As the July 30 elections draw nearer, political parties and independent candidates have stepped up their campaigns to win the first post-Robert Mugabe polls.
Our chief reporter Everson Mushava (EM) yesterday spoke to respected academic Ibbo Mandaza (IM) to get his views about the country’s preparedness for the polls being keenly watched by the international community.
Mandaza believes the credibility of the polls is already at stake following a disputed voters roll and other alleged malpractices by the government and those running the polls.
He also feels President Emmerson Mnangagwa risks losing the election due to a number of factors that include ethnicity and divisions rocking Zanu PF. Below are excerpts from the interview.
EM: How do you see the political environment in the country ahead of the July 30 elections?
IM: I am worried about the current tension over unresolved electoral issues, especially around the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) that can deem the elections free and fair such as the voters roll, printing of the ballot paper, the impartiality of the media and other preconditions for free and fair elections.
Opposition political parties and foreign observer missions I have met have been raising those issues.
Americans have so far sent three delegations including senators, International Republican Institute and Council on Foreign Relations, the European Union delegation is in town interviewing people, we have the African Union, Comesa — all of them are raising the issue of the incomplete manner in which the elections are being prepared by ZEC. With three or four weeks to go, we wonder whether these pre-conditions will be fulfilled.
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EM: Opposition parties have been accusing Zanu PF of trying to rig the forthcoming elections. Do you think rigging will be possible this time around?
IM: It depends on to what extent the rigging machinery that was active in previous elections has been dismantled. Yes, there have been allegations of divisions in Zanu PF, which give rise to views that it might be impossible to rig, but I think the pertinent question is: Are we ready for the elections in the first place or the converse is true?
The second:Will the opposition go ahead to participate in the election if circumstances lead to rigging? The only way, therefore, is to make sure that the preconditions are met because nothing has changed in the governing of the country.
EM: The opposition and other observers have described Zanu PF and ZEC as bedfellows working to rig these elections. What is your comment on those assertions?
IM: It is difficult to dispel [claims] that the two are bedfellows judging by the extent to which ZEC has remained a department of the Justice ministry.
The ZEC chair, Justice Priscilla Chigumba, reports to the minister of Justice.
I would have expected that for a person who wants to satisfy public opinions, Justice Priscilla Chigumba would have gone all the distance to show that the commission is independent.
She has been a disappointment if you ask me; Justice Rita Makarau (the former ZEC chairperson) was a much better person.
I can vouch for her as a decent person, but she failed to do well because of the political circumstances pertaining to the electoral process available then and threw in the towel.
I thought Justice Chigumba could have read the signs of the times, understood the demands of the times and lived up to the challenges and expectations.
EM: MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa has taken Mnangagwa to court over alleged electoral malpractices and abuse of traditional leaders.
Some people have commended him for that, but claim it is a good action that has come a bit too late considering that we are only a month away from the elections. What is your view?
IM: It is never too late. Chamisa is doing the right thing. in fact, it is not Chamisa only; everyone even those abroad should play a part to ensure the elections are free and fair.
It doesn’t require much to instil confidence in the public, for example, the military making a public declaration that they will not take part in the electoral processes and respect the outcome of the elections considering the overhang of military involvement post-2000 polls when the generals declared that they would not salute the late Morgan Tsvangirai, when they declared that the post of the president was a straitjacket and the military coup itself implemented on the fear that Zanu PF would lose as shown by the minutes of the November events.
Zimbabweans should ask what has changed and if there isn’t any change, take the ruling administration to task. EM: What are the implications of the White City Stadium incident where Mnangagwa survived an assassination attempt?
IM: That incident shows how fractured the state is. It was definitely from the state itself, it was an internal job and it is not surprising because of the coup itself.
People should be concerned about state media reports, George Charamba and Mnangagwa himself to try to find scapegoats before investigations are complete.
What happened in Bulawayo should be condemned and thorough investigations should be carried out.
Imagine if the whole leadership could have been killed, where that could have left our country.
There should be an honest approach to the investigations as opposed to obstructions and scapegoating.
The allegations that the person was found in a Zanu PF t-shirt and police claiming they had no access to the person because he was taken away by the military [are worrying].
We have lost two citizens, parents, fathers of children and a commission of inquiry is needed.
We have many cases in the past that have not been investigated.
We are worried because of the possibility that it can impact on the forthcoming elections.
For some of us who are older in this game, it reminds us of as way back as 1975 intra-party tribal conflicts and last weekend’s developments can invoke such incidents.
EM: Some people say Mnangagwa’s actions after the explosion show that the whole event was stage-managed, what is your comment on that?
IM: Mnangagwa’s actions after the explosion indeed raised more questions than answers.
Within minutes, there is claim that he was the target when the footage shows all including his deputies — Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi, Oppah Muchinguri and the two deceased — were targets. A hand grenade affects a zone, it cannot target a person.
People then ask: On what basis did Mnangagwa conclude that he was the target and without evidence claim he was attacked by G40? It is crazy.
EM: Others have accused Mnangagwa of pointing fingers at others before complete police investigations are completed. They claim it has the potential of causing chaos. What is your view?
IM: What President Mnangagwa did is very dangerous. It promotes witch-hunting and revenge killings.
It is irresponsible talk and we would have expected the president, who is a lawyer, to stick to investigations.
What does he know which we don’t know? He should come out in the open and arrest the culprits and stop putting many people at risk.
EM: Why do you think the bombing was an internal job?
IM: The history of Zanu has been such since 1975 in Lusaka, 1978 in Maputo, in recent years, the expulsion of Joice Mujuru and nine chairs, the chronic intra-party rows and the coup.
Sections of the security sector were overrun by the military, the police and intelligence. It is a credible suggestion that it could be internal.
That should be the first line of inquiry. The speed with which Mnangagwa talked of external factors and aggrieved persons from G40 raises questions.
We also hear of a rift between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, although hard to prove and truly the Saturday events have exacerbated the view.
Mnangagwa loyalists accuse Chiwenga and vice versa. It is a fact the coup did not resolve Zanu PF intra-party fighting.
EM: Some people say the chaos that rocked the MDC Alliance during the candidate selection process could derail the coalition’s election chances. Do you agree? IM: People are mixing things; presidential elections must be treated separately. MPs, as was the case in the 2008 elections, can fare well and the presidential candidate loses. We saw this when Mugabe lost to Tsvangirai when his party had the majority in Parliament. Zanu PF’s vote is split between Lacoste, G40 and Mujuru.
I foresee Zanu PF MPs winning and Mnangagwa losing. People like Mujuru are not competing against Chamisa, but Mnangagwa.
It is Mnangagwa who should be worried. I agree with a recent poll that gives Mnangagwa less than 20% (www.joinstavogroup.org).
The poll is not about Chamisa winning, but whether Mnangagwa will win at all.
The tendency in elections is that people vote against, not for and in my view Mnangagwa is a target of a negative vote for a variety of reasons such as the history of elections, lack of charisma and as the survey shows, the ethnic factor, the Mashonaland provinces he will pick up a few votes, the urban areas are strong MDC strongholds and Matabeleland is opposed to him. He is a poor candidate for Zanu PF, if you ask me.