a war-scarred veteran
Zimbabwe’s principal opposition party, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC), has an outrageously difficult campaign ahead of it. It will face the prospect of being blocked by ruling party partisan security and law enforcement agencies; one dares to say, pre-election violence by ruling party faithful thuggery; intimidation and all the other nasty possibilities. One of their leading lights, Job Sikala, remains incarcerated without trial, seen by most as a political agenda rather than a judicial process.
The prognosis is not good for the opposition. They are yet to develop a truly national movement of support, one that especially extends into traditional ZANU-PF’s strongholds, the rural vote. Social media platforms are no substitute for boots on ground campaigning in these opposition strongholds. And that is not happening yet, but it is early days. Are they destined for yet another marginal defeat? Will these elections allow the people to express their true free will?
More pertinently, has the will of the people really ebbed towards a desire for change? Its perhaps mind-boggling that impoverished people, in some serious hardship today, still retain even a modicum of allegiance to their supposed liberation party that has failed them. You are in a cocoon if you think it has not. The people seem too not to wish to alienate their ‘struggle’ heroes or their successors (all of whom conversely and unashamedly bask in enormous wealth and a luxury life). The people have an upcoming opportunity to express their will. You can lead a horse to water…
The President of Zimbabwe is elected using the two-round system. The 270 members of the National Assembly consist of 210 members elected in single-member constituencies and 60 women elected by proportional representation in ten six-seat constituencies based on the country’s provinces. Voters cast a single vote, which is counted for both forms of election. The 80 members of the Senate include 60 members elected from ten six-member constituencies (also based on the provinces) by proportional representation using party lists; the lists must have a woman at the top and alternate between men and women. The other 20 seats include two reserved for people with disabilities and 18 for traditional chiefs.