HomeOpinion & AnalysisIndependence, Elections do not Make us Free

Independence, Elections do not Make us Free

“THE hardest lesson of my life has come to me late. It is that a nation can win freedom without its people becoming free. I am a Zimbabwean patriot and an African patriot too.

I refuse to accept that we cannot do better than we have so far done, or to reach for the easy excuse that all our mistakes are simply a colonial inheritance that can conveniently be blamed on the invaders.”

I have quoted these words from The Story Of My Life, by Joshua Nkomo, simply to illustrate that true freedom as envisaged by the founding mothers and fathers of this great nation called Zimbabwe still has to be accomplished.

Freedom is not simply about holding regular elections no matter how uneven and biased the political playing field is.

A nation cannot be free when the majority of its inhabitants live in debilitating poverty, fear and repression.

It is a complete negation of freedom to have a set-up where might is right and where those who possess and control the coercive power of the state ride roughshod over the basic and fundamental human rights of the weak and poor majority.

It is a fact that since 1980, elections have been regularly held in Zimbabwe.

It is equally true that the majority, if not all of these electoral contests, have been marred by violence, intimidation, thuggery and outright vote rigging.

Invariably, most electoral results in Zimbabwe have been contested mainly because the process that gave rise to these elections was fundamentally flawed and consequently the results of these elections were always a fertile ground for contestation.

The problem we have in this country is that our politics, since the attainment of Independence on April 18 1980, have always been the politics of power retention at whatever cost.

What has always mattered is whether the political establishment, as ushered in at Independence, had been preserved and retained intact, political power, economic privileges and all.

Everything else was subordinated to this primary instinct of power retention. As a result, the dominant political players, during every electoral contest, would throw all caution to the wind and go for the jugular to ensure that, ultimately, they always retained political power and hence their privileged economic status as well. This is where we got it all wrong.

In a democracy, elections should give the voters an opportunity to freely decide who should be entrusted with the duty of running matters of the state. Put alternatively, any election that fails to accord the voters an opportunity to freely choose their political leaders is but a sham election.

Do I hear someone talking about the farcical June 27 2008 presidential election run-off in Zimbabwe? That internationally discredited sham of an election is an unmitigated example of how not to run a free and fair election.

My main fear is that I always see the ghost of June 27 2008. If not thoroughly exorcised, this ghost will come back to haunt us come the next elections in Zimbabwe. Just mark my words.

The situation on the ground in Zimbabwe today, in my humble view, is still far from being suitable for the holding of a free and fair election any time soon. Whilst we now have a semblance of political stability and some measure of tranquillity, I actually view this as a false dawn.

Beneath this facade of peace and tranquillity lies the lethal ghost of political intolerance and deeply entrenched mistrust and bitterness. We seem to be living in a fool’s paradise where, unfortunately, some of us have chosen to bury their heads in the sand, ostrich style, and somehow hope that our politics will just get themselves right without any deliberate and conscious effort to heal the nation. Sometimes, I wonder what has happened to the Organ on National Healing and Integration. Can somebody please tell me whether or not this organ is still in existence and functional?

The MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai is arguably the most popular political party in Zimbabwe at this juncture. This fact has been proven by various scientific surveys.

Tsvangirai and the MDC are poised to win, any free and fair election held in Zimbabwe today, tomorrow or at any time in the near future. What is in serious doubt is whether power will be transferred to Tsvangirai and the MDC if they win an election.

I wish to be uncharacteristically defeatist and openly declare that even if Tsvangirai and the MDC were to win the next elections, it would be a real nightmare for them to obtain total transfer of power from the remnants of the securocrats who still retain a tenacious hold on the coercive instruments of State power today.

That is the real tragedy we have in Zimbabwe at this juncture in our political history. We have never experienced a situation where power has been transferred from one political party to another after the holding of elections.

We are just used to the holding of generally discredited, violent and rigged elections where the result is manipulated and the people’s voice is cheated. If this cancerous political disease is not completely cured, Zimbabwe will always be mired in debilitating political problems which will continue to adversely impact on the economic turnaround that all of us are so keen to embark upon.

The instruments of terror and repression are still intact throughout Zimbabwe. Those militias and other state actors who violated and tormented the nation between March and June 2008 are still roaming free. What guarantee is there that these merchants of terror will not be let loose again in the event that another election is called for today?

Obert Gutu is senator for the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC.

 

By Obert Gutu

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