By Shingirai Vambe
The long journey to freedom and change for Zimbabweans will continue for the next five years following more than 30 electoral violations, technicalities and illegalities, the hopes for change are down the drain expecting a new terrain lawfare and disputes until the next election.
Regardless of raising these and other several issues to do with holding of a fair, credible and transparent election, only the Movement for Democratic Change leader, Douglas Mwonzora withdrew from the race citing violations and illegal process by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and to other parties, withdrawing was not an option.
Efforts to get Citizen Coalition for Change (CCC) party position regarding the election and way forward when the playing field is not even were fruitless, both party spokesperson, Fadzai Mahere and her deputy Gift Siziba did not respond to the questions sent to them on their mobile phones.
The Independent electoral body, ZEC, was again found wanting in running the 2023 elections with irregularities that include increasing of polling stations, way after the President had already proclaimed the election date.
Having accredited various observers to observe the just ended election, The SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) through its head of the mission, Dr Nevers Mumba has poured salvo in the way ZEC conducted and ran the 2023 elections, saying it fell short of the required international standard and practice and also responded to the utterances made by Christopher Mutsvangwa saying they are only in Zimbabwe to observe and report on their findings.
Instead of ZEC responding to and or on the issues raised, the ruling ZANU PF party through its spokesperson, Mutsvangwa responded and allegedly threatened Mumba and other observers to maintain their working ethics and mandate. Observers condemned ZEC, cited challenges with the delimitation and most above all, the illegal and full participation of Forever Associate Zimbabwe (FAZ) in intimidating citizens in rural areas.
Even on the polling day, FAZ agents where seen writing names and getting names of voters after voting in Makoni District, Rusape, raising elements of victimization, a case that was reported but the police failed to address or arrest the culprits.
SADC reiterate its call for the people of Zimbabwe to remain calm and peaceful and use the legal system in case of any dispute regarding the outcome of the Harmonised Elections. SADC also calls upon all to exercise responsibility and decorum in how they express opinions regarding the electoral process and the SEOM in general.
The unfortunate incident seen and experienced during the polls and counting of the results saw the arrest of more than 40 civic society group members, Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) and those from the Election Resource Centre (ERC), European Union (EU) condemned the arrest and also highlighted some of the challenges, unlevel playing field for all the candidates, including those who couldn’t participate in the race.
However, a malicious article was publishes in the state paper, alleging and accusing EU of bribing Journalist in the Midlands Province. EU released a statement and said they were astonished by the claim.
During a meeting with other political leaders, LEAD leader Linda Masarira, Saviour Kasukuwere’s legal representative, Jacqueline Sande and MDC T Director Information, Chengetai guta vehemently denied and refused to call this an election but an expected 5 year process failing to meet minimum standards of the law.
Masarira argued on ZEC nomination processes and fees which were earlier brought before the 9th Parliament as exorbitant, flawed justice delivery system. She told journalist in Harare that she is a victim of a failed captured state. Only Elisabeth Valerio managed to fight her way into the race, Valerio allege that she was 30 days late into the campaigning mode.
Depressing moments, the results as anticipated by the observers, according to ZEC, ZANU PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa got 2,3507,11 (52.6%) while Citizen Coalition for Change leader, Nelson Chamisa got 1,967,343 (44.%) of the vote while other candidates shared 3% of the vote. The election saw first time voters of youths coming out in their numbers with excitement to exercise their democratic right.
Contrary to the report by the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ), and expectations from ZEC to honourably run elections in Zimbabwe, majority of polling centres in Harare did not receive voting material in time, pushing the election to another day. What boggles the mind, regardless of such delays, ZEC managed to count and deliver the results in time opposed to previous behaviour of delaying tactics purporting strategies to rig the election.
The Opposition CCC, has however rejected the results.
Electoral bodies, civic society groups and political activists suffered threats and intimidation, according to the Zimbabwe Republic Police statement, they purport that ZESN and ERC members wanted to tabulate and announce results different from what ZEC had, the Software by internationally based Zim-citizen, Freeman Chari, gave the authorities sleepless nights to the extent of confiscating their cell phones and laptops.
