28 July 2013

Zimbabwe: More to Election Than Meets the Eye

Photo: Union Africaine
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma


In less than 72 hours, six million Zimbabweans who are registered to vote will have an opportunity to exercise their democratic right to choose their leaders at various centres across the country.

It is commendable that all political parties have urged their supporters to shun violence and they have heeded the call.

President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Professor Welshman Ncube, who are the main presidential candidates, have all managed to hold their massive rallies in peace, presenting a different picture from the 2008 violent election.

However, the absence of violence alone should not fool anyone, especially the visitors who are in the country to observe the elections, into thinking that they are witnessing a democratic electoral process in motion.

There are lots of things that are wrong with this election as the playing field remains heavily skewed in favour of Zanu PF.

The role of the police and army in this election is suspicious considering the Service Chiefs' open allegiance to Mugabe. They have continued to play an intimidating role, especially in the communal lands.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission's preparedness to hold a credible poll is also in doubt after they bungled the special vote where only 29 000 people voted out of 69 000, after failing to get ballot papers in time.

The State-owned media, which remains blatantly biased in favour of Zanu PF, has been beaming Mugabe's rallies live, while denying the same opportunity to his rivals.

In view of these and other contested matters, we therefore urge Sadc and African Union observers to look beyond the surface and study the electoral environment carefully.

They need to travel to remote areas and see for themselves the climate of fear that exists in Mashonaland provinces and other areas affected by political violence in the past.

The state of the voters roll, the way ballots will be secured and the credibility of the counting process all need to be evaluated before observers can make any statements endorsing the poll. Zimbabwe's voters have one thing clear in their minds; they do not want another disputed election outcome.

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