In a few days Zimbabweans will vote in probably the most significant elections since independence and it is critical that we don’t squander the chance to put our country back on track by ensuring the polls are credible.
President Robert Mugabe’s removal from office following a military takeover in November last year offered Zimbabweans an opportunity to rid the country of a culture of corruption, violence, violation of the rule of law and misgovernance.
After almost eight months of visible efforts to build a new Zimbabwe, elections provide the best chance to put the right leadership in place to drive that regeneration.
It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that the July 30 election passes the minimum conditions of a free and fair poll for the country to have a clean start.
However, there are worrying signs the polarisation of the past could kill our dream.
The past few weeks have seen heated debates over the credibility of the voters roll and the design of the presidential election ballot paper, which allegedly favours President Emmmerson Mnangagwa.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba has been a target of angry critics who claim that she has not been impartial in the run-up to the polls.
Some ZEC commissioners allegedly received death threats from opposition supporters who believe that the electoral body is trying to rig the election for Mnangagwa.
The threats, if true, must be condemned in the strongest terms because they have the potential of disrupting the electoral process.
A group of elder statesman, peace activists and human rights advocates known as Elders, who were in the country until yesterday, “expressed concern about polarisation in society ahead of the election and the rise of hate speech towards women candidates and officials, especially on social media”.
The observation by the Elders is a very useful reality check for those that are getting carried away with the electioneering.
It is incumbent upon leaders of political parties to call their supporters to order. For the elections to be considered free and fair, contestants and their supporters must behave responsibly.
This is not to downplay the central role played by bodies such as ZEC and security agencies safeguarding the integrity of the elections.
Some of the issues raised by opposition parties regarding the conduct of ZEC have merit and they need to be dealt with in a fair manner to restore confidence in the electoral body.
ZEC must strengthen the multi-party liaison committee to deal with disputes around ballot papers, the voters roll and the organisation of polling booths before polling day to reduce chances of a disputed outcome.