It is now almost certain harmonised elections will be held on July 31. Zanu PF has defied regional bloc Southern African Development Community (Sadc)’s call to have a two-week extension to August 14.
There is something sinister in all this, as it points to a stratagem meant to give an unfair advantage to the former ruling party.
Whatever trick Zanu PF has up its sleeve must be exposed before we go into another disputed election. It gives hope that the African Union has already begun to send observers to monitor the period running up to the poll. Hopefully Sadc will follow suit soon and other organisations from across the globe will begin to make their presence felt on the electoral scene.
There are several areas to watch carefully.
Observers should pay special attention to voter registration and the subsequent voters’ roll. Indeed the call for the deferment of the election was based on the argument that the voter registration period was inadequate. The real fear was that hundreds of thousands of people, especially first-time voters and those formerly called aliens, would not be able to register. This would work in favour of Zanu PF which has alienated itself from these groups.
Observers should also monitor carefully the use of the public media.
Zanu PF has refused media reform because it wishes to use the public media exclusively in the election campaign. They should also record all incidents of hate speech in the media and report it to their principals so that it is stopped.
The involvement of security forces in the elections should also be monitored and barred wherever it is evident. Security chiefs have unconstitutionally aligned themselves to Zanu PF and have campaigned openly for it, which is illegal. In recent weeks we have seen securocrats’ wives hitting the campaign trail. This too should be highlighted to the observers and stopped.
The presence of soldiers in rural constituencies is highly intimidating and needs to be put to the attention of the observers.
Soldiers should remain in the barracks during this period.
Political violence should also be closely watched.