A fortnight ago, the nation was startled to hear that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), a supposedly independent commission, had allowed the Zanu PF government to hijack the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) exercise, in the process casting fresh doubts on the prospect for a free, fair and credible election in 2018.
guest opinion BY MORGAN TSVANGIRAI
Given our history of stolen elections, everyone was confident with the process in which the United Nations was involved through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Elections are about confidence and credibility and the involvement of the respected world body had given everyone reason to believe in a free, fair and credible process leading to the 2018 elections.
The government, as currently composed, constitutes of one political party. It is pertinent to note that when a government so-constituted hijacks an important process, it simply means Zanu PF, an interested party, has unilaterally taken over the work of an independent commission ahead of a watershed poll.
This should be cause for national alarm, given how Zanu PF has in the past used violence and dubious companies such as Nikuv International Projects to steal the people’s vote.
No political party should be allowed to unilaterally superintend an electoral process as that can only imperil or endanger the people’s will.
We are hearing more disturbing reports about what this government is doing to subvert the will of the people in the next election.
For instance, we are aware of teams that have been working and training under the tutelage of a spy agency of a country that shall remain nameless for now. There is also a ploy to have Nikuv International Projects registered under surrogate names in an attempt to enable the company to win the tender to supply the BVR kits.
If Zimbabwe proceeds to use the BVR system, which Zanu PF is not keen to do, we are also aware of plans to have Nikuv International Projects work with some named Indian companies in hacking or engaging in cyber-attacks on the whole electoral system once it becomes clear that the results are not going in Zanu PF’s favour.
We are aware, therefore, that plans are afoot to either control or derail the BVR process, frustrate voter registration and the actual voting in perceived opposition strongholds.
We know as well that there are plans to tamper with silver nitrate and other inks such as UV ink to fudge the result of the next election.
As a party, together with our colleagues in the broader democratic movement, we take great umbrage at the brazen hostile take-over of the electoral process by a political party when such work is solely reposed in an independent commission.
The party’s national executive met last week and I wish to restate its resolution that as a party, we will utilise all legitimate and constitutionally permissible avenues at our disposal to stop this daylight theft.
Whether in the courts or in the streets, we shall fight all attempts to steal the next election and we fully endorse the resolution that we took with others under the banner of National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) to mobilize Zimbabweans for a public protest on March 22.
Indeed, come hail, come high water, we will do all we can to stem the subversion of the people’s will.
As MDC, together with our colleagues in the Nera and others in the broader democratic movement, we will continue to demand from ZEC that it takes urgent steps to chlorinate the electoral process and restore national confidence.
Our demands include, but are not limited to, the following:
A credible voters’ roll
A credible voters’ roll is mandatory and if there is continued dithering and subversion of the biometric voter registration process, then we can ensure that prospective voters simply produce their IDs, as happened in the election of 1980.
Civil servants and traditional leaders to stick to their constitutional roles
There is need to redefine the role of bureaucrats and other civil servants during elections in line with the dictates of the Constitution. Those whose roles should be aligned include the police, the army and intelligence services, some of whom have been stuffed into the ZEC secretariat.
Apart from civil servants, it is important to re-emphasise the apolitical role of chiefs and headmen as defined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe. I heard sad stories from the chiefs themselves of how they are being politicised, including making them chairpersons of the Zanu PF cell structure to make them frog-march people to influence the vote at rural polling stations.
Stern action on vote-buying
Vote-buying by any means should be made a serious, punishable offence. We have seen key government actors associated with Zanu PF overtly buying votes with rice and Zimra-confiscated items, among other vote-buying gimmicks.
We saw these antics in Norton and Bikita West, as well as in Buhera where Zimra goods were donated at the same time when the nation was being threatened with a corpse for a presidential candidate. Apart from being a punishable offence, vote-buying should be a basis for disqualification, even before the election is held.
Chlorinating the ZEC secretariat
There is urgent need to chlorinate the ZEC secretariat for it to be truly professional. The ZEC secretariat should be de-militarised and de-securotised as it is now common cause that it is heavily stuffed with members of the army, the police and the CIO. This is a key issue and even the 10 provincial officers of ZEC must be professional and must inspire confidence in all the political players.
Guaranteed access to the public media by all parties
This is now a requirement in the Constitution, even where there are no elections. Media reforms remain a key electoral matter that continues to suffer from non-implementation, even where the Constitution is clear and unequivocal as stipulated in section 61 of the supreme law of the land.
Agreement on the printing of voting material
There is need for agreement by all parties on who is printing the ballot papers and other voting material. We have seen this happening in other countries in the Sadc as in the elections held in Namibia and Zambia. There is also need for forensic testing and examination of ballot papers and other voting material before and after voting.
Presence of polling agents from all political parties at polling stations
Every political party must have polling agents at every polling station during the voting process.
Safety of candidates
All political candidates must be given the opportunity to campaign freely without fear, coercion or intimidation. Related to this, Zanu PF must disband youth officers, who are mainly political agents doing party work in the wards at the expense of the state. This is highly anomalous and illegal as the taxpayer cannot be liable for agents directly carrying out Zanu PF work as is currently obtaining.
It is now constitutional for every Zimbabwean to exercise his/her right to vote. The ZEC must ensure that it puts in place administrative and other mechanisms in place to ensure that every Zimbabwean, regardless of their physical location, exercises this Constitutional right.
If we really have nothing to hide, we must ensure that our polls are observed by all and sundry without preconditions — and without exclusionary tendencies towards certain observers. All observers without exception must be allowed to observe both before and after the election.
As the nation converges on a common agenda for progress, growth and development and for democracy to take hold, I wish to applaud war veterans for joining the rest of the country in making the same demands for which they fought a brutal but legitimate armed struggle against racism and repression.
We salute the ex-combatants for converging with the rest of the nation in making key national demands.
Not only are they calling for President Robert Mugabe to step down in the interest of the country, but they have now joined the rest of the nation in the sonorous cry for democracy and for the protection of the right to vote, for which they fought and for which so many paid the ultimate price.
*This is an abridged version of MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s address to journalists in Harare last week