Good day Mr President: 2023 elections: Crucial test of your Statesmanship

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

DEAR President Emmerson Mnangagwa,

Your Excellency, as I see it, by now, most of the determined would-be contestants for public office are already geared for the imminent race.  Although the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is yet to announce dates for the 2023 harmonised elections, the electoral spirit is nonetheless in full swing.

Yet, fears of wide scale politically-motivated violence are festering. There are premonitions galore that the harmonised elections are bound to be bloodthirsty. They are likely to surpass the fire and fury of the campaign period leading to the by-elections held last year.

During the 2022 by-elections, political violence claimed lives. Owing to heightened intolerance to plurality, Mboneni Ncube was killed in March while attending a rally in Kwekwe addressed by the Citizens Coalition for Change leader, Nelson Chamisa. Also, another opposition activist, Moreblessing Ali, was murdered at Nyatsime, in Chitungwiza in May.

Your Excellency, as the harmonised elections beckon, methinks prospects for free, fair and credible elections are diminished. Given the apprehensions of the winds of change blowing throughout the region, State-sanctioned electoral brutality cannot be discounted.

It is at the risk of being a devil’s advocate that I daresay that there is an apparent surge of doomy indications of grave political intolerance. 

Duly, reports of vehement rejection by Zanu PF of the delimitation of electoral boundaries recently compiled by Zec signal the dawn of contentious electioneering. It is my earnest conviction that the rejection is a portentous forerunner of an implosion of disputations.

God forbid, the engagement by your party of a constitutional lawyer to mount a legal challenge of the delimitation is bound to set a precedence that will hound you. It sets in motion the likelihood of a disputed election that will be fraught with circuitous litigations.

Your Excellency, the harmonised elections are coming on the backdrop of several unfulfilled presidential promises. There has been a conspicuous lack of commitment on your part to walk your talk, thereby convince the citizenry that indeed, yours was truly a New Dispensation.

Uppermost on the missed promises list is that of being a “soft as wool listening President”. As I see it, the opportunity to demonstrate the verity of a listening President could not have presented itself in any manner than in the 40 000 plus petition that was signed by concerned citizenry.

Added to the eloquent voices of the petitioners was that of a veritable constitutional lawyer who also weighed in with plain truth. He declared that the prolonged incarceration of an opposition parliamentarian was motivated by politics and it needed political intervention.

Given that lawyers, more so those of his towering stature — which spans the academic, political and legal spheres — are renowned for well measured words, his statement warranted response from you. He gave credence to the view citizenry hold on the prolonged detention.

Yet, his call, so as that of the petitioners, fell on an impertinent heart. Granted, the scale and depth of the continued incarceration of the opposition parliamentarian are far-reaching. Already, there is a call in the British House of Lords that Zimbabwe must not be re-admitted to the Commonwealth.

It is injudicious that the recommendations by the Mothlante Commission, which you set to enquire into the deadly August 1, 2018 shootings of civilians by the military, are still pending your actioning. And, the frivolity with which you are handling the Gukurahundi atrocities is fundamentally as dispiriting as they are disdainful.

Your Excellency, the harmonised elections are a crucial test of your Statesmanship. Since your assumption of power, it has been incumbent on you to devote to statecraft. Truly, you ought have inculcated a harmonious civic society in which citizenry embody national pride.

Yet, throughout your Presidency, foundation and pillars for an open and tolerant have been conspicuous by their absence. There is evidence galore that Zimbabwe is a far cry country from democratic ideals whereby every citizen is equally protected by the Constitution.

Methinks the plight of the caged opposition parliamentarian suffices to demonstrate the want of democratic values, justice and human rights. His serial bail refusals fall markedly short of passing the age old constitutional yardstick of presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Consequently, despite your catchphrase, friend to all and enemy to none, your administration has failed in its endeavour to attract international acceptance. Overal, the progressive community is of the perception that you have deficiency on democratic credentials.

Essentially, your administration is mired by credibility challenges of international relations. It was for this reason that the immediate past European Union (EU) head of delegation to Harare, Timo Olkkonen lamented over the slowness of reforms implementation. He painted that relations with Harare have not always been cosy.

According to him, the European Union would have preferred a much faster paced Zimbabwe's reform agenda. Speaking after bidding you farewell in August last year, Olkkonen lamented: “We were discussing the government reform agenda where we do not always see eye-to-eye on all issues, indeed, the importance of reforms themselves and upcoming elections and the recommendations the EU electoral delegation made and other observations.”

His lamentations on the slow pace of the Zimbabwe reforms agenda are widely shared by local civic society advocacy organizations. There are fears that the failure to address the root causes of the 2018 harmonised election disputations, especially the voters roll, is cause for concern.

Your Excellency, a truly “soft as wool listening President” could have listened far and wide, during the drafting of the Electoral Amendment Bill that is now before Parliament. Methinks stakeholders like political parties and civil society organisations duly deserved to be listened to.

Granted, the harmonised elections will be contentious. There will be an embattlement, staged on the backdrop of the twin social vices, polarisation and State institutions partisanship. As I see it, the evocative words of the famed Irish poet, William Butler Yeats: “Mere anarchy will be loosed,” precisely sum up the predicament that will be stacked against the opposition.

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