The July 31 harmonised elections are now a done deal; President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party have won the mandate to rule Zimbabwe for the next five years.
From the Editor’s Desk by Nevanji Mdanhire
Or, is it forever?
One of the most far-reaching implications of the just-ended elections is that a huge part of the Zimbabwean voting public has lost faith in the efficacy of elections.
It is going to be very difficult to convince them to go out to vote come the 2018 elections. This takes the country back to the late 1980s and the 1990s when voter turnouts in national elections were all very pathetic.
Zimbabwe, as a vibrant democracy is no more; in its place is a country with all the remainders of one-party rule.
The apathy that is set to ensue from now onwards is very easy to explain. It will not characterise people in opposition only, but also those in the ruling party.
From party primaries to national polls, people have seen that it’s not their preferred candidates who eventually prevail. The whole process is stage-managed right across the political divide.
Zimbabwean politics is in the hands of Big Brother figures whose will is imposed upon the people; be it Robert Mugabe denouncing Marian Chombo in Zvimba West, or Morgan Tsvangirai imposing Simba Makoni in Makoni Central, or Welshman Ncube dictating that Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga in fact hails from Umzingwane.
The frustration with the electoral process therefore begins right at party level. But it gets worse at the national level. It is now clear to all and sundry that bodies that should run elections can never be impartial.
Looking at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, for example, it is patently clear that it is an appendage of Zanu PF. The people who run it and have run it for the past generation are appointees of the ruling party. They are therefore obliged to deliver the desired result to their masters.
People now believe the result of any election in Zimbabwe is pre-determined by this body and therefore it becomes difficult for them to believe in the importance of elections to decide their future.
Zimbabweans now know the Registrar-General is openly partisan, and has never hidden his political party colours. They know R-G uses his position to manipulate the voters’ roll. He is not answerable to anyone and does whatever he wishes with impunity.
The result of this is that voters no longer trust his office. Going forward, a lot of people will just not bother to have anything to do with that office, meaning they won’t even be bothered to cast their votes in future elections.
To most people the Registrar-General’s office has become a shadowy institution dabbling in shadowy activities. The Nikuv issue has made this perception even more entrenched.
No one, except the Registrar-General himself and perhaps a few others in the corridors of power, know exactly what role this outfit played in the just-ended elections. Whether Nikuv’s hands are clean or dirty, no one will ever know. This has left a big stain on the image of the Registrar-General’s office.
For many years to come, Zimbabwean voters will believe that elections in their country are run by Mafia-style organisations that help in the rigging of the elections.
Instead of the Registrar-General coming out clean and explaining his office’s relationship with this organisation and the millions of dollars he paid it, he has chosen to be opaque about it.
Voters want to feel that they possess the electoral process in their country.
Once they believe their elections are run by foreigners, they begin to lose faith in the process. Many stories, real or fictitious, have been spun around Nikuv, and the word “nikuv” has become part of the Zimbabwean lexicon.
Whereas the majority would have expected the R-G’s office to clear the air, the atmosphere around this Israeli organisation is becoming more and more clouded.
Come 2018, many people will ask themselves if it’s necessary to register to vote, let alone cast their vote, when they believe the result is determined in Tel Aviv.
Zimbabweans also now have the perception that they cannot trust the judiciary to arbitrate their political and electoral grievances. Any country’s judiciary must not only be independent and impartial but must also be seen to be independent and impartial.
People begin to question the impartiality of the judiciary when a certain pattern emerges in the way it deals with electoral grievances.
The work of our learned judges is not being questioned here, but they must be reminded that a perception has been created which they must disabuse themselves of. Voters want to have legal recourse, but when this becomes an exercise in futility, they feel helpless and resign to their fate.
Zimbabweans have also learnt that they cannot depend on outsiders to help them in their hour of greatest need. The Southern African Development Community and the African Union showed that they have great limitations as far as solving a country’s internal problems are concerned.
Leaders in Africa have shown a tendency to side with the strong instead of the weak.
Perhaps this is a defence mechanism for the time they too will be challenged in their own backyards.
There have been times when some Zimbabweans looked to North Africa for inspiration in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring, but the picture up there isn’t good following the bloody events in Libya and Egypt where the violent deposals of dictators have left the countries worse off than they were under the strongmen.
Zimbabweans generally must be applauded for their belief in legal means rather than force to change their governments although this hasn’t yielded any positive result.
In the time between now and the next general elections, political parties have a daunting task of trying to convince the voting public that casting their vote is worth their while.
Because of Zanu PF’s huge majority in parliament, it is highly unlikely they will use their tenure to clean up the electoral process. They are unlikely to change the composition and mandate of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
They are also unlikely to tamper with the Registrar-General’s office because they will need these two institutions intact when Mugabe’s successor comes into play.
Whichever way one looks at it, Zimbabwe is in the hands of Zanu PF for many years to come and periodic voting will be perceived only as serving to legitimise its one-party rule.