That as it may, other groups continue to blame the opposition of their nomination process which led to some members stand as independent candidates while others falling short of the love of the electorate due to their behaviours, character and past in their respective constituencies. Others blame the CCC leader Nelson Chamisa of imposition and co-opting of running candidates.
Opposition members who have since stood as independent and others joining other political parties said told this publication that Nelson Chamisa outplayed citizens whom the electorate wanted to vote for, and chose his loyalists and age mates ignoring the voting population against nominating members.
This and other issues to do with the electoral Act, affected the outcome of the results and voter turnout which revealed a downward trend.
According to ZEC, almost 2 million registered voters failed to cast their vote, cross border truck and bus drivers told the Post On Sunday Newspaper that in their numbers, some could not cast their vote and they continue to be left out of the democratic process, to exercise their constitutional right. The remainder, due to uneven playing field, decided not to vote.
However, Local transporters who ply rural routes confirmed with this publication of mass movement of people to their respective rural homes only to cast their vote. The turn-out, enthusiasm and zeal to vote was so high and according to the results released by ZEC, the tables have tilted in some ZANU PF strongholds hence the reason to exclude former minister Kasukuwere into the race.
Findings in Nyanga North, 392km out of Harare North Eastern region of Manicaland, under Chief Katerere, there was high political tolerance, maturing and inclusivity though Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) bemoaned their exclusion in this year’s election.
People in the area spoke of exclusion of infrastructure development, as they survive through vending and making money through illegal and legal gold mining activities, under region 4 and 5, being a dry area, farmers concentrate on small grains and cotton. Such is the case in various rural constituencies and other urban centres in Zimbabwe and the hope for many was to experience change of leadership in the country.
CCC Avilla Ward 2 Coordinator, Noreen Mareverwa told the Post On Sunday Newspaper that people were being intimidated by headsman and chiefs to vote for the ruling ZANU PF party.
Analysts accepting the rebound of Mnangagwa, said its due to the excess and access to resources and machinery to invest into the rural areas and blame is also put on the legislation, the electoral law and alignment of the laws for a free and fair space for every candidate. Legal expert, Mutangi told Journalists at the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) meeting in Harare that this is as a result of the existing gaps in the electoral law and the legislation.
The 2023 election results left Zimbabwean Citizens frustrated, depressed and hopeless while a huge number claim to have been disfranchised and the only alternative in the minds of many is to leave the country for greener pastures.
The Opposition is demanding fresh polls and just like yester-years, they have taken their battles to court. The CCC deputy spokesperson Gift Siziba told a news conference in Harare that the African Union and SADC should facilitate a return to legitimacy in Zimbabwe.
With the threats and intimidation against ERC and ZESN the counting, tabulation and verification of the 2023 election has become a day dream, making it difficult to legitimize the polls. In a twist of events, its is reported that Gokwe voters roll was found in Chitungwiza and A senior CCC leader has allegedly admitted that the party doesn’t have V11s and V23s from all polling stations used by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in the 23 August 2023 Harmonised Elections.
The unnamed official made the confession in a WhatsApp group On Monday, and the message has been leaked, according to CCC critic Jonathan Moyo.
That being said, Voter turnout in 2023 was 68.9 percent down from 85.1 percent in 2018, some people simply do not want to vote. Maybe others are fatigued or are hopeless so they don’t vote. Others are undecided on who they want to vote for, so they do not choose anyone however, political analysts stated concerns connected to voter registration, disenfranchisement, and election anomalies deterred individuals from voting.
“Before we discuss issues such as literacy, and whether people with disabilities can vote, the deliberate disenfranchisement of voters was an issue. Some polling stations opened way after 7am, others opened in the evening and where to stay open during the night to account for 12 hours of voting time. How many people felt safe to go out at night and vote,” these are the sentiments.
Election Observer reports from SADC, the Carter Centre and EU all agreed that the electoral field was uneven and the conditions were not conducive for a free election and former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete is expected to lead a Panel of Elders into the country today to assess the Sadc Elections Observer Mission (SEOM) preliminary report.
This comes as the Government has raised concern over SEOM head of mission and former Zambian vice president Dr. Nevers Mumba’s questionable preliminary report. The government said Dr Mumba failed to declare his interest when he assumed his role as the head of the election observer mission and his personal interests were seen in the preliminary report.