PRESIDENT Mugabe stated, as he cast his vote on March 29, that he could not live with his conscience if he were to rig elections.
That sounded like a lofty moral position that many Zimbabweans in their experience will have scoffed at. They could not remember a single election since 1980 that could escape the tag of “rigged”.
The countrywide violence that is currently going on is worse than a technical rigging of elections. In this violence, innocent Zimbabweans are being brutalised, tortured and murdered.
In the majority of these instances those perpetrating these dastardly acts claim to be doing so to secure Mugabe’s victory in the event of a run-off of the presidential elections.
Other perpetrators justify these terrible acts on the basis that those who voted against Mugabe had no right to do so.
The end result of this violence is to force people either to vote in a certain way or not to vote at all.
The army unashamedly staged what is referred to as “Operation Mavhoterapapi”. (Operation how did you vote?) No army spokesperson has denied the presence of this evil operation.
Hundreds of people who have sought refuge in churches, and party offices show terrible scars of torture. They are spiritually, physically and emotionally devastated. These are our people. These are Zimbabwean men and women, boys and girls who had hoped that their vote would rescue them from years of misery inflicted on them by Zanu PF’s blind and directionless rule.
These are our citizens who have experienced only two forms of violent governments in their lifetime. A hundred years of colonial rule left them humiliated with their humanity impugned.
Twenty-eight years of Mugabe’s rule has injured and harmed their aspirations.
The question we all ask is why? Why inflict so much pain on innocent people whose crime seems to be their desire to change their dire circumstances through the vote?
They come from as far afield as Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe. Some are from Lupane, Beitbridge, Buhera, Insiza, Matobo etc.
The story is the same: men came into their homes, sometimes at night, sometimes during the day to inflict retribution because they voted for the MDC.
All these perpetrators have been identified as Zanu PF activists led by one or two soldiers plus the usual war veteran.
Heads have been severely cut with pangas, bodies burnt with melted plastic or lacerated with barbed wire or some other sharp instrument. They have been displaced from their homes.
Homesteads have been burnt to the ground.. As the cold winter approaches they are in despair. Some have been murdered leaving widows, widowers, orphans and distraught relatives to contemplate the future without their loved ones.
The struggle for one person one vote was supposed to confer total sovereignty to the people. The vote ensures that all Zimbabweans achieve equality in exercising the right to vote for who should lead them.
Mugabe tells us that a vote for the opposition is a wasted vote, thus predetermining what our choices should be.
The beatings, torture, murder and banishments, one must conclude are designed to achieve this terrible objective. This is vote rigging of the worst kind.
The vote, according to Zanu PF, is valid only if it has been given to them. Perhaps that explains the pressure that is being exerted on villagers by so called war veterans who claim that villagers voted “wrongly” when they voted for the opposition.
We can all quibble about statistics, namely how many people have been killed, how many have been tortured, how many have been injured and how many have been displaced.
These are cold, faceless numbers. What should be of major concern to us is the humiliating nature of violence.
It is its brutalising effect on our persons that should worry us.
If a government that fought colonialism, ostensibly to restore its people’s dignity, is complicity in the physical violation of the bodily integrity of its own people, then what was the purpose of the liberation struggle?
After 28 years in which our people have witnessed Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina, chronic food shortages (people go hungry for days on end) and all forms of violence during elections, can we sit back and claim to be free people?
I appeal to all of us to think seriously about the reconstruction of our state. We should all examine whether a presidential run-off under these conditions of violence would be the best way of reconstructing our state.
Our population is too traumatised for a proper electoral verdict to occur. We need to find a deliberate way of de-escalating tensions in our country. It should not be beyond us to initiate dialogue around these issues. It took ZEC 34 days to announce the results of the March 29 poll.
The void created uncertainly and spawned the climate of violence currently engulfing the country.
As a result the whole electoral process has been severely compromised.
We will need extraordinary measures to restore confidence in a process that has never enjoyed popular acclaim in the first case.
Whatever is the case ,the immediate task is for the state institutions tasked with the responsibility of protecting the citizens to stop the violence immediately.
Paul Themba Nyathi :Director of Elections in the Mutambara formation of the MDC. He is writing in his personal capacity.