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MDC President Professor Welshman Ncube This Friday
02 September 2016
‘Zimbabwe’s Trinity of Electoral Evil’
In Christian religion, the Holy Trinity symbolises spiritual unity between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for the superior motives of saving humanity from the clutches of evil and satanic machinations and thereby doing Godly goodness. Well below this radar of deity, Zimbabwe chokes in the grip of what is essentially a crisis of political legitimacy borne out of an electoral system which has repeatedly and systematically failed to allow its outcomes to mirror the will of the people. The public lack of confidence in the ZANU PF government’s capacity to bring to an end the long running suffering of the people does not simply arise out of the legendary cluelessness of that government on how to manage the economy of the country but more out of the public knowledge that the government lacks political legitimacy and also the goodwill of its citizens.
The repeated disputed electoral outcomes over at least the last decade and a half are as a result of systematic electoral fraud perpetrated by our own earthly version of the Trinity of Electoral Evil (TEE) epitomised by crude machinations of ZANU PF, ZEC and one Tobaiwa Mudede in his capacity of Registrar General of voters. This trio has imperilled electoral democracy for the sole benefit of one man – Robert Gabriel Mugabe.
At the heart of the current demands of virtually all opposition political parties is the desire to ensure that when the next elections are held the outcome thereof is palpably and indisputably in sync with the will of the people of this country. If that will be that their misery continues ad nausea under ZANU PF leadership so be it, but no reasonable person must be left in any doubt that that is the will of that amorphous body of beings called THE PEOPLE.
Over the last few years, particularly during the inclusive government, a lot of progress has been made in electoral reform in Zimbabwe. The constitution itself contains some very good provisions setting out an electoral framework that if properly implemented could deliver free and fair elections. The constitution sets up the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and seeks to guarantee its independence by placing it beyond the control of any person or institution as well as by providing for the appointment of its members via a transparent, open and public process driven by Parliament, save for its chairperson who can be a Presidential appointee. Therein lies the major fault line in the constitutional architecture of ZEC. Historically, it is through its chairpersons that ZEC has been under the captivity of ZANU PF and hence its inability to deliver on the promises of the constitution.
Of course there is also the fact that its Secretariat is totally under the capture of securocrats deployed therein from mainly the army and central intelligence organisation. The effect of all this is that the Constitutional Declaration of ZEC as an independent body which must perform the major function of being the referee of our electoral democracy becomes but an unrealised promise- indeed incapable of actualisation as long as ZEC is under direct and indirect captivity. All the other reforms; all the constitutional guarantees of the right to free and fair regular elections; the right to campaign freely; the right to participate in peaceful political activity, the right to vote in secret in all elections and the right to stand in elections become but meaningless lofty declarations of nothing without an independent electoral commission in practice. We can make reforms ad nausea again and again but they will all add very little to free and fair elections unless ZEC is palpably independent. We complain that the constitution fails to place firmly in ZEC hands voter registration but even if it did, unless ZEC itself were independent we might as well have kept or keep the Registrar General that other part of the Trinity of Evil in play.
In short, yes we need to fix all the other things that add up to free and fair elections, open, accessible and fair voter registration procedures; an accurate and always accessible voters roll; fair funding for political parties; fair and equitable access to both public and private media by all political parties and actors; measures securing the secrecy of the vote; open and transparent vote counting procedures and processes; secured freedom of campaigning and canvassing by all, free from all forms of intimidation and violence; bodily security of each and every participant in elections in whatever capacity; complete repeal of police powers over the right to hold political meetings and canvass, etc etc, but all these secure nothing without a truly independent ZEC. Thus the independence in practice not just theory of ZEC is a condition sine qua non of free elections in Zimbabwe. A ZEC which behaves as if we are as a people mathematical morons who take two months to add and tally votes as happened in 2008 is as dangerous as the ZANU PF youth militias and war veterans who unleash violence on citizens to compel them not to exercise their freedom of choice. A ZEC which allowed the mayhem of the 2008 presidential election run off that saw violence and killings, which even though not comparable to Gukurahundi in terms of the intensity and scale of its brutality, was nonetheless reminiscent of it in relation to its disregard of the value and sanctity of every human life, is the very antithesis of what we need to deliver electoral outcomes that are underpinned by political legitimacy.
ZANU PF as a political organisation in a democracy is irredeemably evil and incapable of ever being a vehicle through and in which national democracy can be practised or enriched. The simple truth is that as long as this party of evil exists and is in control of state institutions it would not be possible to construct a truly independent Zimbabwe. This may sound harsh. But it is true. History bears me out. I am afraid that so too will the future.
I really need not say anything about the third party of the Trinity, the inimitable Registrar General of Elections. Res ipsa Loquitor. If there was ever a man who should never ever be placed anywhere near our electoral processes, that man is Tobaiwa Mudede. Unfortunately the constitution failed to unambiguously take away the responsibility for voter registration and maintenance of the voters roll from the office of Registrar General of voters. This means that we have to make sure that this is done through the electoral law.
And yet expecting ZANU PF to transform itself into a fully functional democratic party operating within democratic electoral institutions is asking for the impossible. At the June 2013 SADC Summit in Maputo, I raised the matters of how President Mugabe – doubling as both player and referee – exploits legislation to promulgate statutory instruments and regulations favourable to ZANU PF. Of particular interest is how his executive powers have historically been deployed to keep ZEC under ZANU PF captivity. What this means is that the pace at which ZEC performs, the template of its operational ethos and its general pre-disposition are skewed towards ZANU PF.
Despite the disputed legitimacy of 2013 elections, ZANU PF – perhaps by culpability on our part – now boasts an unassailable parliamentary majority good enough to manipulate the legislative agenda in their favour. We have been demanding, ad infinitum, that all pieces of legislation (POSA, AIPPA) that place ‘electoral IEDs’ in the democratic play field be repealed. Like I said in Maputo in 2013, this insistence coupled with consistent and numerous refusals to sanction campaign meetings means that the environment to hold credible elections continues to be severely undermined by the existence of this Police power. Things remain the same, because among other things repeated electoral reforms have so far failed to liberate our electoral system from being an agent of denial of the will of the people.
Many a time I hear political colleagues opine how ‘post revolution’ Zimbabwe cannot be afflicted by the Libyan or Egyptian disease of lawlessness since we have a semblance of institutional stability. ZEC is not such an institution simply because it is not and cannot be independent when it remains in captivity. In 2017, 2018 or whenever there is reason to embark on electoral combat, without a reversal of the TEE phenomenon, I do not see a legitimate, non-contested electoral outcome. We need political exorcism, today. By Welshman Ncube, MDC president